Laura Shackelford

1:30p-2:35p D (30 students) 3 cr., A&H.

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

Literature has played a central role in elaborating and consolidating the boundaries, both spatial and symbolic, of the modern nation-state. As symbolic or imagined communities, as well as mere geo-political territories, nation-states rely on literature to flesh out the national ‘character’ and to symbolically reproduce and circulate these national ideals. Yet over the course of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, a number of literary movements have also offered rigorous critiques and interrogations of existing nation-states and the nationalist discourses and practices, such as colonialism and imperialism, on which they rely. In the process, these works of literature re-imagine the relation between the nation-state and national identities, reflect on the limitations nationalist models place on understandings of community and identity, and develop alternative understandings of community, identity, and one’s relation to geographical place.

This course will focus on the role that literature and various literary movements have played in critiquing, re-negotiating, and re- imagining the nationalist project and, more specifically, the relations between literature, identity, belonging, place, and the nation-state. Global capitalist networks, which tend to disregard and re-navigate national boundaries, pose new questions about the relevance and reality of national identities in an age of globalization. We will, therefore, pay particular attention to the pressures global capitalist economic networks place on nation-states and national identities, while also addressing the ways in which these global networks signal the continuation of imperialism and colonialism rather than a certain break with these forms and legacies of nationalism.

The initial unit will reflect on the relationship between nationalism, literature and identity in the early 20th century. The second unit will focus in on Modernism’s cosmopolitanism as a reaction against 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 and its restrictive national identities. The third unit will juxtapose and complicate Modernism’s cosmopolitanism with models of an African-American and African diaspora as these are developed in the work of W.E.B. Du Bois, in the writings of Harlem Renaissance writers, Nella Larsen and Langston Hughes, in works of post-colonial African literature by Aimé Césaire and Ama Ata Aidoo, and in the Black Arts Movement. The third and final unit will focus on more recent literary works that attempt to map transnational spaces and to re-imagine identities in these terms. This final unit will include works by Bharati Mukherjee, Monique Truong, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, and Zadie Smith.

Assignments will include bi-weekly reading responses, a group presentation, one short (5 page) essay and one longer researched essay (7-8 pages), 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 and critical essays on e-reserve