Description: This course will survey the literatures and cultures of Latino/as and Chicano/as in the United States. We will read authors such as María Amparo Ruiz de Burton, Américo Paredes, Piri Thomas, Rudolfo Anaya, Sandra Cisneros, and Valeria Luiselli. The settings will range from nineteenth-century California to twentieth-century Spanish Harlem and South Side Chicago, as well as the US/Mexican border today. The themes to be discussed include identity, racism, memory, shame, pride, crime, exile, and international geopolitics, plus the usual literary topics of sex, death, and tortured adolescence. Students will edit Wikipedia articles as one of their assignments.

Please note that, in light of the fact that the texts we are reading will all be in English, this course will also be taught in English.

Learning Objectives: On completion of this course, students will:

  • have read and discussed some of the key texts of US Latino and Chicano literature
  • have a sense of the US Latino/Chicano literary canon
  • have considered its relation to the mainstream canon of US fiction
  • have contextualized this literature within recent and current political history
  • have addressed some of the core issues of identity politics and culture
  • have theorized the notion of representation in its multiple meanings
  • have a better sense of the complex role of the author in literature and politics

Set texts: The set texts below are available at the UBC bookstore, except where noted. You must do the reading in advance of the relevant classes and bring a copy of the text to class.

  • María Amparo Ruiz de Burton, The Squatter and the Don (1885)
  • Américo Paredes, “With His Pistol in His Hand”: A Border Ballad and its Hero (1958)
  • Piri Thomas, Down these Mean Streets (1967)
  • Rudolfo Anaya, Bless Me, Ultima (1972)
  • Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street (1984)
  • Valeria Luiselli, Lost Children Archive (2019). Paperback to be published in February. I recommend you order via Amazon, other online services, or your local bookstore.

Blog: You will write c. 400 word weekly responses to the reading on a blog (either one you already maintain, or one you set up specifically for the class). You will also comment on at least two other students’ blogs each week.

Wikipedia: You will establish a Wikipedia account and, in groups, write and/or revise a Wikipedia article on a relevant topic, and submit it for Wikipedia peer review and Good Article Nomination.

Assessment: One mid-term examination (25%) and one 4-6 page paper near the end of the semester (25%). Your Wikipedia article will count for 35%, and blog entries and comments, plus attendance and participation, will constitute the final 15% of your grade.

Course convenor: Jon Beasley-Murray (jon.beasley-murray@ubc.ca). His office hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12-1pm, in Ponderosa E 216, or by appointment. Be in touch if you have queries or problems. Deal with problems when they arise; don’t keep quiet and hope they go away!