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Topics in Contemporary American Literature

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

This class will explore discourses of race and ethnic identity in American literature and film from the 1920s to the present. We will examine the relations between fiction and cinema produced by both white artists and people of color. We will attempt to trace common strands of theme and imagery across the cultural productions of African Americans, Latina/os, Native Americans, and Asian Americans, and to investigate those moments where ethnic cultures merge or confront one another as well as the dominant American culture. We will examine identity politics and minority cultural nationalism, questions of class, gender, and sexuality, the status of the documentary, cultural appropriation, and the relationship of art to history and tradition. This is a seminar that will be centered on class discussion so attendance and participation are mandatory. Students will be required to view the films outside of class. Pairs of texts will probably include: Zelig and White Noise; the novel and film of The Color Purple; Their Eyes Were Watching God and Shes Gotta Have It; Chameleon St. and Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man; Chan is Missing and Chickencoop Chinaman; Born in East LA and Woman Hollering Creek; Flower Drum Song and Eat a Bowl of Tea; Powwow Highway and Ceremony. Course requirements will include a class presentation, and two papers.