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Topics in Contemporary American Literature

ENGL 285.401
instructor(s):
TR 3-4:30

Although multiculturalism has nominally become the official ideology of American society, supplanting to some extent older ideas of assimilation and the "melting pot," it remains a highly contested term. This class will examine various versions of multiculturalism in the historical context of post-Civil Rights American society and culture. What are the different visions of American society that underlie competing versions of multiculturalism? We will trace the changing nature of the American racial formation in the transition from a black-white paradigm to a more multiracial one, and explore how this impacts on questions of racial and ethnic identity, gender, and sexuality. We will attend in particular to the "Culture Wars" of the late '80s and early '90s as a background to our reading of work by authors such as Julia Alvarez, Don Delillo, David Wong Louie, Sherman Alexie, Cristina Garcia, Shirlee Taylor Haizlip, Thomas Pynchon, Toni Morrison, Patti Kim, and Grace Paley. This class will run as a seminar so steady attendance and participation will be very important; requirements will include three papers of varying length, and a class presentation.