English N31AC

Literature of American Cultures: Democracy and Division

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Session Course Areas
1 Summer 2014 Mansouri, Leila
MTuTh 2-4 88 Dwinelle

Book List

Acosta, Oscar: The Revolt of the Cockroach People; Herman, Melville: Benito Cereno; Kobek, Jarett: Atta

Other Readings and Media

Films: The Godfather, Part II; Do The Right Thing

A course reader and/or b-space site including: selections  from Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, Thomas Jefferson, Frederick Douglass, Sui Sin Far, Charles Chesnutt, Zitkala Sa, Amy Tan, Alice Walker, and others. 


The United States Constitution refers to “We, the People,” as if it’s obvious who’s included in – and excluded from – that “we.” In fact, though, the reality has always been much messier. Fights over who was part of that “we” nearly derailed the United States’ founding, and its subsequent history has been defined by struggles over who is included in the “real America,” as one politician infamously put it a few years ago. In this course, we’ll look at how American literature has helped make and remake that “We, the People.” We’ll focus especially on slavery, immigration, racial integration, and terrorism, and we’ll look closely at how fiction, essays, poetry, and films have intervened into often-violent struggles over who counts as an American and as a person. As we do so, we’ll investigate how this process of defining and redefining the American people has prompted Americans to alter the boundaries of categories like “whiteness” and “blackness” and even to rethink the concept of race itself.

This course satisfies UC Berkeley's American Cultures requirement.

This course will be taught in Session D, which runs from July 7 to August 15.

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