English 31AC

Literature of American Cultures: American Hustle: Race, Ethnicity, and Dreams of Getting Ahead

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2020 Saha, Poulomi
TTh 9:30-11

Other Readings and Media

Texts may include: W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk; Carlos Bulosan, America Is in the Heart; and Jish Gen, Mona in the Promised Land.



In this class, we are going to do and to talk about work: getting work, making it work, working the system.

This course, which constitutes a survey of ethnic American literature, asks about the desires, imagination, and labor that go into the American dream. What is the relationship between immigration and dreams of upward mobility in America? This course will examine films, novels, and short stories in which the American dream comes apart at the seams to think about the fantasies of belonging and prosperity that fuel immigration and its effect on how we think about race, ethnicity, class, and citizenship.

We will examine the ways in which people negotiate relationships to the state and to a sense of Americanness through fantasies of economic prosperity and increased possibility—how do some communities come to be figured as “model minorities” and others burdens on the state? We will study narratives of struggle, belonging, becoming, and coming undone across a variety of immigrant and ethnic American communities. There is no singular America that we will seek to depict in this class: its fractures, failures, and violences are of as much interest to us as its bounty, promise, and welcome. For this reason, we will engage a range of historical, sociological, and theoretical material to understand how ethnic and racial categories have been formed and produced in America. Students will develop a critical vocabulary for race, gender, and class in contemporary America and an understanding of their historical antecedents.

This course satisfies UC Berkeley's American Cultures requirement.

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