EL 132 | American Immigrant Literature

(Fall 2015)

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From the journal writing of the earliest European explorers to the present, the immigrant experience has been a part of American literature. Our exploration of American immigrant writing will take us from the story of Alavar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca—marooned in (believe it or not) Texas—to stories of immigrants in early-twentieth-century New York City to more contemporary writers and stories. We will look at the ways characters in stories, poems, and plays navigate the often difficult terrain between the faith, family, and community traditions with which they (or their parents) arrive and the new cultural possibilities they discover as they make new lives, imagine new possibilities, and join (or reject) new communities in the US.

This is also a class about reading well. We will read a wide variety of literary works (including prose, poetry, and drama), consider how and why they were written as they were written, and work to become sharper, more appreciative readers of all the writing (informal and formal, creative and not-so-creative) that we encounter. In our class sessions, we’ll discuss—together—what we’re reading and what sorts of strategies can be used to understand and appreciate it. We’ll also consider, as we go, the practical importance of reading well. In your writing for this course, you’ll be putting what you learn into practice by producing short, focused, analytical readings of prose, poetry, and drama. The course may be used to fulfill either the Humanities or the American Diversity general education requirement.

Assignments/Scores to Anticipate

You Should Always Have the Readings in Front of You in Class

---- The Schedule ----

Week 1 (Sept. 5 and 7)

Notice that "due" items for the week are listed under each week heading.

  • Day 1: No Class Yet
  • Day 2: Course Introduction

    Day 3: Gardner, Chapters 1 and 2 + Watch “Jennifer 8. Lee Hunts for General Tso” + Thoroughly Read the "Personal Ethnography" Assignment Sheet

Week 2 (Sept. 14, 16, and 18)

Remember that you need to either PRINT texts for class or have some way (Kindle? iPad? Laptop?) to view your electronic copy in class.  Showing up for a discussion without a copy of the text under discussion is super lame.

  • Day 1: Selections from The Relation (Cabeza de Vaca) + Selections from A Brief Account of the Devastation of the Indies (de las Casas)  (Texts available in our Blackboard "Readings" section.)
  • Day 2: Gardner, Chapter 5 (but skip the two stories in Gardner) +
    “No Name Woman” (Maxine Hong Kingston) (On Bb)
  • Day 3: Guided Writing 1 (No new reading, but bring a paper copy of the text you've found most interesting/compelling so far, and bring along the handout with the rhetorical triangle, Foucault terms, etc. Laptops allowed/encouraged for Guided Writing days.)

Week 3 (Sept. 21, 23, and 25)

Due Friday at 5:00 pm: Personal Ethnography

Hey read the poems two or three or four times! They're not long, and they're made to be considered and heard aloud and read more than once, not to be quickly gulped down before class.

Week 4 (Sept. 28 and 30, Oct. 2)

We've got a Guided Writing day Friday. Don't miss it! These will be important for developing your essays.

BH Fairchild Reading on Tuesday: Required. 7:00 @the RTT

  • Day 1: One Additional Poem: "Persimmons" (Li-Young Lee)
  • This Tuesday, 7:00 PM, Robinson Teaching Theater, the poet BH Fairchild will be reading. Click the link. This is a big deal. Also you're required to go and write a long-ish paragraph reflecting on your experience of the reading. You may write about just about anything here, so long as it demonstrates (for full credit) your fully engaged attention to the reading. If you'd like a more specific prompt, use this: "How is the experience of hearing poetry 'live' different from the experience of reading it on the page? What new dimensions are revealed?" Due NEXT Friday, with Guided Writing Portfolio.
  • Day 2: Poetry, Cont., Inc. Prosody Discussion and (Maybe) Additional Poems, TBA

    Day 3: Guided Writing 2. Bring the poem you intend to write about for Essay 1. (Check the list of eligible poems on the assignment sheet!) Laptops welcome/encouraged.

Week 5 (Oct. 5, 7, and 9)

Due Friday at 5:00: Essay 1 AND Guided Writing Portfolio (Work from Both First and Second Guided Writing Day + Fairchild Paragraph)

  • Day 1 Bonus Links
    (Not Required)

    "...No Cats in America"
    (An American Tail audio)
    "...No Cats in America"
    (An American Tail video)
    Visualizing Immigration (Flawed But Interesting)
  • Day 1: "Why They Came" from A Nation of Immigrants (John F. Kennedy, via Bb) + Selections from American Passage (Vincent J. Cannato, via Bb). (Note that I won't be testing you on all the many, many specific dates in Cannato, so don't stress out about that, though you should have a good general sense of the years/time period when all this happened.)
  • Day 2 Bonus Link
    (Not Required)

    Chinese Exclusion Act (archived at PBS/The West)
  • Day 2: "Leaves from the Mental Portfolio of a Eurasian" and
    "In the Land of the Free" (Edith Maude Eaton/Sui Sin Far) +
    “An English-Chinese Phrase Book” (Wong Sam and Assistants)
  • Day 3: "The Mother Tongue Between Two Slices of Rye" (Gary Shteyngart, also available via Bb) + Essay 1 and Guided Writing Portfolio, Due at 5:00

Week 6 (Oct. 12, 14, and 16)

Notice that the Midterm/Exam 1 is on MONDAY of next week.

  • Day 1: The Promised LandChapter 1 and Chapter 9 (Mary Antin) +
    "America and I" (Anzia Yezierska) (Note: The Antin is available online or via Blackboard.)
  • Day 2: Yekl (Abraham Cahan), Chapters 1-5.
  • Day 3: Yekl, to the end (of Yekl).

Week 7 (Oct. 19, 21, and 23)

Monday: Midterm/Exam 1

Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday NIGHT: In Time of War Screening (which we'll schedule a few weeks into the course).

  • Day 1: Exam 1
  • Day 2: “Seventeen Syllables” (Hisaye Yamamoto) (Available Via Blackbaord)
  • Day 3: No-No Boy (John Okada), Chapters 1-3

Week 8 (Oct. 26 and 28)

  • Day 1: No-No Boy, Chapters 4-7
  • Day 2: No-No Boy, Chapters 8-11
  • Day 3: No Class (Fall Break)

Week 9 (Nov. 4 and 6)

We've got a Guided Writing day Friday. Don't miss it! Again, it will be important for developing your essay.

Notice that there's prewriting assigned for Friday.

  • Day 1: No Class (Fall Break)
  • Day 2: “In the American Society” (Gish Jen) (Available Via Blackboard)
  • Day  3: Guided Writing. Complete assigned prewriting before class, and bring along your copy of the work you have chosen to write about for Essay 2. Laptops welcome/encouraged.

Week 10 (Nov. 9, 11, and 13)

Due Friday at 5:00 pm: Essay 2

  • Day 1: "The Politics of Recognition" (Excerpt) (Charles Taylor)
  • Day 2: "Searching for Gold Mountain" (Ronald Takaki)
  • Day 3: Gardner, Chapter 6 + David Henry Hwang: “Searching for Chinatown”

Week 11 (Nov. 16, 18, and 20)

Due Friday at 5:00 pm: Any (100% Optional) Revisions of Essay 1

Wednesday: Required Alex Kuo Event

  • Day 1: FOB (David Henry Hwang), Act
  • Day 2: FOB, Act 2 
  • Tonight (Wednesday) @7:00, Alex Kuo Reading, Required, with Response Paragraph for Guided Writing Journal.
  • Day 3: I Don’t Have To Show You No Stinking Badges! (Luis Valdez), Act 1 + Optional Revisions of Essay 1, Due at 5:00

Week 12 (Nov. 23)

  • Day 1: I Don’t Have To Show You No Stinking Badges!, Act 2
  • Day 2: No Class (Thanksgiving Break)
  • Day 3: No Class (Thanksgiving Break)

Week 13 (Nov. 30, Dec. 2 and 4)

We've got a Guided Writing day Friday.

  • Zoot Suit Bonus Links
    (Not Required)

    A Version with Translations (in the Footnotes): Here.  (PDF)

    Fairly Sanitized Translations from a Site for the Play: Here.

    "List of Caló Words and Expressions"
  • Day 1: Zoot Suit (Luis Valdez), Act 1 + (In Class) Clips from Zoot Suit film.
  • Day 2: Zoot Suit, Act 2 + (In Class) Clips from Zoot Suit film.
  • Day 3: Guided Writing.  Bring your copy of the play you have chosen to write about for Essay 3; have in mind one small section/scene from the play on which you'd like to write.  Laptops welcome/encouraged.

Week 14 (Dec. 7, 9, and 11)

Monday or Tuesday NIGHT (TBA): Far and Away Screening

Wednesday (Day 2): Essay 3 Due by 5:00 PM + Turn in Guided Writing Portfolio

Guided Writing 2 Includes One Day of Guided Writing (See Above) and Prewriting for Essay 2 + Kuo Response Paragraph.

  • Day 1: "Emigrants from Erin" (Ronald Takaki) + Monday or Tuesday Night: Far and Away Screening
  • Day 2: Far and Away Discussion + Essay 3 Due by 5:00 pm + Turn in Guided Writing Portfolio 2
  • Day 3: View/Discuss Charlie Chaplin's The Immigrant (We'll watch it in class! No homework!) (BTW: Linked version = lower quality, worse music than in-class version.)

Week 15 (Dec. 14 + Exam)

  • Day 1: TBA/Catch Up/Review
  • Tuesday, Dec. 15, 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM: Exam 2/Final

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