LITR 4332: American Minority Literature

Homepage & Syllabus

coursesite URL: http://coursesite.uhcl.edu/hsh/whitec/litr/4332/

Spring 2012-13; Thursday 4-6:50 Bayou 1218

companion course: LITR 4333 American Immigrant Literature


American Indian

African American

Mexican American

 

Dr. White's
homepage

Instructional
Materials

terms index

Model Assignments

 

Instructor: Craig White   Office: Bayou 2529-8   Phone: 281 283 3380.       Email: whitec@uhcl.edu

Office Hours: M or T 2-6, R 1-3 & by appointment

Course Policies

UHCL Writing Center

Attendance policy:
One free cut permitted without comment or penalty;
more than one absence jeopardizes your status in course.
If you continue to cut or miss, drop the course.
Even with medical or other emergency excuses,
high numbers of absences or partial absences
result in a lower or failing course grade.

Texts to purchase:

Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye (1970) Plume 0 452 27305 6

Louise Erdrich, Love Medicine (1984, 1993) HarperPerennial 0 05 097554 7

Rudolfo Anaya, Bless Me, Ultima (1972) Warner 0-446-60025-3

 

Model Assignments

Midterm & Research Proposal
(21 February)

Research Options

Final exam
(2 May)

Student Presentations

reading discussion leader

poetry reader / discussion leader

web-video review / outside text

 

Reading & Presentation Schedule, spring 2013

Thursday,  17 January 2013: introductions

Reading assignments:

minority concept”; Declaration of Independence; introduction to the African American Dream narrative.

Texts: Crevecoeur, "What is an American?" (1782)

poetry: Phyllis Wheatley, "On Being Brought from Africa to America"

selections from The Declaration of Independence (1776)

selections from "I have a dream . . . "  speech by Martin Luther King (March on Washington, 28 August 1963)

poetry: Langston Hughes, "Harlem" & "Dream Variations";

web review: "Obama Has Ties to Slavery Not by His Father but His Mother . . . ";

Preview: selections from Anzia Yezierska’s Bread Givers & Olaudah Equiano, Interesting Narrative of the Life of . . . Olaudah Equiano, The African (London, 1789)

terms: origin / creation stories; demographics

Agenda: my schedule

intro, syllabus, organizations agenda

midterm, presentations, model assignments

ID & preferences, assignments

[break]

continue assignments

minority concept: origins, narratives, identity & beyond

assimilation and resistance

preview next week's readings


Phillis Wheatley, 1753-84
(from frontispiece to 1773 book)

Discussion Questions:

1. What is your previous familiarity with minority or multicultural literature? How much included or not in previous English / Literature courses? (see final exam)

2. How do we identify & teach minority literature? What challenges and limits do we face in studying or teaching Minority or Multicultural Literature? What advantages and limits to "identity politics" in society, politics, and education? What strategies for resolving differences, conflicts?

3. What makes us more or less human?

4. How does the immigrant narrative differ from the minority narrative?

5. Is "the Dream" the same as the American Dream? How may each count as an "origin story" or "creation story?"

 


Martin Luther King, 1929-68
begin
African American Literature

Thursday,  24 January 2013: begin slave narratives

Reading assignments: selections from Anzia Yezierska’s Bread Givers (brief excerpt from 1925 immigrant novel)
+
Olaudah Equiano, Interesting Narrative of the Life of . . . Olaudah Equiano, The African (1789) (read Chapters 1-2 & 1st 3 paragraphs of Ch. 3)

reading discussion leader(s) (Bread Givers & Equiano): instructor

Reading assignments: begin Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (through chapter 8) + Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (selections through chapter 6)

reading discussion leader(s): Douglass: Cynthia V. Lozano; Jacobs: (presentation canceled)

Poetry: Maya Angelou, "Still I Rise" (How does this poem represent "the Dream" rather than "the American Dream?")

poetry reader / discussion leader: Rebecca Chlapowski

web review / outside text: color code; the Black Aesthetic; Langston Hughes, "Harlem" & "Dream Variations"; Countee Cullen, "From the Dark Tower" (Harlem Renaissance) (FD 1.2-4; HJ 1.5)

web / text reviewer(s): instructor

Agenda:
business: presentations, handouts; texts, discussion

purposes: knowledge + skills

Minority-Immigrant distinction > objectives

Slave narratives as African American origin stories

Douglass: Cynthia

Jacobs: instructor

what do we do with knowledge of slavery?

assignments

"The Dream"

Angelou: Rebecca

color code & Black Aesthetic: instructor 


Frederick Douglass, 1818-95

Discussion Questions:

1. contrast Yezierska's immigrant narrative with Equiano's minority narrative (esp. chapters 1 & 2). How does slavery differ from the American Dream? How does "the Dream" emerge? (obj. 3a)

2. How did the authors of the slave narratives make their readers care? (Many if not most of their readers would have been whites, not slaves.) [HJ P3; 3.7, 6.20]

2a. Why the emphasis on literacy? How can English / Literature / Reading teachers use this theme to educational purposes? [HJ 6.3]

3. How does the existence of slavery in Africa (in Equiano) complicate Americans' attitudes toward American slavery?

4. What about the sexual component of slavery, esp. in Douglass? How do we discuss mixed-race births, and what impact do they have on racial identity? [HJ 4, 1.2-3, 1.6, 5.5, 5.11]

5. If minorities lack "voice and choice," what examples from texts? How does slavery influence human speech or dialogue? What opportunities arise for cross-ethnic alliances, and what foils them? [6.20]
(choice: HJ 1.12, 5.3)


Maya Angelou, b. 1928
(presidential inaugural poem, 1993)

Thursday,  31 January 2013: conclude slave narratives

Reading assignments:

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (complete)

Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (complete selections)

reading discussion leader(s): Cohen Landry

web review / outside text: Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom (1855); American Renaissance (LITR 4232 + LITR 5431) + slave narrative

web / text reviewer(s): instructor + Jason Kimbrell, LITR MA student in graduate Multicultural Literature: American Minority: Investigating Frederick Douglass: A Research Journal

Agenda: midterms + research options

meritocracy; Literature or culture? > assignments

dream as narrative

reading: Cohen

instructor follow-up, esp. #3 & 4

Douglass's Bondage & Freedom 


Harriet Jacobs, 1813-97
(photo from 1894)

Discussion Questions:

1. How may the slave narratives represent "the Dream" and / or the "American Dream?" (The most obvious appearance is in Jacobs's final paragraphs. But Douglass's escape to the North may resemble the American Dream--but with a catch.) (HJ 41.9; FD 11.23, 11.28; 10b)

2. How can we productively discuss slavery in a state of the Confederacy like Texas? What automatic problems or risks? What's the cost of not discussing it? How do people talk about it when they must? (Typical responses: "That was a long time ago"; "We wouldn't have done that"; "My people weren't even in this country then.")

3. How discuss the sexual component of slavery? Mixed-race births and their impact on racial identity? What implications for America (as a "classless society") organizing itself as separate races? HJ 5.11;

4. What does Jacobs say about being not just a slave, but a woman slave? Can minority as gender be related or analogous to minority as race, ethnicity, or culture? HJ 14.6 babe girl; 10.4 voice & choice?

Objective 2a. Gender: Is the status of women, lesbians, and homosexuals analogous to that of ethnic minorities in terms of voice and choice? Do "women of color" become "double minorities?" HJ 5.4 law; 6.20 mistress;

 


Langston Hughes, 1902-1967

Thursday,  7 February 2013: begin Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

Reading assignments: Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye (pages 1-93; through "Autumn" and "Winter")

reading discussion leader(s): Jill Norris

Zora Neale Hurston, "How it Feels to be Colored Me"

reading discussion leader(s): instructor

web review / outside text: interview with Toni Morrison

web / text reviewer(s): Felicia Coglianese

web review / outside text: Countee Cullen, "Incident" & "For a Poet" (Harlem Renaissance)

web / text reviewer(s): instructor

(Question for Cullen poems: Why is "Incident" more familiar from school anthologies and teaching than "For a Poet?" What distinct values for teaching literature generally and minority literature?

Agenda: mimesis

February is Black History Month; so do we teach it separately or as part of larger curriculum? LITR 4232

history of African American literature--obj. 1

Bluest Eye: Jill

web: Felicia

[break]

midterm updates

instructor: Hurston essay

Cullen poems

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Toni Morrison, b. 1931, USA;
1993 Nobel Prize for Literature


Discussion Questions (Bluest Eye):

1. Compared to the slave narratives, why or how might you regard Bluest Eye as more like literature as you expect to study it? What differences in appeals between fiction and nonfiction? What's easier and harder about discussing either? A century has passed since slavery, but what continuities or differences with the slave narratives?

2. How might the opening of Bluest Eye and depictions of its protagonist compare to the American Dream? The "American Dream" & "the Dream"--how different? How connected? If the American Dream fails, can "The Dream" emerge?

3. The narrator speaks of "being a minority in both caste and class" (17). Define caste. Also, how may children and adults be compared to a minority-dominant relation in the text?

4. Morrison consistently uses color in her fiction as a symbolic and aesthetic sign. Compare the Color Code of Western Civilization with the Black Aesthetic. How do the title and other color symbols relate to the Color Code as a sub-text or standard of American aesthetics and culture?What does a mixed-race character like Maureen Peal signify?

5. Toni Morrison is widely regarded as a great American writer and potentially a writer of enduring merit. Discuss her style? What works? What suggests a level of genius? What's threatening or offputting that keeps her from being merely a popular writer?How can you identify Morrison's greatness as a writer?

Discussion for Hurston, "How it Feels to be Colored Me":

How may this text embody both the Dream and the American Dream? In what ways does it depict both an African American experience and a more universal or all-American experience?



Thursday,  14 February 2013: conclude The Bluest Eye

Reading assignments: Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye (pp. 95-206 ("Spring" and "Summer") + Morrison's 1993 Afterword, 209-216 .

reading discussion leader(s): Carolee Osborne

poetry: Terrance Hayes, "The Blue Terrance"; Tracy K. Smith, "Don't You Wonder, Sometimes?"

Poetry reader / discussion leader Katasha DeRouen (either poem)

Agenda: midterm & final; objectives

mimesis + entertain & educate + classic, popular, and representative literature

Bluest Eye: questions & Carolee

[break]

assignments for 2 weeks + poetry (2) + Ultima movie

poetry: Katasha

midterm 


Terrance Hayes, b. 1971

Discussion Questions: (continue discussion of 7 February questions)

1. Continue the "American Dream" & "the Dream"--how different? How connected? If the American Dream fails, can "The Dream" emerge?

2. Continue observing uses of color as a symbol and for aesthetic purposes. Compare the Color Code of Western Civilization with the Black Aesthetic. How do the title and other color symbols relate to the Color Code as a sub-text or standard of American aesthetics and culture?What does a mixed-race character like Maureen Peal signify?

3. Expand discussion of "minority" to include gender. Objective 2a. Gender: Is the status of women, lesbians, and homosexuals analogous to that of ethnic minorities in terms of voice and choice? Do "women of color" become "double minorities?"

4. Toni Morrison is widely regarded as a great American writer and potentially a writer of enduring merit. Discuss her style? What works? What suggests a level of genius? What's threatening or offputting that keeps her from being merely a popular writer?How can you identify Morrison's greatness as a writer?

5. What ideas or attitudes does The Bluest Eye introduce for a multicultural, racially defined nation?

Poems by Hayes and Smith: How do these texts suggest emergent racial or cultural realities for the USA and African America in the early 21st century as opposed to the Civil Rights Movement of the mid-20th century?


Tracy K. Smith, b. 1972

21 February 2013: midterm exam—in-class or email (no class meeting; email midterms due by noon 23 Feb.)



begin American
Indian Literature
(maps)

Thursday,  28 February 2013: introduce Origin Stories

Reading assignments: North American Indian Origin Stories; Genesis (creation story); origin stories

reading discussion leader(s): Tanja Carmichael?

Poetry: Simon J. Ortiz, “The Margins Where We Live” or "Parade"

Poetry reader / discussion leader:  Jennifer Longoria

Poetry: Peter Blue Cloud, "The Cry"

Poetry reader / discussion leader:  Gabriel Garcia

web review / outside text:  Iroquois Great Law of Peace incl. Wampum (Iroquois Confederacy)

web / text reviewer(s):  instructor

Agenda: spelling

midterms, research projects > Writing Center

American Indian names and history / traditional-modern cultures

Ortiz poem: Jennifer

assignments--poetry presentations?

American Indians as minority?

introduce creation / origin stories > questions

[break]

Indian origin stories

Blue Cloud poem: Gabriel

Great Law of Peace: instructor


Tortoise as world-foundation in Iroquois legend

Discussion Questions:

1. What to call American Indians, Native Americans, etc.?

2. "Origin stories": Compare, contrast Biblical Creation in Genesis with Indian origin-creation stories. What kinds of values and / or principles of society or existence do American Indian origin stories create? Compare-contrast with dominant culture or Western Civilization (as in Genesis Creation, or Evolution).

2a. Compare / contrast Earth-Diver and Emergence stories. What different literary or cultural appeals to each? Is the distinction significant, or merely stray knowledge?

2b. What do you make of prominence of women figures in Indian creation stories, or their absence (except for scapegoat Eve) in Genesis?

3. Did American Indians have "literature?" Where do "Creation Stories" or "Origin Stories" fit into literature and culture?


Simon J. Ortiz, b. 1941

Thursday,  7 March 2013: American Indian Stories

Reading assignments: selections from Zitkala-Sa, American Indian Stories

reading discussion leader(s):  Tara Lawrence

poetry: Louise Erdrich, “Indian Boarding School: The Runaways”

Poetry reader / discussion leader:  Christina Velez

web review / outside text:  Sioux Indians & The Chippewa / Ojibwa

reviewer: instructor

Agenda: midterms & assignments & presentations

minority concept; loss and survival

poetry: Christina

American Indian Stories: Tara

[break]

research: reference librarian Casey Roberson

trickster

loss and survival

assimilation and resistance, traditional & modern

Sioux Indians


Zitkala-Sa (Gertrude Bonnin)
1876-1938

Discussion Questions:

Style Questions:

1. The first three selections from American Indian Stories are autobiographical sketches; the final two selections are more like fiction or short stories. How does the style change or not? How are nonfiction and fiction alike or different?

2. North American Indian cultures were almost exclusively oral or spoken cultures rather than written cultures like those of European-American settlers. Zitkala-Sa's early-life sketches depict an oral-spoken culture, while her experiences with missionaries and school show a written culture. How and where do the oral-spoken and written cultures appear? What different social structures do they entail? What strengths and limits to either? (Compare to 21st century USA and New World Order as "post-literate" society.)

Content Questions:

3. At what point(s) does she rewrite the Genesis Creation story to fit the Amerind story of loss and survival?

4. Broadly speaking, Zitkala-Sa grows up in a traditional culture, then moves into a modern culture. See Modern & Traditional Cultures. How does a traditional culture appear on the reservation; how does a modern culture appear at school; and how do the two types of culture conflict, adapt, or otherwise interact with each other? As another example, contrast the manners Zitkala-Sa is taught with the manners of the white people on the train. Also compare child-rearing attitudes.

4a. More broadly, how does minority literature help see the dominant culture differently? (Objective 7)

5. How are her experiences at school representative of problems in multicultural education? Consider the tension between modern institutions and traditional family structures.

6. Discuss Blue Star Woman's two "nephews" as trickster figures.


Louise Erdrich, b. 1954

14 March 2013: no meeting—Spring Break

First Research Post due week of 11-23 March (see research options)

Thursday,  21 March 2013: begin Louise Erdrich, Love Medicine

Reading assignments: Louise Erdrich, Love Medicine (expanded version 1993) through “A Bridge” (ends on p. 180)

reading discussion leader(s):  instructor

poetry: Chrystos, "I Have Not Signed a Treaty with the U.S. Government"

Poetry reader / discussion leader:  William Owen

web review / outside text:  Louise Erdrich recent interview; Dartmouth College commencement address 2009

reviewer: Kat Henderson

 

Agenda:

assignments + presentations, research posts

Loss & Survival & Symbols

discuss Love Medicine

[break]

Eleazar Wheelock

video: Kat Henderson

assimilation and resistance

poetry: William Owen 


Discussion Questions:

1. Erdrich clearly identifies as an American Indian writer but enjoys popularity among a wide range of readers. What qualities of her writing seem more or less "universal" in appeal, and what qualities may be conjectured as uniquely American Indian?

2. American Indian Stories 1900, 1921; Love Medicine 1984, 1993: What continuities? What has changed about American Indian literature? How discuss together?

3. How do both texts represent Objective 3b. Native American Indian alternative narrative: "Loss and Survival"

4. assimilation and resistance

5. Erdrich in wave of recent ethnic women writers who balance wide popularity with critical respectability. How? Compare / contrast to popular & critically praised African American and Mexican American women writers (e. g. Maya Angelou, Sandra Cisneros, Toni Morrison)

6. Style question(s): Symbols are one of literature's most powerful yet elusive techniques for creating meaning both rationally and emotionally. What symbols appear in Love Medicine, and how might they contribute to important American Indian cultural narratives like "loss and survival?"


Louise Erdrich's novel
The Round House

won National Book Award
for fiction in 2012


Thursday,  28 March 2013: conclude Love Medicine, preview Mexican American Literature

Reading assignments: Louise Erdrich, Love Medicine (expanded version 1993) complete

reading discussion leader(s):  instructor

Poetry: Peter Blue Cloud, "Crazy Horse Monument"

Poetry reader / discussion leader: instructor

Agenda: summer course; purpose of literature; review last week

symbols and narratives; Easter; loss & survival

tricksters; terms

[break]

poem: instructor

research posts;  course overview

syncretism;

assignments; intro Mex Am & Hispanic / Latino


Model of Crazy Horse Monument w/ mountain sculpture behind

Discussion Questions:

Continue questions from previous class, +

1. Gerry Nanapush as trickster?

2. Erdrich is a poet as well as a novelist. How does she use imagery and symbols to unify a diverse collection of stories into a novel? Pay attention particularly to water imagery or symbols.

 


Louise Erdrich


flag of New Mexico

begin Mexican American Literature
(maps)

flag of New Mexico

Thursday,  4 April 2013:

Reading assignments: Story of the Virgin of Guadalupe

reading discussion leader(s):  Christina Velez

Poetry: Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, "You Men"

Poetry reader / discussion leader: Tara Lawrence

web review / outside text:  The US-Mexican War, 1846-48

reviewer: Ryan Harold

Agenda:

due dates; final exam

terms: Hispanic / Latino; mestizo; Amerind origins

poetry: Tara et al

Virgin of Guadalupe: Christina

LITR 4333 American Immigrant Literature

Mexican American narrative

US-Mexican War: Ryan 


face of the Lady of Guadelupe

Discussion Questions for Story of the Virgin of Guadalupe:

Background: Consider this story as an "origins story" for Mexico, Mexicans, and by extension Mexican Americans. As a creation or origins story, the Virgin of Guadalupe defines national identities, gender roles, social relations including family, state, and nature, plus relations to past and future.

1. How does the Virgin of Guadalupe story create the Mexican (and Mexican American) identity of as a "border people" or a people with diverse, complementary, or conflicting identities?

2. Consider, for instance, the meeting of Indian and European cultures, or Old and New Worlds? Or Juan Diego as a mestizo--that is, a blending of Indian and European identities?

3. Indian / traditional and European / Catholic religions, or of syncretism as a meeting or blending of distinct religious traditions? The Virgin's appearance as a blending of Mary from the Christian-Catholic tradition and an Indian maiden or goddess?

4. How are the gender and family roles in the story both stereotypical and surprising? What can a predominantly Protestant North America make of the presence of a feminine divinity? (Gender stereotypes of Mexican culture include machismo for men and submissiveness for women--which may be artifacts of the original meeting of European men and Indian women, in which the familiar imbalance-of-power between men and women is magnified by ethnic hierarchy.)

5. How does the Virgin of Guadalupe function as a symbol? What other symbols operate in the narrative?

6. What previous familiarity with image / symbol of Guadalupe, or narrative?


Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz at 15


Thursday,  11 April 2013: begin Bless Me, Ultima

Reading assignments: Personal Memoirs of John N. Seguin + Bless Me, Ultima (through p. 59  or chapter seis [6])

Glossary for Bless Me, Ultima

reading discussion leader(s):  Kat Henderson

web review / outside texts:  Mexican War for Independence & The Mexican Revolution, the Texas Revolution; La Relacion of Cabeza de Vaca

reviewer: instructor

Agenda:

schedule

review Mex-Am objective 3c

La Relacion

Seguin discussion

symbols and narratives

[break]

Ultima: Kat

more on Mexico & Texas

 


Juan Nepomuceno Seguin, 1806-90

Discussion Questions:

Bless Me, Ultima

1. What symbols, identities, values, and conflicts appear consistent (or vary) from Virgin of Guadalupe to Bless Me, Ultima?

1a. Identify other symbols at work throughout the novel or today's reading: e.g. bridge, town, llano, mother's people and father's people. How do these symbols form the story or narrative?

2. How do the Mexican Americans depicted resemble minorities or immigrants? Both or neither? How much is this ambivalence toward remaining a separate minority or assimilating into dominant culture already implicit in Virgin of Guadalupe? In Bless me, Ultima?

3. What evidence of a mixed, conflicted, or evolving identity?

4. Bless Me, Ultima has become a widely-taught text in colleges and high schools. What are its attractions? If literature must be entertaining and informative, how does it represent or balance these appeals?

Personal Memoirs of J.N. Seguin

1. How do Seguin's experiences and his internal conflicts conform to the idea of Mexican-Americans as a "border people" embodying distinct national traditions or feeling conflicting pulls from both? Is Seguin a Texan or a Mexican? An American or a Mexican? What relevance to contemporary Mexican-American identity?

2. Note use of "adventurers" [1,3, 4] to describe non-Mexican peoples who "swarm" into San Antonio. How does this change or challenge the image of early Anglo-Americans in the Southwest as "pioneers" or "cowboys?" (Objective 7a. How does Minority literature help you see the nation's dominant culture differently?)


Bless Me, Ultima movie
premieres  23 Feb 2013


19-24 April 2013: Research project or 2nd research post due by email (research options)

Thursday,  18 April 2013: continue Bless Me, Ultima

Reading assignments: Bless Me, Ultima (through p. 176 or chapter Catorce [14]) (Glossary for Bless Me, Ultima)

reading discussion leader(s):  instructor

Poetry: Pat Mora, "Señora X No More" (Pat Mora's homepage)

Poetry reader / discussion leader:  instructor

web review / outside text: interview with Rudolfo Anaya, author of Bless Me, Ultima

reviewer: Ida Bejaran

 

Agenda: copies of poem

Washington Post Wonkblog

research, final exam, assignments

San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site

border culture / ambivalence

narrative / plot as conflict & resolution > Bless Me, Ultima

video: Ida

style

poetry: instructor


Rudolfo Anaya, b. 1937

Discussion Questions:

1. An eternal question for literature: do we teach content (what a text is about) or style (how a text works)?

1a. What a text is about and how it is written can be hard to tell apart in great literature; to express its content, that is, the text couldn't be written differently. How does the style of Bless Me, Ultima complement the subject matter?

Continuing questions for Bless Me, Ultima:

1a. Identify symbols at work throughout the novel: e.g. bridge, town, llano, mother's people and father's people, sun, moon. How do these symbols form the story or narrative?

2. How do the novel's Mexican Americans depicted resemble minorities or immigrants? Both or neither? How much is this ambivalence toward remaining a separate minority or assimilating into dominant culture? What evidence of a mixed, conflicted, or evolving identity?

3. Bless Me, Ultima has become a widely-taught text in colleges and high schools. What are its attractions? If literature must be entertaining and informative, how does it represent or balance these appeals? What limits to the novel's appeal to Mexican Americans? Does it appeal to Anglos more than Chicanos?

Question for Pat Mora's "Señora X No More":

1. Significance of literacy to minority writers and characters: what transitions or changes follow?

(Objective 5c. . . . literacy as the primary code of modern existence and a key or path to empowerment.

cf. Ulima 60, 76

2. Two worlds meet in the poem. How do the two worlds differ, and where or how do they meet? How does the poem successfully build a "bridge" between different cultures? For all their differences, what do the worlds have in common?


Pat Mora, b. 1942 (El Paso)

19-24 April 2013: Research project or 2nd research post due by email (research options)

Thursday,  25 April 2013: conclude Bless Me, Ultima

Reading assignments: Bless Me, Ultima (complete--through ch. Veintidos) (Glossary for Bless Me, Ultima)

reading discussion leader(s):  Rebecca Bridgmohan

Poetry: Jimmy Santiago Baca, "Green Chile"

Poetry reader / discussion leader:  instructor

web review / outside text: Walt Whitman influence on Hispanic poets

reviewer: instructor

Agenda: 2 final submissions > 1 grade report

research projects, final exam, begin discussion

Ida: Anaya video

conclude Ultima: Rebecca

[break + evaluations]

more on final exam

discuss multicultural literature

LITR 4333 & LITR 4232; Whitman and Hispanic poets


Octavio Paz, 1914-98, Mexico;
winner of 1990 Nobel for Literature

Discussion Questions:

Course Review questions: 1. Should Minority or Multicultural Literature be a special course (or month), or should it be integrated into the "old canon" of established English and Anglo-American authors?

2. Be prepared to discuss one of your final exam essay answers with class.

Conclusion to Bless Me, Ultima: If a narrative or story represents the solving of problems or conflicts, how successfully does the novel conclude? What about the novel's combination of dreaminess and violence? ("The germ of creation lies in violence" [243]).

How is "the Trinity" (3 = 1) used as a symbolic process of conflict resolution?

How does the ancestor of the town resolve Tony's conflict between being a priest and a vaquero?

Continuing questions for Bless Me, Ultima:

1a. Identify symbols at work throughout the novel: e.g. bridge, town, llano, mother's & father's people, sun, moon. How do these symbols form the story or narrative?

2. How do the novel's Mexican Americans depicted resemble minorities or immigrants? Both or neither? How much is this ambivalence toward remaining a separate minority or assimilating into dominant culture? What evidence of a mixed, conflicted, or evolving identity?

3. Bless Me, Ultima has become a widely-taught text in colleges and high schools. What are its attractions? If literature must be entertaining and informative, how does it represent or balance these appeals? What limits to the novel's appeal to Mexican Americans? Does it appeal to Anglos more than Chicanos?


Jimmy Santiago Baca, b. 1952

Thursday,  2 May 2013: final exam (email exams due by Monday morning, 6 May)

Instructor's attitude: Americans want simple answers to complex problems so they can veg, party, and get rich or righteous. But the history and premises of minority culture differ so fundamentally from those of the American dominant / immigrant culture that simple answers are only denials of our complicated history. In light of such challenges, I've developed the following attitudes:

  • Keep talking and listening. America's an unfinished story. The answers are not written but being written.
     
  • Question platitudes and discussion-stoppers like "All people are basically just the same" and "Why can't we all just be Americans?"
     
  • Sometimes the only positive outcome is not to be right but to act right.

LITR 4332 American Minority Literature

Course Objectives

  • Course Objectives are themes and terms developed in lectures, discussions, presentations, and examinations.

  • Objectives also identify learning outcomes.


occasionally revised as semester progresses)

* * *

("Objectives" are ideas and terms developed and reinforced throughout semester in lectures, discussions, presentations, and examinations. As learning outcomes, you can explain and discuss minority literature in these terms.)

Objective 1
To define the “minority concept" as a power relationship modeled by some ethnic groups’ historical relation to the dominant American culture.

1a. “Involuntary (or forced) participation”
(Unlike the dominant immigrant culture, ethnic minorities did not choose to come to America or join its dominant culture. Thus the original "social contract" of Native Americans and African Americans contrasts with that of European Americans, Asian Americans, or most Latin Americans, and the consequences of "choice" or "no choice" echo down the generations.)

1b.  “Voiceless and choiceless”
(Contrast the dominant culture’s self-determination or choice through self-expression or voice, as in "The Declaration of Independence.")

1c. To observe alternative identities and literary strategies developed by minority cultures and writers to gain voice and choice:

  • ·        “double language” (same words, different meanings to different audiences)

  • ·        using the dominant culture’s words against them

  • ·        conscience to dominant culture (which otherwise forgets the past).

 

1d. “The Color Code”

  • Literature represents the sensitive subject of skin color only infrequently or symbolically, but with important associations for identity and consequences  for destiny.

  • Western civilization associates “light and dark” with traditional values of good & evil, rational / irrational;
    these values are transferred to people of light or dark complexions,
    with implications for power, validity, sexuality, etc.

  • Skin color matters, but how much varies by circumstances.

  • BUT the inevitable mixing of people and races in a mobile culture continually creates “New Americans,” whether in appearance or status.

  • This course mostly treats minorities as a historical phenomenon, but the biological or visual aspect of human identity may be more immediate and direct than history. People most comfortably interact with others who look like themselves or their family. (Inter-racial marriage is most common among people who grow up in mixed neighborhoods or among military veterans.)

  • Color-coding doesn't always involve race; e. g. white collar, blue collar, gray collar, pink collar, plum collar for various occupations or classes.

Objective 2
To observe representations and narratives (images and stories) of ethnicity and gender as a means of defining minority categories.

2a. Is the status of women, lesbians, and homosexuals analogous to that of ethnic minorities in terms of voice and choice? Do "women of color" become "double minorities?"

2b. To detect "class" as a repressed subject of American discourse.
·        “You can tell you’re an American if you can’t talk about class.”

·        American culture officially regards itself as "classless."

·        Race and gender may replace class divisions of power, labor, or "place."

·        Class may remain identifiable in signs or markers of power and prestige or their absence.

·        High class status in the USA is often marked by plainness, simplicity, or lack of visibility.

2c. "Quick check" on minority status: What is the individual’s or group’s relation to the law or other dominant institutions? Does "the law" make things better or worse?

Objective 3
To compare and contrast the dominant “American Dream” narrative—which involves voluntary participation, forgetting the past, and privileging the individual—with alternative narratives of American minorities, which involve involuntary participation, connecting to the past, and traditional (extended) or alternative families.

Tabular summary of contrasts between the dominant culture's "American Dream" narrative and minority narratives (still Objective 3)

(CATEGORY
 of dominant-minority comparison)  

dominant-culture immigrant narrative or "American Dream"

Minority Narratives
(not traditional immigrants)

Cultural group's original relation to USA

Voluntary participation (individual or ancestor chose to come to America)

Involuntary participation ("America" came to individual or ancestral culture)

Cultural group's relation to time

Modern or revolutionary: Forget the past, leave it behind, get over it (original act of immigration; future-oriented)

Traditional but disrupted: Reconnect to past (not voluntarily abandoned; more like a wound calling for healing)

Social structures

Abandonment of past context favors individual or nuclear family, erodes extended social structures.

Traditional extended family shattered; non-nuclear, "alternative," or improvised families survive.

3a. African American alternative narrative: “The Dream”
"The Dream" resembles but is not identical to "The American Dream," which emphasizes immediate individual success.
"The Dream" factors in setbacks, the need to rise again, and a quest for group dignity.

3b. Native American Indian alternative narrative: "Loss and Survival"
Where immigrants define themselves by leaving the past behind to come to America, the Indians in their past had America but lost most of the land along with many of their people.
Yet they defy the myth of "the vanishing Indian," instead choosing to "survive," often assuming the dominant culture will eventually destroy itself, and the forests and buffalo return.

3c. Mexican American narrative: a border people? La Frontera?
"Americano Dream?" / “Ambivalent Minority?”

Mexican American culture is so dynamic, expansive, and mobile as to elude description or classification.
Recent literary theory concentrates on the idea of "the border" or "la frontera" as a site or condition
where different cultures meet, clash, mingle, and evolve to new identities.
This evolving identity creates unique
Mexican American
identities compared to other American ethnic groups:

  • Mexican Americans may be both a minority and an immigrant group; many Mexican peoples in what is now the Southwestern USA
     were overrun, destabilized, and dominated much like American Indians.

  • As with other American immigrant and minority groups, assimilation to the modern American Dream lifestyle compels rapid change,
    geographic and social mobility, and erosion of ethnic tradition,

  • BUT Mexico's proximity constantly refreshes ethnic traditions, leading to "the Americano Dream,"
    which hopes to combine modern economic advancement with traditional family values, religious commitment, community identity, etc.

  • Creation of a Mexican American identity across the border of Mexico and the USA
    may partly parallel or reproduce the creation of Mexican identity  across the border
    or meeting of the Indians and European explorers and settlers 500 years ago.

(from previous semesters)
c.
Mexican American narrative: “The Ambivalent Minority” / "Americano Dream"
"Ambivalent" means having "mixed feelings" or contradictory attitudes. Mexican Americans may exemplify immigrant culture as individuals or families who suffer social dislocation by coming voluntarily to America for economic gain, but Mexico's historic experience with the USA resembles Native America's: most of the Southwestern United States (including Texas) was once Mexico. Does a Mexican who moves from Juarez to El Paso truly immigrate?

  • Will Mexican Americans assimilate and join dominant culture?

  • Will Mexican Americans remain a separate culture, emphasizing difference and victimization?

  • Third way? Neither immigrant nor minority, or both?

 

Objective 4

To register the minority dilemma of assimilation or resistance—i. e., do you fight or join the culture that oppressed you? What balance do minorities strike between economic benefits and personal or cultural sacrifices?

 4a. To identify the "new American" who crosses, combines, or confuses ethnic or gender identities (e. g., Tiger Woods, Halle Berry, Lenny Kravitz, Mariah Carey, K. D. Lang, Dennis Rodman, RuPaul, David Bowie)

 4b. To distinguish the ideology of American racialism—which sees races as pure, separate, and permanent identities—from American practice, which always involves hybridity (or mixing) and change.

 Tabular summary of 4b

American racial ideology (what dominant culture thinks or says)

American racial practice
(what American culture actually does)


Races or genders are pure and separate.


Races always mix. What we call "pure" is only the latest change we're used to.


Races and genders are permanent categories, perhaps allotted by God or Nature as a result of Creation, climate, natural selection, etc.


Race & gender classifications are cultural, not natural; they constantly change or adapt; e. g., the Old South's quadroons, octaroons, "a single drop"; "crossing"; recent revisions of racial origins of Native America; Hispanic as "non-racial" classification; "bi-racial"

Objective 5
To study the influence of minority writers and speakers on literature, literacy, and language.

5a.  To discover the power of poetry and fiction to help "others" hear the minority voice and vicariously share the minority experience.

5b. To assess the status of minority writers in the "canon" of what is read and taught in schools (plus the criteria determining such status).

5c. To regard literacy as the primary code of modern existence and a key or path to empowerment.

5d. To note development and variations of standard English by minority writers and speakers and related issues of spoken & written cultures.

5e. To emphasize how all speakers and writers may use common devices of human language, including narrative, symbols, figures of speech, and other literary devices.

5f. To generalize the "Dominant-Minority" relation to philosophical or syntactic categories of "Subject & Object," in which the "subject" is self-determining and active in terms of "voice and choice," while the "object" is acted upon, passive, or spoken for rather than acting and speaking.

Objective 6: Images of the individual, family, and alternative families in minority writings and experience

6a. Generally speaking, minority groups place more emphasis on “traditional” or “community” aspects of human society, such as extended families or alternative families, and they mistrust “institutions.” The dominant culture celebrates individuals and nuclear families and identifies more with dominant-cultural institutions or its representatives, like law enforcement officers, teachers, bureaucrats, etc. (Much variation, though.)

6b. To question sacred modern concepts like "individuality" and "rights" and politically correct ideas like minorities as "victims"; to explore emerging postmodern identities, e. g. “biracial,” “global,” and “post-national.”

  

Objective 7
To survey minority representations of the USA's “dominant” culture.

 7a. Primary definition: "American Dream" or "Immigrant" culture.

7a. How does Minority literature help you see the nation's dominant culture differently?

7c. To observe shifting names or identities of the dominant culture in relation to different minority cultures:

(Tabular summary for Objective 7b)

Minority category

dominant-culture designation

"minority" culture

"majority," “mainstream,” "dominant" culture

Involuntary participation

Immigrant culture

"Black"

---

African American

"White"

---

European American

Chicano, Hispanic, Mexican American (not identical terms)

"Anglo" or

North American

Native American,

American Indian,

"Red Man"

 

"White man," European American, plus many local variants such as "Long Knives," "White Eyes," etc.

“hyphenated American” (e. g., African-American, Mexican-American)

"American" or "Real American" (frequently indicates European American)

Woman, female, feminine, feminist

man, male, macho, guys, etc.

Gay, lesbian, homosexual, queer

Straight, heterosexual, "breeders"

 

Alt. Course Objectives:

alt1. Can we read narratives of and by "the other" without automatically homogenizing them
into our own dominant-culture narratives of individuality, independence, autonomy, etc.?

alt2. Should graduate seminars instruct and model advanced scholarship for an audience of scholars,
or fresh reading experiences for everyday readers, teachers, and students?

alt3. Racial consciousness has been an essential development of social progress, and "color-blindness" may serve as code
for continued discrimination or institutional racism, but genealogical research increasingly reveals that virtually no American is "pure,"
that many White or Anglo Americans have Indian and African blood.
What implications and consequences for raising the issue that "the only race is the human race?"

(existing) 5e. To emphasize how all speakers and writers may use common devices of human language
to make poetry, including narrative, poetic devices,
double language and figures of speech.

lyric poetry as snapshot in narrative

poetry as special genre for suggesting possibilities that prose cannot yet handle

Thomas B. Edsall, "The Persistence of Racial Resentment" New York Times 6 February 2013