Ethnic Literature, 1890-Present: U.S. Ethnic Literature and Theory [Blended] (WI Capstone-Eligible)—Diversity Intensive

ENGLSH 4129/4129W/7129
Section 01
Lynn Itagaki
Course Description

This course will examine the way literary and filmic texts are used to attempt to heal deep political, economic, and social rifts in US society, especially over issues of racial justice and historical racism.  We will look at the controversial beginnings of race and racism and how it was manifested in policies of removal, exclusion, and containment as well as the increasing emergence of formal apologies and monetary reparations in United States politics within the last twenty years. We will examine how these political developments are reflected in contemporary US literature: how tensions are resolved, reconciled, or even remain marginal and overlooked. Through present-day discussions of past historical injustices, we will develop advanced critical thinking, reading, and writing skills. We will consider novels, short stories, poetry, music, films, and essays about African chattel slavery, genocide and forced removal of Native Americans, Japanese American concentration camps, Nazi death camps, and immigration in order to develop cogent arguments and marshal evidence in support of our opinions about controversial issues today. 

We will evaluate various significant theories of race and racism and how gender, sexuality, class, nationality, and ability, among other axes of identities, impact the everyday lives of individuals and communities. Strengthening knowledge of literary interpretation and analysis, this course will use historical and current events to encourage students to develop their own intersectional perspectives and to seek theoretical approaches, textual evidence, and literary examples in support of their views. Students will examine how authors construct arguments, what filmmakers and writers convey through their non/fictional works, and the ramifications and influence of these literary texts on US society. This course will continually return to the literary and filmic works by artists of color with questions of theory, context, and influence. How do artists and writers, creating within certain contexts, attempt to resolve long-standing political, social and economic issues regarding racial justice?

This course counts toward the:

  • Humanities Requirement for Gen Ed
  • A&S Diversity Requirement
  • English Department: 
    • Diversity Requirement
    • Depth of Study 
      • 20th/21st Century Literature
      • Literary, Critical, or Rhetorical Theory
    • Breadth of Study: Theory and Methods