LITR 4340 American Immigrant Literature

Lecture Notes

 

 

 

https://asiasociety.org/texas/events/value-immigrants-1882-chinese-exclusion-act-and-us-immigration-today

 

 

Assignments:

 

Vance, Introduction

 

pass out Vance, ch. 9

 

 

 

Pilgrims & Puritans

 

 

 

 

 

Two backgrounds:

 

1. competing scales and natures of traditional and modern communities [tradition / modern]

 

2. class marker: extended childhood

 

 

 

 

 

midterm2 review

 

if turned in by now or soon, return by weekend

 

attitude check: difficult, demanding exams

 

not graded on perfection but on meeting requirements and making progress

 

are we learning? temptation to want praise and congratulations for what we already know

 

old teacher can just teach what taught before and get by

 

but always sensitive to criticism of our discipline from conservatives or scientists: "they just teach them what to think (and reward them for agreeing)"

 

agreed: desire to understand the world, society, and how it works--literary people step out of the world to see it better

 

but danger of just echoing each other, reflexive, fixed attitudes about a world that's always changing--my own sensitivity

 

 

priorities for students > instructor

 

1. literature as meaning, identity, affirmation (but conflict and resolution in stories)

 

2. > literary devices: much harder to teach, require discipline, training, repetitions

 

3. > literary and cultural history: many literature students prefer literature as "timeless"

 

First priority changes rapidly, attitudes and experiences shift

 

2nd two more permanent, more factual, more of a bedrock of knowledge you can build on

 

 

learning > teaching

 

 

more next week on midterm2

 

welcome to reply to email and grade report

 

 

 

Purposes of teaching dominant culture

 

Objectives

 

larger framework: humans evolve as small communities, us-them, self-other

 

"nation" as largest modern social unit, defined by language, history, ethnicity

 

but problem: USA as "nation of many nations" < immigrant story

 

immigrant story as American Dream: individual starts with nothing, rises to something

 

additional problem: community of individuals?

 

How unify?

 

1. celebrate / respect difference

 

2. assimilate to dominant culture

 

Teachers: which America do we teach?

 

 

Obj. 6b

 

 

> multicultural:

diversifying student population

need for students to identify with historical actors

America not just as glorious triumph but problems, progress

 

> dominant culture

If we don't teach dominant culture to multicultural students, we're denying them the opportunity to learn from the strongest, longest-lasting civilization with the most advanced progress toward equality

+ mechanisms for self-criticism, self-correction

+ dominant culture very attractive all over the world--many oppressed people want to be American (opportunity, political freedom, etc.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literature as entertainment and education

 

> question #3

 

 

 

 

 

Dom cult as "Anglo"  . . .  yes, British or English

 

but different parts or periods of England contribute different parts

 

 

 

 

 

dominant culture website; waves of American immigration; dominant culture waves

periods > 17c / Reformation > Enlightenment

 

 

 

 

 

 

Declaration & Constitution

 

examples of problems--we sort of believe in them but don't necessarily want to read them or pay attention

 

 

 

 

Constitution notes

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

 

1.2.3 Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

 

 

1.8.4 a uniform law of Naturalization

 

2.1.5 natural born citizen

 

4.1.3 fugitive slave clause

 

6.3 no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

 

1 no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. [apply to Cherokee?]

 

13th amendment Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude

 

14.1 All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

 

 

 

 

Declaration notes

How does the opening of the Declaration embody or reflect "the American Dream?" How do the Declaration's narrative and values resemble an immigrant narrative?

 

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands. ["Naturalization" is the making of immigrants to citizens; e.g., the INS = Immigration and Naturalization Service]

 

He has excited domestic insurrections* amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages*, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions. . . . [*"domestic insurrections" = slave revolts, supposedly instigated by the British to weaken American war effort; **Indians as victims of immigration and population growth; Indian warfare depicted as terrorism]

omitted section on slavery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crevecoeur

3.2 rural; rich & poor not so far removed

3.4 melting pot but European immigrants

3.4 uniqueness of New England

3.5 surprising metamorphosis < laws & industry

3.6 leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones

3.7 labour is founded on the basis of nature, self-interest

 

9.1 richest province

9.2 scenes of misery

9.3 The chosen race eat, drink, and live happy, while the unfortunate one grubs

9.4 life . . . without labor

9.5 Guinea > for a few years

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winthrop, A Model of Christian Charity

1 knit together, bonds of brotherly affection    [metaphor]

 

2b Put a difference between Christians and others

[2c]  Law of Nature would give no rules for dealing with enemies, . . . but the Gospel commands love to an enemy. Proof: If thine enemy hunger, feed him; "Love your enemies... Do good to them that hate you" (Matt. 5:44).    [allusion]

[contrast Crevecoeur, "self-interest"]

 

Hence it was that in the primitive church they sold all, had all things in common, neither did any man say that which he possessed was his own. . . . [See Acts 2: 42-45, copied at bottom]

 

5a Love is the bond of perfection. First it is a bond or ligament. Secondly, it makes the work perfect. There is no body but consists of parts and that which knits these parts together, gives the body its perfection    [metaphor + emotion; contrast Constitution's "more perfect union"]

7 If one member suffers, all suffer with it, if one be in honor, all rejoice with it. [unity of church = unity of community]

 

[8] . . . this sensitivity and sympathy of each other's conditions will necessarily infuse into each part a native desire and endeavor, to strengthen, defend, preserve and comfort the other.

 

[9]  . . . So a mother loves her child, because she thoroughly conceives a resemblance of herself in it. [potential limits: the person you love has to look like you]

 

11 Entered into covenant  [cf. social contract, constitution]

 

12 knit together as one man, brotherly affection

 

12 Delight in each other, make otherís conditions our own

 

13 A city upon a hill   [allusion, symbol]

 

 

 

 

ask questions 3 & 5

 

J.D. Vance, "Introduction," Hillbilly Elegy (PDF fromemailed 1 November); J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy page; (> Scotch-Irish)

 

 

subtitle: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

 

1 [American Dream?] a nice job, a happy marriage, a comfortable house, and two lively dogs [note delay of childbearing]

 

1 poor, Rust Belt, Ohio steel town hemorrhaging jobs and hope

 

2 x-high school, x-college

2 avoid welfare, heroine overdose?

2 deep anger and resentment harbored by everyone around me

2 loving people rescued me

 

2 American dream as my family and I encountered it

how upward mobility really feels

2 American dream + demons

 

2 ethnic component

 

3 x-wasps

3 Working class white Americans of Scots-Irish descent . . . no college degree

poverty is the family tradition

3 day laborers, share croppers, coal miners, machinists and millworkers

3 hillbillies, rednecks, white trash > neighbors, friends and family

 

3 Scots-Irish . . . most distinctive subgroups

3 unchanging regional subculture

3 x-abandonment of tradition (x-assimilation)

3 good traits: loyalty, family and country

bad: do not like outsiders or people who are different; most important, how they talk

 

3 geography

 

4 Appalachian mountains, culture of greater Appalachia remarkably cohesive

cf. Louisian, Alabama

4 switch from Dem to Repub

4 fortunes of working-class whites eem dimmest

low social mobility to powerty to divorce and drug addiction

 

4 a pessimistic bunch, most pessimistic group in America

4 more socially isolated

religion has changed . . . churches heavy on emotional rhetoric but light on the kind of social support necessary to enable poor kids to do well

 

4 dropped out of labor force, chosen not to relocate

4 peculiar crisis of masculinity

 

5 traits that our culture inculcates make it difficult to succeed in a changing world

 

5 divorcing more, marrying less . . . if only better access to jobs

 

5 lost economic security and stable home and family life that comes with it

 

5 this story at least incomplete

 

6 Bob was 19 with a pregnant girlfriend . . terrible workers, chronically late, bathroom breaks

 

6 fired, Bob lashed out at his manager

 

7 manufacturing jobs have gone overseas and middle-class jobs are harder to come by for people without college degrees

 

7 reacting to bad circumstances in the worst way possible . . .  culture increasingly encourages social decay instead of counteracting it

 

7 he thought something had been done to him

7 lack of agency, willingness to blame everyone but yourself [grievance or victim culture]

 

8 known many welfare queens, all were white

 

8 upward mobility fell off in the 1970s and never really recovered, some regions fared worse

 

8 tell a true story about what that problem feels like when you were born with it hanging around your neck

 

8 not just a personal memoir but a family one

 

8 two generations ago, grandparents got married and moved north in hope of escaping dreadful poverty

8 grandchild graduated from one of the finest educational institutions

 

9 short version

 

9 deeply flawed . . . but I love these people

 

[caught between two worlds of social migration]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ethnicity as history or appearance?

 

minority

 

North American racial ideology: races created by God, pure permanent and exclusive

essential again for studying dominant culture

is it whiteness, or is it history?

 

possible fusion:

 

1776: "All men are created equal" (except for women and people of color)

Attempt to create a "classless" society, in contrast to Europe, where societies are organized by classes or ranks or birth (e.g., who you can marry, what work you do)

So far, so good

BUT if society is no longer organized or stratified by class, what classifications organize society?

Answer: gender and race

 

That's not the final answer to a question we're still learning how to answer

But that answer prevailed in varying degrees until Civil War, 22nd Amendment, Civil Rights Movement, Marriage Equality, etc.

 

Different "races" or ethnicities have different histories with America

The most physically distinct ethnicities are treated most as minorities without equal rights: African Americans, American Indians, East Asians (Chinese Exclusion Acts 1882 & 1923)

 

 

purpose: how to teach multiculturally without necessarily abandoning the traditional curriculum

 

 

Constitution, Declaration

cf. scripture

most people don't read it for themselves, but count on

 

 

5. As with zealously religious people who never read the Bible, many of the most avowedly patriotic Americans never read the Declaration or Constitution, even while claiming that these sources support their biases and ideologies. Instead they learn about the Bible from preachers or about the Constitution from family or office conversations or "hate radio." What happens when fundamentalists actually read their sacred texts for themselves?

 

 

cf. #3: enlightened democracy / capitalism as trade, exchange > moderation, golden mean

x-absolutes > pluralistic society, tolerance, benefit from difference > larger world, more beauty than one culture or interest group can offer

 

no greater pleasure / danger than having our biases confirmed

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons on Constitutional Government

 

Covenant b/w people and God . . . Winthrop 11; Bradford 11.2

>

social contract between consenting, self-governing parties

Declaration opening, Constitution prologue

 

socialism, communitarianism (with built-in hierarchies) > capitalism, competition, exchange between free agents with equal opportunities

 

 

 

 

 

 

What upsides / downsides to reading legal or historical texts as literature?

 

upsides

 

literature supporting nation, literature as nation

 

literature as practical writing > law, policy

 

conservative patriots won't object and may endorse, though they may object to critical thinking and history about failures or repressions inherent in constitutional history.

 

 

 

downsides

 

no story, narrative, characters, or . . .

history has to provide story

 

little emotion--instructor or community elder has to add ("This is important! We're Americans! This is who we are!")

 

 

practical writing > lack of figurative writing (metaphors, symbols, etc.)

 

why good? neutral, not impassioned--neutral common ground on which people can meet

 

Figurative speech adds color, vividness, but also cna be divisive

 

 

 

2. What parts of texts come alive for literary interests and why? Which parts did you skim or ignore, and why?

 

prologues

 

rights

 

Bill of Rights cf. Ten Commandments + lists simplify

 

read for confirmation of historical knowledge

 

 

why not?

collective x individual

public x private

 

(problem of human mind: social creatures, but individual consciousness)

 

 

3. Using process of elimination, if today's texts don't count as literature, what does? How do such questions and analyses help us define literature or extend our definition of literature? As teachers of literature, what are we teaching our students to do? If we should teach historical and legal documents, how can we do so successfully? If we don't, how do we justify teaching the texts that we do teach?

 

mimesis:

 

Declaration mirrors increasing individualism as social mechanism

 

Constitution models balance of competing powers or interests

 

Horace on entertain & instruct

 

 

successfully: use religion (diplomatically)

 

 

historical documents + fictional texts (coming up in class)

 

intertextuality: read texts in relation to each other--contrast experience of reading fiction as one text or world at a time, self-enclosed

 

 

 

resolution of historical narrative: civilization advances, progresses > excludes, mistakes > resolves, progresses again > next set of problems

 

 

4. Compare the social and religious communities Seventeenth Century represented by the Mayflower Compact & A Model of Christian Charity with the Enlightenment social contracts described by The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. How are the religious documents more "literary" than the Enlightenment documents?

 

 

notes above re covenanct

 

absence of metaphor > numbers, structures, facts

 

 

 

 

5. As with zealously religious people who never read the Bible, many of the most avowedly patriotic Americans never read the Declaration or Constitution, even while claiming that these sources support their biases and ideologies. Instead they learn about the Bible from preachers or about the Constitution from family or office conversations or "hate radio." What happens when fundamentalists actually read their sacred texts for themselves?

 

 

cf. #3: enlightened democracy / capitalism as trade, exchange > moderation, golden mean

x-absolutes > pluralistic society, tolerance, benefit from difference > larger world, more beauty than one culture or interest group can offer

 

 

 

 

 

6. How to avoid extreme reactions of apathy or rebellion? Readers of government documents often respond fatalistically with "so what?", avoiding controversy. Correspondingly, any effort to read critically can identify one as a silly radical fighting the tide of history or disrespecting the past.