HONR 259Q The Mosaic of Identity in Contemporary American Literature
Dr. James Airozo, Associate Director, University Honors Program
Issues tied to personal identity preoccupy us throughout our lives but never more so than in adolescence and young adulthood. Deciding how to fit in and when to take a stand, coming to terms with what we truly believe and most value, establishing who we are as distinct from what others may want us to be, sorting out which inherited beliefs and values we wish to sustain and which we will reject--all these are vital issues central to the establishment of a healthy and integrated sense of self.
These central preoccupations are made even more complex when a person's inheritance is multi- cultural, racial, or ethnic. How does an individual reconcile conflicting codes of values inherited from different cultures? How does the reality of mixed race or ethnicity complicate the issue of parental identification? Must individuals of mixed ancestry select one portion of their inheritance with which to identify and if so does this automatically imply a rejection of the remainder of their inheritance? These questions and others will be addressed in this course through a reading and discussion of contemporary literary texts selected for their multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and racial focus.
The course begins with an overview of psychological identity theory and then moves on to a study of modern American literary texts that provide a rich mix of cultural, racial, ethnic, and gender perspectives. The course will also attempt to set each text within its particular context. Thus, for example, a study of Cristina Garcia's Dreaming in Cuban will include a discussion of the unique history of Cuba in the Spanish Conquest and of Cuban Americans as Hispanic immigrants to the United States.. Film and video will be used to supplement the reading. There will be a series of short papers and a final exam.
Cristina Garcia, Dreaming in Cuban
Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street
James McBride, The Color of Water
Toni Morrison, Sula
Eric Liu, The Accidental Asian
Jhumpa Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies
Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club