Themes in Literature: Border Crossings

English 1160
Border Crossings
Section 3
Elijah Guerra
Lafferre W0015

What are the boundaries that divide us? What is it like to cross cultural, gender, racial, ethnic, and lingual boundaries, to become or remain foreign? With whom should we identify? With what place should we identify? This course explores many border crossings captured in the work of African American, Latinx, Native American, Chinese American, and Egyptian American authors. To counterbalance traditional and recent emphasis on male authors, and to further investigate gender borders, all the authors explored in this class are women authors. Certain texts explicitly address gender borders, such as Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street (1984) and Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts (1976). Other texts speak to the ages and enduring issue of cultural boundaries and reach back into the 19th century, such as Mexican American author Maria Ruiz de Burton’s Who Would Have Thought It? (1872) and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852). We are witnesses to the extreme politics of place and identity that our current political climate has generated. We are readers of ever new exclusions and ever widening gaps between one people and another. If we are inside, we must imagine what it is to be outside. If we are outside, we must imagine what it would be like to be inside. Furthermore, we must question the distinction of inside/outside. In this course, we will read texts that explore physical borders that divide countries and regions, and immaterial borders, such as culture, that divide peoples.