Studies in the Literature of Cultural and Ethnic Communities in the United States : Twentieth-Century Immigrant Autobiography

Course Number: ENGL 134IA
Prerequisites: Writing 2 or upper-division standing
Advisory Enrollment Information: May be repeated for credit providing letter designations are different
General Education Areas Fulfilled: GE Area G Requirement, Writing Requirement, Ethnicity Requirement, American History and Institutions
Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 134AA-ZZ
Quarter: Spring 2013
Instructor: Rana, Swati
Day(s): TR
Time: 2:00 - 3:15 PM
Location: GIRV 2127
Description:

May be repeated for credit to a maximum of 28 units provided letter designations are different.

Whether in the form of encomiums to the Statue of Liberty to the East, scrawls on the walls of Angel Island to the West, or testimonies of border crossings from the North and South, immigrants have long told stories of their immigration to the United States. In this course, we will study a set of immigrant autobiographies that range from the twentieth century onwards: Mary Antin’s The Promised Land, Dhan Gopal Mukerji’s Caste and Outcast, Ramón Pérez’s Diary of an Undocumented Immigrant; and Edwidge Danticat’s Brother, I’m Dying. We will familiarize ourselves with the genre of autobiography and explore how these works transform this genre by incorporating historical, anthropological, lyric, or fictive elements. We will attend to the gap between author and persona, biography and its emplotment, the individual and national subject, and upon the coincidence of these categories as well. Throughout, we will situate these texts in terms of the legal, social, national, geopolitical, and individual histories that have produced them. Our challenge will be to develop critical and nuanced readings of these stories of immigration by way of a series of shared questions: What is the relationship between the singular life and national consciousness? How does the act of self-documentation shape national histories? What alternative modes of solidarity or identification are imagined in these texts? How do these writers write with and against the idea of “America”?