Slavic R5B, Section 1: Texts on the Move: Literature and (E)migration

MWF 10-11, 250 Dwinelle. Instructor: Antje Postema.

Units: 4

All Reading & Composition courses must be taken for a letter grade in order to fulfill this requirement for the Bachelor’s Degree. This course satisfies the first half or the “A” portion of the Reading and Composition requirement.

To emigrate, Salman Rushdie asserts in his Imaginary Homelands, means “to lose language and home, to be defined by others, to become invisible, or, even worse, a target; it is to experience deep changes and wrenches in the soul.” Meanwhile, he goes on to posit, “the migrant is not simply transformed by [this] act; he transforms his new world” (210). Trans-national migration and displacement have profoundly shaped world literature, both thematically and practically. This course investigates both texts produced in diasporas and texts that piercingly dramatize the varied experiences of shifting homelands. We will consider primarily 20th and 21st century émigré fiction, with reference to important literary precursors. The course will focus on a number of themes, including: historical upheaval and contexts of migration, the notion of physical and conceptual borders and their solidity or porousness, the relationship between self and homeland, the role of language and silence in understanding and representing identity, migrants and/versus refugees, mobility and rights, intergenerational trauma and memory, imaginative geography, race and ethnicity, globalization and multiculturalism, and the possibilities and limitations for hybrid or multiple identities that are worked out in the literature of migration.

This class will provide opportunities to develop three interrelated skills: critical reading, meaningful discussion, and clear academic writing. By the end of the semester, students will be comfortable analyzing a variety of texts with a careful eye for nuance and considering alternative viewpoints. Reading will be approximately 60-80 pages per week. Students will be expected to complete all assigned reading and come to class prepared to participate actively in class discussion. Writing assignments will include close readings of specific texts (250 words each), as well as four papers (three expository essays and one research paper). Over the course of the semester, students will focus on all stages of the writing process: selecting an essay topic, crafting a thesis, developing and sustaining an argument, working with sources, structuring units of prose, editing and proofreading, word choice, sentence flow, and other topics in grammar, mechanics, and usage.

Required Texts:

  1. Aleksandar Hemon, Nowhere Man (New York: Vintage, 2004). ISBN: 0375727027
  2. Mehdi Charef, Tea in the Harem (London: Serpent’s Tail. 1989). ISBN: 1852421517

Course reader may include selected short stories, poems, and essays from the following authors: Svetlana Boym, Joseph Brodsky, Junot Diaz, Vladimir Nabokov, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Emine Sevgi Özdamar, Salman Rushdie, Edward Said, Marina Tsvetaeva, Ludmila Ulitskaya, and Dubravka Ugrešić.

Prerequisite: Successful completion of the “A” portion of the Reading & Composition requirement or its equivalent. Students may not enroll in nor attend R1B/R5B courses without completing this prerequisite.