Introduction to Latino/a Studies Syllabus

[This is my attempt at creating a Latino/a studies (well, so far mostly literature) course. Do let me know what you think. If you have any ideas for films that could be included, please say! Thanks!]

Course Description:

While Chicano/as and Latino/as have been integral to U.S. history and culture, why have they are frequently and consistently been depicted as either outsiders or foreign and how is Chicana/o and Latina/o identity negotiated? In this course we will examine Latino/a and Chicano/a cultural production and its relationship to both larger U.S. culture and other U.S. racial and ethnic groups. We will also question the development and / or existence of Latinidad — the relationship between and common culture among Latino/as in U.S. culture and how it manifests itself through cultural expressions such as literature, music, films and social media. Our readings focus on writers from various Latino/a groups.

Through readings, screenings and other multimedia sources, our goal is to use recent literary and cultural theory to understand the paradox inherent in U.S. Chicana/o and Latina/o culture. Our topics will include: migration, language, the body, gender roles, sexual orientation and identity politics in the works of authors and artists. The requirements for this class include the creation of a public blog as a course project, adding to the discussion of Latina/o literature as part of the recent project AztlanReads.com.

Required Texts

  • Michelle Habell-Pallan and Mary Romero Latino/a Popular Culture (ed.)
  • Julia Alvarez, In the Name of Salomé
  • Rudolfo Anaya, Bless Me, Ultima
  • Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera
  • Black Artemis, Picture Me Rollin’
  • Angie Cruz, Soledad
  • Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
  • Cristina Garcia, Dreaming in Cuban
  • Ana Menéndez, Loving Che
  • Ernesto Quiñonez, Bodega Dreams
  • Piri Thomas, Down These Mean Streets
  • Esmeralda Santiago, When I was Puerto Rican
  • Helena Maria Viramontes, Their Dogs Came With Them

Schedule of Readings

Week 1 Defining Chicano/a and Latino/a

“Historical Contexts of Latino/a Presence in United States” Juan González “The Latino Imaginary: Dimensions of community and identity” Juan Flores

 

Week 2 Chicano Landscapes

Rudolfo Anaya, Bless Me, Ultima

Héctor Calderón,”Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima: A Chicano Romance of the Southwest.” Critica: A Journal of Critical Essays

 

Week 3 The Politics of Language

Esmeralda Santiago, When I was Puerto Rican

“Puerto Rican Writers in the United States, Puerto Rican Writers in Puerto Rico: A Separation Beyond Language” Barrios and Borderlands

 

Week 4 Cultural Memory

Cristina Garcia, Dreaming in Cuban

Rocío G. DavisBack to the Future: Mothers, Language, and Homes in Cristina García‟s Dreaming in Cuban.” World Literature Today

 

Week 5 Imagination and the Latino Post-modern

Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

José David Saldívar Conjectures on “Americanity” and Junot Díaz’s “Fukú Americanus” in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao The Global South

 

Week 6 The Mestizo Self

Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera

Cherríe Moraga, “The Salt That Cures: Remembering Gloria Anzaldúa” A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness: Writings, 2000–2010

 

Week 7 Latino/a Constructions of Race

Piri Thomas, Down These Mean Streets

Marta Caminero-Santangelo, “Puerto Rican Negro”: Defining Race in Piri Thomas’s “Down These Mean Streets” MELUS, Vol. 29, No. 2, Summer, 2004

 

Week 8 Negotiating the American Dream

Ernesto Quiñonez, Bodega Dreams

Nicole P. Marwell, On Bodega Dreams

 

Week 9 Defining Homespace

Angie Cruz, Soledad

Anne McClintock. “No Longer in a Future Heaven: Nationalism, Gender and Race.” Imperial Leather

 

Week 10 Music and Transformation

Black Artemis, Picture Me Rollin’

Gwendolyn D. Pough. “What It Do, Shorty?: Women, Hip-Hop, and a Feminist Agenda” Black Women, Gender + Families, Vol. 1, No. 2, Fall 2007.

 

Week 11 Mothers and Daughters

Ana Menéndez. Loving Che

Dalia Kandiyoti. “Consuming Nostalgia: Nostalgia and the Marketplace in Cristina García and Ana Menéndez.” MELUS Vol. 31, No.1 2006.

 

Week 12 Politics, Race and Identity

Julia Alvarez, In the Name of Salomé

Linda Martin Alcoff, “Latino Identity, Ethnicity and Race: Is Latina/o Identity a Racial Identity?” Hispanics/Latinos in the United States: Ethnicity, Race and Rights

 

Week 13 Urban Chicana/o Landscapes

Helena Maria Viramontes, Their Dogs Came With Them

Eric Avila, “Suburbanizing the City Center: The Dodgers Move West.” Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight

Screening: Born in East L.A.

 

Week 14 & Week 15

Final Presentations

 

Evaluation:

Active and informed participation (20%) Come to class prepared to contribute to class discussion on the assigned readings. Since it is impossible to be an “active and informed” participant without having done the reading, you must read all assigned materials in advance of each class meeting. In addition to participating in class, you are expected to be an active commenter on the class blog. You also need to create a Twitter account and follow me and each other. I will look at Twitter comments and expect to see remarks by you at least once a week.

Reading questions and class blog (20%) To insure active class discussion and your ability to listen and contribute, you will prepare a weekly reading response approximately 250 words to a question posted about the week’s texts. These questions will be posted on the course blog and your replies will be posted there as well before each class meeting. Your response should conclude with a focused question (or questions), opening up discussion of a specific passage. Your goal with this response is to demonstrate a personal interest in and engagement with the week’s reading.

Your writing should be informal, a way of processing the texts you’ve read to generate class discussion. The other writing you do for this class may grow out of these writings.

Essay & Presentation (20%) The research paper (10-12 pages) for this course will investigate an aspect of Chicano using the works we have studied in the course. The papers must demonstrate thorough research (at least six sources outside of assigned readings), organization and focus, and correct MLA citation style and bibliography. If you are not certain of this requirement, see me the first week of the course. You will present an oral version of your paper in a 5 minute presentation to the class. The paper is due the tenth week with the presentations given the last two weeks of class.

Blog Entries (20%) You must write at least three (3) separate blog entries for the class blog, each well researched and no fewer than 500 words or a blog entry that includes a YouTube video you’ve made with a written introduction. The entries should each focus on a different one of the texts and an aspect of Latina/o literature. Blog entries must demonstrate intertextuality in relation to sources on the class blog and other online work. The first entry must appear no later than the third week of the course. You should select at least one of the entries to post at Aztlán Reads

Final exam (20%) Short identification and essay.

The #aztlanreads Hashtag Is Everything

[Note, this blog title was shamelessly stolen from a tweet by @laura_luna who has her own blog, creativexicana. I only steal from the best.]

Over on Twitter Chicano MA student @xicano007, who has a library anyone would envy, started posting images of his Chicana/o books along with titles and authors. Ever the busybody I suggested he start a hashtag so we could search them more easily and maybe join in. The result was #aztlanreads and it’s glorious with an explosion of tweets of Chicana/o and Latina/o books (poetry, novels, academic writing and histories). If you read Twitter, participate. If you don’t, follow the link and look anyway. Seriously, I promise it will make your day.

There have been so many books I remembered and even more that I hadn’t heard about. I seriously have to find a job so I can afford the book habit this hashtag is creating. I hope it lasts forever. It’s the best use of Twitter I’ve ever seen.

There’s more about #aztlanreads’ wonderfulness over on the excellent blog Lotería Chicana. She points out the power that the shear volume and quality of the Chicana/o texts listed have in combating the notion that there’s a shortage of books and materials out there.

Rumor has it that there’ll be hashtags for #aztlansongs and #aztlanfilm next. I can’t wait.

UPDATE: Aztlán Reads is now a blog!

Reading Today: The Hummingbird’s Daughter

Today I’ve started the novel The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea. I’m thinking of using it for a class I’m planning (planning in a sense of writing a syllabus, rather than actually having been engaged to teach) on the Chicana/o Gothic. At 499 pages, it seems a bit long, but is actually a fast read. While it code-switches between English and Spanish, the Spanish is understandable by context.

The book is a novel telling the story of the Mexican saint, Santa Teresita Urrea. So far I’ve read the first five chapters. It captures a diverse sense of Mexico as a space not just of Spanish and Mexican, but of indigenous. The novel is in the magical real tradition, yet magic and spirituality are also questioned throughout. As Teresita becomes more spiritual, more of a saint, it causes friction within her family, especially for her father who is not religious / full of doubt. This doubt / balance is one of the things I like best about the text. That aside, it’s a beautiful book. If you’re looking for some rich summer reading I highly recommend The Hummingbird’s Daughter.