English 203

Graduate Readings: The Politics and Aesthetics of Latinx Literature


Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Fall 2021 Gonzalez, Marcial
W 3-6 301 Wheeler

Book List

Acosta, Oscar Zeta: The Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo; Alvarez, Julia: In the Time of the Butterflies; Castillo, Ana: Sapogonia; Cruz, Angie: Let It Rain Coffee; Gonzalez, Rigoberto: Crossing Vines; Plascencia, Salvador: The People of Paper; Quiñonez, Ernesto: Chango's Fire; Rechy, John: City of Night; Vea, Alfredo: Gods Go Begging; Viramontes, Helena M.: Their Dogs Came with them

Description

In this course, we’ll explore the significance of two key concepts (“aesthetics” and “politics”) in several Chicanx/Latinx novels as representative examples of U.S. Latinx literature generally. To guide our exploration, we’ll begin with Walter Benjamin’s famous, albeit controversial, claim that the “aestheticizing of politics” stems from reactionary movements, such as fascism, while the “politicizing of aesthetics,” by contrast, is potentially revolutionary. In addition to distinguishing these two categories, Benjamin argues, in part, against the doctrine of “l'art pour l'art”—or the idea that genuine art is divorced from the influence or expression of politics and social commentary entirely. From our contemporary perspective, how might Benjamin’s arguments—and the debates that have emerged in response to his arguments—help us to better understand the politics and aesthetics of U.S. Latinx literature, which generally has been understood as having its inception in political struggles, realities, or consciousness? Is political literature aesthetically compromised in some way? Or does political literature force us to reconsider traditional conceptions of the aesthetic? Because this is a reading-intensive course, we’ll spend considerable time in class discussing the novels and doing close readings of selected passages, focusing on such features as linguistic tensions, recurring tropes, stylistic strategies, and problematic narrators.

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