English R1B

Reading and Composition: Ethnicizing America

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
8 Spring 2013 Xiang, Sunny
MWF 12-1 89 Dwinelle

Book List

Diaz, Junot: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao; Fitzgerald, F. Scott: The Great Gatsby; Hamid, Mohsin: The Reluctant Fundamentalist; Lee, Chang-rae: Native Speaker


Why are we a “nation of immigrants”? What does it mean to possess “the audacity of hope”? How are we “post-race” but not post-ethnicity? This course examines the mythos of America through (mostly) contemporary literature. The form of Americaness at issue is one that has ostensibly eclipsed what W.E.B. Du Bois had deemed a twentieth-century problem – that is, the problem of the color line, or, put differently, of race. Through literary, historical, and critical texts, we will trace familiar themes – hard work, perseverance, opportunity, equality, and, of course, hope – with an especial focus on the potency of  “voice” as a political metaphor. To what extent can “one voice can change a room, . . .  a city, . . . a state, . . . a nation, and . . . the world” (to quote Barack Obama)? How do we read immigrant voices in relation to literary voices? What conditions influence our capacity as readers not only to listen to narratorial voices but also to trust and to heed them? In our approach to these inquiries, we will try to complicate the more general relationship between art and politics, text and context, and form and content.  

This course requires you to complete two essays, a research project, and short writing assignments and responses.  It will also guide you through a process of outlining, drafting, editing, and revising to build a repertoire of critical reading and writing skills.

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