Literatures in English 1900-Present

10:10a-11:00a MWF (30) 3 CR.

Topic: "Mobilizing Spaces of Narrative and Identity"

This course will focus on the role that literature and various literary movements have played in producing and questioning specific understandings of social space. In particular, it will consider the ways in which literature reflects on the social relations and identities that different “geographies” or “mappings” of urban, national, and transnational space enable and disable. If, as Henri Lefebvre argues, “the viability of all transformative politics depends crucially on their ability to produce, appropriate, and organize social space,” what role does literature play in producing and organizing our sense and experience of social space? How has literature served as an alternate, conceptual space in which different social groups can consolidate and/or re-imagine their relation to and experience of the spaces of the world? If social spaces endow subjects with different kinds of mobility and fixity based on their economic status, their gender, their sexuality, their ethnicity or race, and their nationality, how has literature served as a site at which these geographies and the identities they secure are re-figured?

After an initial unit on the production of colonial/imperial spaces, the course will consider the use of strategies of expatriatism and voluntary exile by Modernists such as Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein as an attempt to re-figure social space in relation to reckonings with social space emerging within the Harlem Renaissance by writers such as Nella Larsen and Langston Hughes. The third unit will examine the spaces of an African diaspora as this is figured in African-American and African literary movements such as Negritude, the Black Arts Movement, and in Post-Colonial African literature. In the final unit, the course will focus on literary works that grapple with the effects of globalization on our sense of social space and on social relations worldwide. In particular, this unit will focus on several works that exploit a strategy of “retrospective science fiction;” a strategy that engages with the spatio-temporal logics of new technologies of communication and transportation in order to strategically re-imagine identities and communities that traverse what are typically considered to be untraversable temporal and/or spatial divides. This final unit will include works by Salman Rushdie, Bharati Mukherjee, Leslie Marmon Silko, Cherrie L. Moraga, and Zadie Smith.

Assignments will include three short papers and a final exam.