When José Martí referred to “Nuestra América” in his famous 1891 essay of that title, he did not have the United States in mind. This writer, theorist, and fighter sought to imagine an independent Latin America, free from Spanish colonialism and the threat of U.S. expansion. This course begins with Martí’s view of America from the other side. Its title is itself a translation that begs the question of whose “America” we inhabit, claim, and define. We will approach the task of surveying U.S. minority literature with this insight in mind. Our focus will be on writers who have a self-reflexive approach to the United States and to America more broadly—writers who craft a distinctly American voice or are invested in local and regional fictions, writers who expose the hypocrisies of the American dream and interrogate the boundaries of Americanness, writers who forge transnational, cosmopolitan, or even explicitly un-American affiliations. What story of American origins do these writers create? What vision of the nation and its subjects is produced in their writings? In what ways does their work reshape the geopolitical map of the United States? Readings will likely include the following: W.E.B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk, Carlos Bulosan’s America is in the Heart, John Okada’s No-No Boy, Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera, and Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy; as well as a course reader with work by José Martí, Walt Whitman, Booker T. Washington, Sui Sin Far, Claude McKay, William Carlos Williams, Gertrude Stein, José Garcia Villa, and Langston Hughes.
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Students on the wait-list must still attend the first day of lecture/section to enroll in the course.