English 31AC

Literature of American Cultures: Immigration, Ethnicity, and the Popular Imagination

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2010 Ellis, Nadia
Ellis, Nadia
MWF 1-2 213 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Diaz, J.:  The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao; Everett, P.:  Erasure; Lee, C. R:  Native Speaker; Lethem, Jonathan:  The Fortress of Solitude

 Films:  Do the Right Thing (1989); In America (2002); The Wire (episodes from Season 3)(2004); Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (2004)


Why, in United States culture, are the varieties of blackness understood differently from the varieties of whiteness? Why are categories of Asian identities parsed differently from either? And how do the histories of immigration to the US produce these conflictual and confounding categorical modes? Contemporary fiction, film, and music allow us to think about immigration and its production of modern racial ideas in the United States, and to explore how these ideas become a part of the popular imagination. We will read literary fiction that deals in genres (comic books, detective novels), watch films and television shows that stage racial encounter (in moods of greater or lesser seriousness), and study musicians and comedians whose astute readings of race often reflect those most commonly, if unconsciously, held.  If all goes well, we will eventually alight upon the question of what the hero of Chang-Rae Lee’s quietly magisterial novel Native Speaker has in common with KRS-1.

Reader and B-Space page will include work by Jhumpa Lahiri, Amy Tan, Paule Marshall, Colson Whitehead, Malcolm Gladwell, David Simon, Mae Ngai, Noel Ignatiev, Nell Irvin Painter, Blackstar, KRS-1, and Dave Chapelle.

This course satisfies UC Berkeley's American Cultures requirement.

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