English 149-2 - Fall, 2016

Topics in Literature

    Topic: US Migration Narratives

Class Information

Instructor: Yazell, Bryan
CRN: 54206
Time: MWF 3:10-4:00
Location: 216 Wellman


    This course will conduct a sustained investigation into literatures that helped shape the popular representation of migrancy in the US across the twentieth century. If migration to and within the United States plays a prominent part in our national mythology, the populations who are more or less likely to move into the mainstream of civil life shifts over time. We will therefore examine how literary forms—including, but not limited to, novels, poetry and film—acknowledge, facilitate or obstruct the movement of specific migrant groups. The course will be structured largely along the twentieth century in order to bring into better focus the specific features of these literatures and their relation to political debates. For example, Frederick Jackson Turner’s “Frontier Thesis” (1893) claimed that movement into US frontier territories was the crucial factor for freeing European immigrants from Old World ideology, creating a US-specific form of liberal democracy in the process. A full century later, texts like Chang-Rae Lee’s Native Speaker (1995) meditates on the potential loss inherent in assimilation. The literary and critical spectrum that enables us to read these sources together is at the forefront of this course.

    The framework of this class is comparative, which means we will be intentionally focusing on representations of different migrant groups in order to consider potential categorical boundaries for defining the migrant experience as it appears in literature. What prominent themes might this broadly defined literary category encapsulate? Do certain literary models appear particularly useful to authors looking to define or otherwise depict the migrant experience? Or, conversely, does the particularity of different experience (based on race, social class, and/or national origins) inveigh against such a categorization? As we investigate these questions together, we bring into focus a distinct timeline for specific migrant literatures in the twentieth century.


    O Pioneers! (9780140187755, Cather
    The Grapes of Wrath (9780143039433) , Steinbeck
    Under the Feet of Jesus (978-0452273870 , Viramontes
    Native Speaker (9781573225311), Lee
    ENL 149-2 Course Reader