Laura Shackelford

16454 - 12:20p-1:10p MWF (30 students) 3 cr. A&H.
16455 - 10:10a-11:00a MWF (30 students) 3 cr. A&H.

TOPIC: "Trans/Nationalisms: The ‘Place’ of Literature and Identity in an Age of Globalization"

Globalization, by promoting the circulation of capital, goods, labor, persons, and information across national borders, poses a series of challenges to existing national literatures and the (nation-based) methodologies we use to study literature. This course will examine a series of twentieth-century literary movements that turn to the global in order to develop a critical vantage on the nation-state and nationalist ideologies. It will also reflect on its own status as a ‘world literature’ course, its status as an outgrowth of this drive to render literature more “worldly,” to consider the values, purposes, and stakes guiding such global reading practices. Literature has played a central role in elaborating and consolidating the boundaries, both physical and symbolic, of the modern nation-state. As largely symbolic, “imagined communities” as well as material, geo-political territories, nation-states rely on literature to establish and consolidate categories of belonging based on language, region, culture, race, and ethnicity. Yet, as mentioned above, a number of literary movements have offered rigorous critiques and interrogations of existing nation-states and the nationalist discourses and practices, such as colonialism and imperialism, on which they rely. We will consider how these works of literature and key literary movements re-negotiate and re-imagine the relations between literature, identity, belonging, place, and the nation- state. In addition to asking after the critical perspective that such “worldly” literatures provide on national imaginaries, we will also address the possible complicity of transnational, cosmopolitan yearnings with nationalism, imperialism, and neo-colonialism, among other limitations.

The initial unit will reflect on the relationship between nationalism, literature and identity in the early 20th century and consider what it might mean and accomplish to render literature “worldly.” The second unit will focus in on literary Modernism’s embrace of various strains of cosmopolitanism as alternatives to nationalism. We will read James Joyce’s A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man and Gertrude Stein’s Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, examining their uses of exile and expatriation as means of resisting and re-figuring nationalism. Marking crucial limits to literary modernism’s cosmopolitanisms, and their exclusion of the non-European world in particular, the third unit will examine key literary movements taking up the Black Atlantic diaspora as a means of developing a “worldly,” cosmopolitanism perspective on modernity. Beginning with the work of W.E.B. Du Bois, we will move on to consider the writings of Harlem Renaissance writers, Nella Larsen and Langston Hughes, and works of post-colonial African literature by Aimé Césaire and Ama Ata Aidoo. These latter writers’ work will open onto the final unit in which we will examine a series of “postcolonial cosmopolitanisms,” literary works that strategically map and resist transnational, global capitalist spaces, drawing on the transnational to re-imagine identity, belonging, and community and to disrupt multi- and transnational corporations’ newest chapter in colonial and imperial exploitation. This final unit includes works by Bharati Mukherjee, Monique Truong, Zadie Smith, and Guillermo Gómez-Peña.

Assignments will include a group presentation, two essays (5 pages and 7-8 pages in length), regular quizzes and on-line reading responses, and a comprehensive exam.

Required Texts:
James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Gertrude Stein, Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
Nella Larsen, Quicksand
Ama Ata Aidoo, Our Sister Killjoy
Bharati Mukherjee, The Holder of the World
Monique Truong, The Book of Salt
Zadie Smith, White Teeth
*Selected poetry, performance works and critical essays on e- reserve