The Mexican Revolution in the American Imagination
Exploring numerous cultural, political, and historical contexts, this course will examine the Mexican Revolution from the vantage point of the American imagination. While most commentators date the Revolution between 1910-20, the turmoil south of the border would play a part in how the U.S. viewed Mexico—and itself—well into the middle of the century. Such a recent history of revolution enabled the U.S. to conceive of Mexico as a mythic space onto which it could project and possibly resolve various social and cultural questions. As we read an array of texts that imagine the Revolution, we will consider how notions of revolutionary Mexico were deployed in some of the most pressing debates of the day, including those regarding relationships between race and democracy, art and revolution, and the primitive and the modern. Our readings will also include Mexican representations of the revolution, with the aim that we will analyze the influence of such expressions on U.S. thinking about Mexico. Ultimately, we will examine how Mexico and its Revolution inform new debates about an old question: what does it mean to be an American? Authors we will probably read include Mariano Azuela, Nellie Campobellos, John Reed, Katherine Anne Porter, Elena Poniatowska, and Sandra Cisneros. Likely films include Viva Villa!, Viva Zapata!, The Old Gringo, and Starring Pancho Villa as Himself, and The Lost Reels of Pancho Villa.