Reading South and North: Literature of the Americas

Fall 2000 -Winter 2001  Group Contract

Faculty: Greg Mullins, SE 3105, x 6234, e-mail: mullinsg
     Evelia Romano, SE 3113, x 6434, e-mail: romanoe

Nations, like people, seek identities to explain their place in the world.  Among the attributes of national identity, culture plays a pivotal role, and within the realm of national culture, literature is especially formative.  As a consequence, literature has long been read, studied, and taught as a national phenomenon. However, at the turn of the century we are becoming increasingly aware of the extent to which culture is not delimited by national borders.  Local economies are fragments of the global economy that embraces and overwhelms them; likewise, individual lived experience is increasingly shaped by the pressure of global culture. In this program we will address the following questions with reference to the literature of the Americas, North and South: What is the role of literature in the global system?  Does literature reflect developments in global culture?  Does it resist them?  Does it remain an expression of national culture?  Have past efforts to read literature as a national experience been misguided?  Has there been a shift from a national to a global preoccupation, and if so when did (or when will) it happen?

During fall quarter, we will focus on the modernization processes that took place over the first half of the 20th century and their repercussions on various definitions of nationalism, nationality and national culture.  Our work this quarter will lay the foundation for thinking about globalization and late 20th century literature in the winter.  In the fall we will explore the following nodes of inquiry:

Nation and mythology (Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and Eustasio Rivera's  The Vortex);
Nation and internationalism (Poetry: Latin American and US Modernisms);
Nation and region (Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury and Onetti's A Brief Life);
Nation and city (Ellisonís Invisible Man and Arlt's The Seven Madmen).

Lectures will provide the cultural, historical and social contexts which are indispensable in order to achieve a clear understanding of the relevance of each writer and their period. Other materials, such as Netscape sites and movies, will complement the lectures, readings and seminars. The course will include a weekly workshop devoted to the study of literary theory. The concepts explored in workshops will help students understand the conventions of literary criticism. Students are expected to apply such concepts in their analyses of the literary examples and in their responses to the central questions of the program.

A typical week



                   Monday                      Tuesday                   Wednesday
                   10-12 Lecture                   9-11 Lecture                   10 - 12 Seminar
                  1-3 Seminar                  12:30 -2:30 



During fall quarter students will have three major formal assignments:
1) Small group oral/written presentations in seminar: Groups of three students will be in charge of seminar presentation on Mondays. The presentation will consist of a written and oral summary of the material covered the previous week and should demonstrate literary analysis, integration of texts and contexts, and incorporation of bibliographical research. Students in charge of presentations are expected to research the theme on their own for achieving a thorough understanding of the material and provide further information for discussion.
2) Midterm short essay: close reading and analysis of selected passages.
3) End of quarter essay that bridges literary theory and program texts/contexts.


Students will have to be fully engaged in program activities and accomplish high-quality academic results in order to receive full credit. Students will be evaluated according to their progress and achievements during the course. Credit will be awarded in American Literature, Latin American Literature and Literary Theory.

Reading List

Arlt, Roberto.  The Seven Madmen (1929). Baltimore: Serpent's Tail, 1998.

Ellison, Ralph.  Invisible Man (1952).  NY: Random House/Vintage, 1995.

Faulkner, William.  The Sound and the Fury (1929).  NY: Random House/Vintage, 1991.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott.  The Great Gatsby (1925).  NY: Scriber, 1995.

Onetti, Juan Carlos.  A Brief Life (1950).  NY: Viking Penguin, 1976.

Rivera, Eustasio. The Vortex (1924).  NY: T.V.R.T., 1979.

Poetry TBA

Literary Theory Workshop:

Ryan, Michael.  Literary Theory.  Malden & Oxford: Blackwell, 1999.

Bishop, Elizabeth.  The Complete Poems (1969).  NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1984.

James, Henry.  The Aspern Papers (1888).  NY: Oxford UP, 2000.

Morrison, Toni.  The Bluest Eye (1970).  NY: NAL, 1994.

Shakespeare, William.  King Lear (1606).  NY: Penguin, 1999.

Required and supplementary articles and chapters related to weekly topics will be available at Open Reserve in the Library.

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