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Latina/o Literature and Culture

ENGL 070.401

In this introductory course, we will engage literature and other artistic forms by Latinos. The term Latinos represents a heterogeneous group of 50 million migrants, exiles, dual- and split citizens, refugees, documented and undocumented workers of Spanish Caribbean and Latin American descent. While historical, class and racial differences qualify this group, three essential things distinguish it: a distinct relation to English and Spanish, the fact of displacement into el norte, and a maintained cultural and/or economic connection to the departed site. We will study various forms including music, poetry, film and performance art, among them, Gloria Anzaldúa’s poetics that presents the entire U.S., not just the banks of the Rio Grande, as a shifting borderland, Miguel Piñero’s poetry of extreme pleasure and suffering within language itself, Reinaldo Arenas’ narrative obsession with Cuba, as it expelled queers and questioning artists from the Revolution, and with desire, and performances of insistent memory by John Leguizamo and Carmelita Tropicana, for whom the body is the main artistic tool. Several themes will come into view: stereotypes of Latinos generated in films like Zoot Suit, West Side Story and Scarface; the differences of migrant “journeys” and rural or urban forms of labor in relation to the Latina/o artistic imaginary; the violence of heteronormativity in Latina/o and dominant U.S. cultures; the crises of representation for Latina/o artists, of whom realism and “personal narratives” are demanded. In addition to those noted above, Ana Castillo, Pedro Pietri, Coco Fusco and Junot Díaz will be read. The films The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Piñero, Improper Conduct and Balseros will be viewed.

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