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American Immigrant Narratives

ENGL 200.303
TR 10:30-12:00pm
fulfills requirements:
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Junior Research Seminar Requirement of the Standard Major
Cultural Diversity in the US of the College's General Education Curriculum

With its essential role in U.S. society and history, immigration figures prominently in the American literary canon. This course traverses varied immigrant tales of twentieth-century and contemporary United States, set in the frontier of westward expansion, the Golden West, and the Eastern Seaboard. Some classics of this vast cultural corpus—such as Willa Cather’s My Ántonia (1918), Maxine Hong Kingston’s China Men (1980), and Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007)—will anchor our critical inquiries into subject and nation formation, citizenship, and marginalization under powerful political forces both at home and abroad. By probing the complex aesthetic modes and narrative strategies in these and other texts, we will investigate deeply felt impacts of ever-shifting American cultural politics shaping immigrant experiences.

As a Junior Research Seminar, this course is designed to involve students in the kinds of research that the discipline of literary studies currently demands, including: working with primary sources and archival materials; reviewing the critical literature; using online databases of historical newspapers, periodicals, and other cultural materials; exploring relevant contexts in literary, linguistic, and cultural history; studying the etymological history and changing meanings of words; experimenting with new methods of computational analysis of texts; and other methodologies. Research exercises throughout the semester will enable and culminate in a final project: either a scholarly essay of 10–15 pages or a creative project. In either case, the final project must emerge out of each student’s intensive, independent research agenda.

Please contact the instructor Howie Tam at if you have any questions about the course.