Topics in Latina/o Literature: The Latina/o Body in American Literary and Cultural Memory
The Latina/o body is often represented as a recent historical intrusion into the geographic fold of the United States even though Latina/o forms of personhood and cultural production both predate and are coterminous with the consolidation of the country’s geopolitical borders and spheres of influence. Despite this history of participation and presence, a haunting absence overwhelms the literary, cultural, and affective landscapes of the nation that cannot account for the Latina/o body or explain why the nation’s largest “minority” is also the most politically disenfranchised. How have Latina/o literary and visual technologies of representation attempted to account for this historical elision? How are the categories of sexual, racial, linguistic, and ethnic difference negotiated in the construction of (anti)essentialist renderings of the Latina/o body politic? In this course we will analyze how Latina/o identity projects have attempted to engage these questions and the politics of national belonging by positing the Latina/o body as a constitutive subject of American cultural history from the U.S.-Mexican War (1846-48) to the present. In the process, we will study and critique the conditions under which Latina/o texts and bodies have been granted, denied, or resisted cultural inclusion. Primary texts across genres and major literary movements by Chicana/o, Puerto Rican, Dominican, and Cuban American writers will be complemented by theoretical and interdisciplinary examples from the broader tradition of Latina/o, African American, and Asian American anti-hegemonic writing.