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.

Listening Today: Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

Ultima came to stay with us the summer I was almost seven. When she came the beauty of the llano unfolded before my eyes, and the gurgling waters of the river sang to the hum of the turning earth. The magical time of childhood stood still, and the pulse of the living earth pressed its mystery into my living blood. – Opening page from Bless Me, Ultima

This is a slightly different sort of review.  Although I read the book years ago, I wanted to review the novel. At the same time, I’ve gotten back into calligraphy and so wanted an audio book.  There are sadly few works of Latino/a literature on Audible.com but Bless Me, Ultima is one of them.  Listening to the wonderful reading by Robert Ramirez brought me a different and deeper appreciation of Rudolfo Anaya’s novel.  I would highly recommend discovering or rediscovering this text through its audio form.

Published in 1972, the Bildungsroman novel Bless Me, Ultima is a Chicano literature classic. The basic story is narrated by Antonio Márez, who is only six years old at the novel’s beginning.  He is a child torn between ways — between the Lunas –his mother’s Catholic farmer family and his father’s wild vaquero background; between Spanish, the language of home and English, the language of education; between the Catholic religion and the traditional earth religions of the curandera and his native ancestors.  Though Ultima, the curandera who comes to live with the family at the story’s beginning, Tony becomes entangled in a series of battles between good and evil, personified in the struggle between Ultima and three evil witches and their father.  He is also witness to three deaths which change him and cause him to question all he has faith in (except for Ultima) and realize he must define his own faith.

The story of Bless Me, Ultima is well known, but it takes on added dimension through Ramirez’s reading.  I normally tend to read quickly, but listening to to audiobook forced me to slow down and appreciate the quiet beauty of text and its evocative depiction of the New Mexican landscape. I listened to the book as though the adult Tony were telling me this story of his childhood.  There is reverence in Ramirez’s voice as reads Anaya’s words about the wisdom and magic of Ultima. It was like being in a dream and I was sorry when the novel ended and I had to awaken.