ENGL 242 C: Reading Prose Fiction

Against the ‘Nation Form’: Contemporary Transnational Literature and the U.S. Nation-State

Meeting Time: 
MTWTh 10:30am - 11:20am
Location: 
DEN 304
SLN: 
14058
Instructor:
Headshot
Shane McCoy

Syllabus Description:

“Beyond the ‘Nation Form’: Contemporary Transnational Literature and the U.S. Nation-State"

In his book Modernity at Large (1998), Arjun Appadurai writes, “The United States, always in its self-perception a land of immigrants, finds itself awash in…global diasporas, no longer a closed space for the melting pot to work its magic, but yet another diasporic switching point. People come here to seek their fortunes, but they are no longer content to leave their homelands behind” (172). In a similar vein, David Harvey, in A Brief History of Neoliberalism (2005), writes that the U.S. is no longer the mediator of global capital. As he puts it, “The rest of the world no longer looks to the US for military protection and has broken free from US domination in almost everything. The US has never been so isolated from the rest of the world politically, culturally, and even militarily as now. And this isolation is not, as it was in the past, the product of a US withdrawal from world affairs but a consequence of its excessive and unilateralist interventionism” (196). Both scholars point to the ways in which the relevance of U.S. power has been in sharp decline over the past two decades. In fact, many scholars have argued that due to robust global circuits of capital, the nation form (as theorized by Etienne Balibar), is perhaps even “post-national.”  Taking this as our starting point, this course takes up the central concern of reading contemporary transnational fiction at a time when the relevance of the U.S. nation-state as a mediator of global power is becoming increasingly irrelevant. To that end, we will study several texts published in the post-9/11 era and take up central questions that deal with the ambiguity of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, and national belonging in a variety of ways. The critical questions for this class: how does transnational literature mediate U.S. national belonging and claims to citizenship? How does this grouping of texts complicate the boundaries of the U.S. nation-state? What roles might imperialism and Empire-building play in the production of nationalism and by extension, the mediation of national belonging? Furthermore, what new ‘imagined communities’ might this literature create? Students are expected to come to class and intellectually engage with the material as well as engage with their peers in the form of small and large group discussions.  Please note:This course is a “W” class, which means it is both a reading and writing intensive class. Thus, students should expect 50+ pages of reading per day in addition to reading critical secondary sources for the chosen primary text. Two papers will be assigned, one of which is revisable. You will also be required to maintain a critical reading journal, which will be audited periodically and turned in at the end of the quarter.

 

Primary texts will include Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake (2003), Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2005), Dave Eggers’ What is the What (2006), Dinaw Mengestu’s The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears (2008), and Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanah (2013). Critical secondary readings will also be provided in the form of a course pack available at Ave Copy Center.

Additional Details:

In his book Modernity at Large (1998), Arjun Appadurai writes, “The United States, always in its self-perception a land of immigrants, finds itself awash in…global diasporas, no longer a closed space for the melting pot to work its magic, but yet another diasporic switching point. People come here to seek their fortunes, but they are no longer content to leave their homelands behind” (172). In a similar vein, David Harvey, in A Brief History of Neoliberalism (2005), writes that the U.S. is no longer the mediator of global capital. As he puts it, “The rest of the world no longer looks to the US for military protection and has broken free from US domination in almost everything. The US has never been so isolated from the rest of the world politically, culturally, and even militarily as now. And this isolation is not, as it was in the past, the product of a US withdrawal from world affairs but a consequence of its excessive and unilateralist interventionism” (196). Both scholars point to the ways in which the relevance of U.S. power has been in sharp decline over the past two decades. In fact, many scholars have argued that due to robust global circuits of capital, the nation form (as theorized by Etienne Balibar), is perhaps even “post-national.” Taking this as our starting point, this course takes up the central concern of reading contemporary transnational fiction at a time when the relevance of the U.S. nation-state as a mediator of global power is becoming increasingly irrelevant. To that end, we will study several texts published in the post-9/11 era and take up central questions that deal with the ambiguity of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, and national belonging in a variety of ways. The critical questions for this class: how does transnational literature mediate U.S. national belonging and claims to citizenship? How does this grouping of texts complicate the boundaries of the U.S. nation-state? What roles might imperialism and Empire-building play in the production of nationalism and by extension, the mediation of national belonging? Furthermore, what new ‘imagined communities’ might this literature create? Students are expected to come to class and intellectually engage with the material as well as engage with their peers in the form of small and large group discussions. Please note: This course is a “W” class, which means it is both a reading and writing intensive class. Thus, students should expect 50+ pages of reading per day in addition to reading critical secondary sources for the chosen primary text. Two papers will be assigned, one of which is revisable. You will also be required to maintain a critical reading journal, which will be audited periodically and turned in at the end of the quarter.

Primary texts will include Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake (2003), Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
(2005), Dave Eggers’ What is the What (2006), Dinaw Mengestu’s The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears (2008), and
Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanah (2013). Critical secondary readings will also be provided in the form of a course
pack available at Ave Copy Center.

4. Book List (author, title, and ISBN #):

Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake (2003) 978-0618485222

Junot Diaz, A Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar War (2005) 978-1594483295

Dave Eggers, What is the What (2006) 978-0307385901

Dinaw Mengestu, The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears (2008) 978-1594482854

Chimamanda Adichie, Americanah (2013) 978-0307455925

Catalog Description: 
Critical interpretation and meaning in works of prose fiction, representing a variety of types and periods.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Writing (W)
Other Requirements Met: 
Status: 
Active
Last updated: 
March 15, 2016 - 3:31pm