English 165AC

Special Topics in American Cultures: Mixed Fictions

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2010 Serpell, C. Namwali
Serpell, Namwali
MW 4-5:30 301 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Johnson,  J. W.: The Autobiography of An Ex-Colored Man; Larsen,  N.: Passing; Ross,  F.: Oreo; Butler,  O.: Survivor; Obama,  B.: Dreams from My Father; Senna,  D.: Caucasia; Yamashita,  K.T.: Tropic of Orange; Roley,  B.A.: American Son; Nunez,  S.: A Feather on the Breath of God


This course examines U.S. fiction in the last century for which mixing works both as cultural theme—ethnic, racial, and class mixtures—and as literary form—genre, style, and narrative mixtures. The course will triangulate African-American, European-American and Asian-American cultures. Rather than engaging in a systematic study of these three U.S. cultures separately, however, the course traces lines of connection between them and explores how these lines proliferate and entangle with other U.S. cultures like Hispanic America. We follow the recent movement in ethnic studies toward comparison, reflecting a different understanding of ethnicity whereby a culture not only can be better understood in relation to other cultures, but also only comes into existence that way. The interrelation of cultures is thus constitutive of culture.

At the same time, we will put pressure on the inter- in interracial and inter-ethnic to see how it correlates with other inter- formations like the international, the interdisciplinary, and what we might call the intermedial: we will watch some films. We will explore historical, political, and intellectual contexts for our mixed fictions, according attention to issues of personal identity like intersubjectivity, agency, and integrity. Finally, the paradigm of mixing will be taken up as a question: Do cultures mix, mingle, coalesce, conflate, merge, analogize, parallel, conflict, synthesize, syncretize, absorb, condense, pass for (or over), cover over (or for) each other? Up to 200 pages of reading per week; three papers (7 pp). For a head start, we begin with The Autobiography of An Ex-Colored Man.

This course is open to English majors only.

This course satisfies UC Berkeley's American Cultures requirement.

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