semester san diego state university 1996
English 519: American Ethnic Literature
Critiquing the Dynamics of Stereotypes in 20th Century U.S. ‘Textual Culture’
If we think of stereotypes as a species of puppet or mannequin, who then are their authors, their agents, their puppeteers? Extending this allegorical premise, who builds and finances the theater within which these puppets ‘play’? And why are we such a captive, supportive audience?
Shifting gears now, leaving the allegorical world and entering the so-called real world of this classroom, where does the word "ethnic" in the catalogue title of this class come from? We hear it. We use it. But where was it crafted and to what end? What is the history of the word?
Because really: do any of us know what we mean when we say "Ethnic"? How about "American"? or, even, "Fiction"? Could it be that critical inquiry into the murky origins of these oft-used, little understood designations will help us to better think through ethnic literature of the United States? Is there a literature anywhere that is not quote/unquote "ethnic."
These questions and others will drive our whirlwind three-week adventure. Yes, there is a significant amount of reading. No, your eyes will not revolt; your wallet, however, is another story--please make sure you are ready to work through the challenge this short-semester project constitutes.
In short, brace yourself. Our working collective will attempt to make our significant investment of time and capital all worth while. But please remember: a class is only as good as the students that make it up (the professor, too, has to keep up her or his end of things).
Returning to the allegorical vein of the opening paragraph, imagine our class as a kind of advanced-vertebrate animal. Next, picture yourself as an essential body organ (your pick!) in this animal, an organ vital to the survival and growth of the organism.
Missing a summer session class is like missing two to three classes during the regular school term. Return now to the image of our animal, cutting class is sort of like the liver of our creature deciding to take a week-long vacation. Needless to say, the beast would perish. Our class suffers similarly when your decide to play ‘slacker.’ What I am trying to avoid saying and must say anyway is that I will have to be rather severe and ask that you miss no more than one or two class periods. Of course, having less than two absences strengthens the possibility of receiving an "A" level grade. If you miss more than two sessions, I will strongly suggest that you withdraw from the class.
Hold on to your hats and eat lots of carrots--we will be reading and writing with abandon. I look forward to working with you.
PS: One last question: How does the interpretation of literature, film and popular culture shift if we think of it less as a "represenation of reality" or "mirror of culture" and more a series of calculated masques, a series of seductive mannequins.
Required Texts Available at Aztec Shops
Sandra Cisneros Loose Woman (Random House)
Fiction & Memoir
From Heaven (Fantagraphics)
Distributed and Paid for IN Class
Jessica Hagedorn Dogeaters (Pandora)
Required Texts Available after August 1 at Off the Record, 6130 El Cajon Boulevard (265-0507)
Los Lobos La pistola y el corazón (Warner Records)
Required Texts, Free, Screened in Class
Douglas Sirk Imitation
of Life (1959 Universal)
One 40% Attendance, In-class
Challenges, Class Participation
My Office Hours are from
1 to 2pm on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays in the Adams Humanities Building,
room 4117. If these hours are not convenient do not hesitate to call &594-1524
to schedule an appointment or discuss class issues by phone.
William Anthony Nericcio