At once setting and subject, geopolitical region and aesthetic construct, the Americas have long captivated cultural imaginations across the globe. But what are we talking about when we talk about the Americas in the plural? To say “I’m American” suggests a certain singularity that disregards the double, continental expanse mapped across a hemisphere. What are the implications of understanding North and South separately and together, or instead, considering multiple Americas? What role might textuality, intertextuality, performance, and translation play in acts of border crossing? If the Americas have been constructed in part by writing and rewriting over history and across traditions, what contemporary possibilities do rewriting and performing the Americas open up? And what are the historical, sociopolitical, and aesthetic consequences of hemispheric and transatlantic thinking?
These are but a few of the questions we’ll address as we think about and then rethink the Americas. We’ll travel across borders and centuries, at once constructing and deconstructing these linguistic, cultural, and geographic zones. We’ll consider how poems, plays, lyrics, novels, films, and performances both illuminate and are illuminated by hemispheric and transatlantic thinking. Generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, this course will include the opportunity to attend three shows at Cal Performances and engage with teaching artists across multiple mediums. Crucial to our consideration of multiple Americas will be a more expansive understanding of what constitutes a text: from listening to Argentine tango to becoming part of Camille Brown’s linguistic play to performing our own Americas, we will think, write, and rewrite across generic and geographic borders. And as we investigate the words we read and the performances we attend, so too will we scrutinize the words we write. We’ll explore the many choices, both simple and sophisticated, that go into communicating interpretations of a text to a reader.
As a Reading & Composition course, sustained critical engagement with the process of writing will guide our intellectual consideration of multiple Americas. A series of writing activities will help us conceptualize how writing is fundamentally social: a tool with agency to engage in conversation, as well as a mode of expression, experience, and action. As a class community, we’ll work toward developing ties between a practice of close reading and a practice of writing.
Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot
Gabriel García Márquez’s El Coronel No Tiene Quien Le Escriba (No One Writes to the Colonel)
A course reader must be purchased at Krishna Copy (2001 University Ave.). It contains prose selections by Valeria Luiselli, Jorge Luis Borges, Clarice Lispector, Gloria Anzaldúa, Edgar Allen Poe, Julio Cortázar, Silvina Ocampo, and Maggie Nelson; with poetry by Audre Lorde, Eileen Myles, Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes, Allen Ginsberg, Federico García Lorca, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Gabriela Mistral, and Pablo Neruda; an article on the films of Pedro Almodóvar; travel writing by Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, Victoria Ocampo, Charles Darwin and Jonathan Franzen; selections of critical texts and essays by Mary Louise Pratt, Judith Butler, and Hilton Als; and readings on writing by Stanley Fish and from Writing Analytically.
Required Films, Performances, and Events:
Todo Sobre Mi Madre (All About My Mother) directed by Pedro Almodóvar
Théâtre de la Ville’s production of Camus’s State of Siege
Tango Buenos Aires’s Spirit of Argentina
Camille Brown’s BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play