& Desire in the Chicana/o Tex[t]-Mex
A. Nericcio, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature
fracture, desire in the Chicana/o tex[t]-Mex"--what an awkward mouthful.
And yet I am arrogant enough to believe this ungainly amalgamation of words
will prove a valuable intellectual, cultural and political adventure. For
American Literature zealots, our course represents a rigorous survey of
an engaging body of 20th century US literary work. For Comparative Literature
mavens, my own favorites as said designation represents my own pedigree,
the class represents a literary tour that requires a systematic and non-systematic
fusion of diverse national literary traditions: a "Unitedstatesian" (estadounidense)
literary legacy with its links to various motherlands including England
and Germany, and of a Mexican literary tradition, with its own attendant
links to Spain among others--in short, Chicano/a Literature as the quintessential
comparative literary matrix. For MA English Literature acolytes, know that
the authors assembled for this "Latino" literary section are as likely
to have cut their teeth on Joyce and Dickens as on Sor Juana Inez de la
Cruz and Carlos Fuentes, so that your UK-focused inquiries to date will
profit you handsomely in this context--in addition, note that your attendant
hermeneutic footman, W. Nericcio, while a "full-blooded" Chicano from Laredo,
Texas, also has a London-born Great Grandmother's DNA spiraling through
his chromosomes. MFA acolytes too, both poetry partisans and fiction junkys
alike, will find much to gain from a careful reading of the assembled artists.
Last but certainly not least, DRWS vassals, might also find some provocative
examples of rhetorical intrigue afoot in the code and culture switching
shenanigans of these Chicana/o fabulists.
"Living cells," "Diffusion... through a semi-permeable membrane" "porous
partition." These loaded phrases, culled from the metaphorically rich confines
of the biological sciences, are not without some value in speaking to processes
of the culturally informed textual production of Chicano and Chicana artists.
Mexico and United States, adjacent, cultural structures share common substances:
histories, finances, and semiotic spheres. How appropriate that the biological
sciences should provide for those of us who study the arts and culture,
a ready model to describe processes to be found in the border dividing,
but, also, and importantly, the borders which define the cultual
dynamics between the United States and Mexico. And it is no more evident
than in literature that the permeable flow and exchange of bodies, ideas,
canvases, and books that one witnesses the synergy, the mestizo
dynamics of art history in Northern Mexico and the Southwest United States.
linger upon the process of osmosis? Mainly for a change of pace. Earlier
scholarly and cultural studies this century have lingered upon the lands
and people bordering northern Mexico and the Southwest United States as
subjected sites--always tainted by the very real war which forever altered
the geographic, not to mention the geopolitical, contours of the Americas--1848
looms as large for a study of the Southwest as 1776 or 1492 does for other
regions of inquiry. The border is wound, the border as site of conflict,
the border as hyphen or, even, following Derrida, as "hymen." All these
terms are useful for describing processes, literatures, arts and communities
at the border.
though, emphasizes another no less important characteristic of, and here
especially, of arts and artifacts produced by Mexican and Chicana/o artists
and writers--that is the sometimes slow, sometimes fast process of secretion,
absorption and evaporation across the border dividing the United States
and Mexico. To speak to the complexity of this osmosis is difficult; to
trace how one artist, or a school of artists for that matter, saturate
the vision of others working across the US/Mexican border is an exercise
in a rigorous form of cultural, not to mention semiotic, archeaology--consider
in this regard how the prose fiction of William Faulkner, translated into
Spanish, impacts upon the developing aesthetic sensibilities of Gabriel
García Márquez and his circle of friends, only to then return
to the states as the Colombian Nobel prize winners fiction inspires the
muse of Toni Morrison, only to have Morrison’s powerful narratives foster
literary issues from creative imagination of Marisela Norte (Chicana poet)
and the late Arturo Islas (Chicano novelist). Across and back again, visual
and literary seeds flow through the semi-permeable fixity of the border--here,
the migra or aesthetic border patrol stops no vehicles (or, perhaps,
only an occasional one), said artists yielding lasting impact upon computer
screens, paper, and canvases on both sides of the border and, in some instances,
the silver screen.
os mo sis \a:-'smo--s*s,
a:z-'mo--\; osmotic \a:-'sma:t-ik\ n. [nl, short for endosmosis:
alt. of obs. endosmose, fr. Fr. end- + Gk osmos act,
impulse] of pushing, fr. othein to push; akin to Skt vadhati
he strikes] 1. the tendency of a fluid to pass through a semi-permeable
membrane, as the wall of a living cell... 2. the diffusion of fluids through
a membrane or porous partition.
House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Washington Gomez: A Mexicotexan Novel by Americo Paredes
Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldúa
After the Riots by Juan Felipe Herrera
Snapshots of a Girlhood En La Frontera by Norma Elia Cantú
of Palomar by Gilbert Hernandez
of Night by John Rechy
Rain God: A Desert Tale by Arturo Islas
on the Edge: Caras Viejas Y Vino Nuevo by Alejandro Morales
Falsa : And Other Stories of Death, Identity, & Oxnard by Michele M.
Magazine Second Back Issue Bundle
No Se Lo Trago LA Tierra/and the Earth Did Not Devour Him by Tomas Rivera
will be responsible for composing three writing projects during the semester:
a 1-page typed prompt response, one 2-3 page analytical response; and one
10-12 page critical essay. Presentations are an option, but you must clear
your proposal with me during office hours.
grade will be based on your writing and your in-class participation. This
seminar will have no final exam.
regular office hours are from 6 to 7pm before class in Adams Humanities
4117. My Email address is <firstname.lastname@example.org>, but please only use this
mode of electro-conversation if it is urgent. I prefer the telephone where
I can be reached at 594.1524. Even more than the phone, I actually like
September 2: Introduction
September 9: Read Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street. Write
a one page, double-spaced and typed response the fills in the blank and
finishes the following prompt: "The most curious sentence in Sandra Cisneros’s
House on Mango Street is "_____________(p. )." What makes this "curious,"
really __________ is the better term, ...
16: Read the first three parts of Americo Paredes’s George Washington
Gómez up to page 175. As you read, recall the concept of osmosis,
and look for moments of flux and exchange between domains "Mexican" and
23: Finish reading Americo Paredes’s striking novel--part V is rather singular,
at least in my view. When you have finished the book, write a 2 to 3 page
brief essay wherein you speculate as to the curious fracture/metamorphosis
whereby Gualinto becomes George Washington Gómez.
30: Read Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera and Juan
Felipe Herrera’s Love After the Riots. Try not to let the apparent
genre of each text get in the way of your reading: you are as welcome to
read Herrera A theorist and Anzaldúa as a poet, as the other way
7: Read Norma Cantú’s Canícula. Attend to the play
of word and image in this singular prose "album." Pictures, here, act as
captions for prose as much as the prose supplements the photography.
14: Continue discussion and critique of Cantu's semiotic narrative.
21: Read/Scan/See Gilbert Hernandez’s unique vision of a talented Central
American young artist and his encounter with a pathological deranged killer.
One of the more remarkable examples of Chicano Literature of the last decade.
28: Bukowski’s got nothing on John Rechy, brace yourself and prepare to
brave the nightlife in City of Night, Rechy’s first, and some would
say best, novel. Read to page 244. Today you will receive a guide to your
final essay assignment--it will be due Friday, December 9 at 12noon under
the door of my office 4117 Adams Humanities.
4: Finish reading Rechy’s City of Night.
11 Read Arturo Islas’s The Rain God. Here again, as with Canícula,
the narrative is built around/upon the central image of a photograph. A
novel intent on exploring the dialectic of denial and desire, Islas’s The
Rain God, is arguably one of the more powerful American novels of the
late 20th century.
18: Read Alejandro Morales’s Barrio on the Edge. How does Morales’s
fiction compare with that of Rechy? Islas? Cisneros?
25: Thanksgiving, no class will be held in observance our only domestic
holiday glorifying Dionysian excess.
2: Read Michele Serros’s Chicana Falsa and Lalo Alacran’s Pocho
Magazine collection. How does their satire compare with othe literary
genres we have encountered this semester. You are compelled to ignore the
fact that this is my birthday and that I am holding the seminar anyway!
7. Almost adios, Tomas Rivera’s in the house on this our final seminar
gathering. Read y no se lo tragó la tierra. Party, fiesta?