English 117: Ethnic American Literature Spring 2009

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ENG 117.01 (13733) Spring 2009
MWF 11:15-12:05, Bartlett 302
Teaching Associate: Eric Fortier

Ethnic American Literature will examine literary and film narratives by
African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, and American Indians,
particularly narratives that illustrate the shifting dynamics of race relations and
ethnic identity in the United States in the twentieth century. Within the context of
changing understandings of race and ethnicity, we will ask such questions as: How
do these authors and characters create a place for themselves within American
society and culture? What expectations are placed upon them as members of
ethnic groups? Are they aware of these expectations? Do they cooperate with or
resist these expectations? To what extent do they recognize themselves as “ethnic”?
Are they able to reconcile this ethnic identity with their status as American citizens?
If not, then what are the tensions between the “ethnic” and the “American,” and
how are these tensions navigated? What are the psychological and social
consequences of a dual identity, what W.E.B. Du Bois called “double
consciousness”? What functions does the assertion of ethnicity serve? How are
ethnicities constructed? Finally, we will examine the ways in which our texts give
shape to these issues through the elements of narrative form: through close reading
we will hone our skills of observation, analysis, interpretation, and criticism.

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