Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Literature on the Border: from the Mexican-American War to the Present cancelled

ENGL 200.305
MW 2-3:30 pm


This course will examine the place of the U.S.-Mexico Border in the trans-American literary and cultural imagination from 1848 to the present. We will begin by considering Chicana theorist Mary Pat Brady's suggestion that “the border might be understood more fully as a state-sponsored aesthetic project" (Extinct Lands, Temporal Geographies 52). What are the formal elements of this aesthetic project and how have they shifted over time? Which narratives of national belonging and exclusion has this aesthetic project made hyper-visible and which has it occluded? What roles have treaties, maps, novels, pamphlets, poems, and films played in the production of the border as a site that is simultaneously a dividing line and a contact zone, a material place and a metaphor, a site of violence and of political solidarity? 

In order to answer these questions and to generate more along the way, we will consider a range of legal, literary, and cultural texts. These may include The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848), The Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murieta (1854), George Washington Gomez (c. 1930s), and contemporary treatments of the border on film and new media.


The Junior Research Seminar 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. The course typically involves a few main texts that are studied intensively from a variety of approaches. 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.

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