Spring 2009

HUMS 641
Multiethnic Literatures of the U.S.


01/17/2009 - 02/02/2009
Note: Special Schedule 09:00 AM - 05:00 PM

285 Court Street

Special Schedule: Saturday-Monday, January 17-19; Saturday & Sunday, January 31 & February 1

Literatures produced by the many ethnic and racial minorities of the United States ask their readers to consider some of the most volatile of contemporary issues: immigration, cultural "rights" and assimilation, national identity, gender, youth and age, and popular as opposed to high cultures. What is the role of history, and of the immigrant's past, in the United States? What do we mean when we say that we are a nation of immigrants? What does "race" mean in a country that espouses the myth of the "melting pot"? How do we balance cultural traditions with the need to adapt to the host country? Can we achieve a sense of a unified national identity while respecting cultural differences? How do race and culture interact with the formation of masculine and feminine identities? What are the relationships among the older and younger generations in ethnic communities? How do minority communities negotiate relationships with other minority communities, as well as with the dominant culture?

Central to our study is the role of literature both as mirror and as lamp, as a reflection of our nation, illuminating corners that might otherwise be invisible, and as a light that half-creates what it illuminates. Thus, a major premise of the course is that literature plays a role in shaping our cultural beliefs and identities. We will discuss selected texts from major minority ethnic groups in the United States: African American, Asian American, Latino, and Native American. Besides examining the aesthetic traditions within the text, we will seek to place them in the social, historical, and political contexts of their production and consumption.

Required texts for this course include Alejandro Morales, Brick People Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao; Frank Chin, Gunga Din Highway; Jiro Adachi, The Island of Bicycle Dancers; Toni Morrison, Tar Baby; Edwidge Danticat, Brother, I?m Dying; Kirin Narayan, Love, Stars, and All That; Sherman Alexie, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven; Louise Erdrich, The Porcupine Year; Michael Dorris, Yellow Raft in Blue Water.

This course is open to auditors.

A syllabus for this course is available at:
HUMS 641 Syllabus

Indira Karamcheti B.A., M.A., Ph.D. University of California, Santa Barbara) is associate professor of English and American Studies. Her teaching and research interests include postcolonial literature and theory, the literature of the South Asian diaspora, and the writing of ethnic and racial minorities in the U.S. She has written on such authors as Salman Rushdie, Anita Desai, Simone Schwarz-Bart, and Aime Cesaire. Click here for more information about Indira Karamcheti and click here for more information about her work.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:


Toni Morrison, Tar Baby, Vintage
ISBN 0307388158

Sherman Alexie, Flight, Black Cat
ISBN 0802170374

Junot Diaz, The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Riverhead
ISBN 1594483590

Gish Jen, Typical American, Vintage
ISBN 0307389227

Robert A. Lee, Multicultural American Literature, U. of Mississippi
ISBN 157806645X


Lauro Flores, ed., The Floating Borderlands, U. of Washington Press
ISBN 0295977469

Shirley Geok-Lin Lim, ed., Asian-American Literature: An Anthology, McGraw-HilL
ISBN 0844217441

John Purdy and James Ruppert, eds., Nothing But the Truth, Prentice Hall
ISBN 0130116424

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Nellie McKay, eds. Norton Anthology of African American Literature, Norton
ISBN 0393977781

Register for Courses

Contact glsinquire@wesleyan.edu to submit comments or suggestions. 
Copyright Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, 06459