Latina/o Border Theories

LTNST/ENGL 226, Spring 2012

In this course we will explore contemporary Latina/o identities through the lens of the border, la frontera. We will evaluate this trope literally by looking at representations of geographical and physical borders, as well as metaphorically and theoretically by emphasizing writers’ strategies for challenging and surmounting social, political, and psychological rifts. Our coursework focuses on texts that both cross and claim cultural, racial, sexual, gendered, generational, spiritual, and institutional borders. In doing so, such texts open yet unknown spaces between categories. Students will grapple with the ways in which communities and individuals define and negotiate new identities that serve the social and psychological needs of those who defy restrictive definitions selfhood through overlapping, intersectional, layered self-representation.

Using a comparative approach to Latina/o literature highlights themes like migration, expatriation, and exile. This course charts the transnational exchange between writers living in the US and abroad, those born in the US and in the Caribbean or Mesoamerica, and those who write both in Spanish and in English. Regional identities are equally significant. The distinctions between New York and Los Angeles or rural and urban geography, for example, help draw our attention to issues of language, politics, local culture, performance, and voice. Through this investigation students will learn some of the central rhetorical strategies, tropes, and traditions that characterize Latina/o, Chicana/o, and Latin American literature. This introductory course assumes no prior knowledge of Latina/o Studies or fluency in Spanish, but will draw on students’ knowledge and experience in discussion.

Julia Alvarez, In the Name of Salomé
Gloria Anzaldua, Boderlands/La Frontera
Christina García, Cubanismo!
Juan Felipe Herrera, 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border
Piri Thomas, Down These Mean Streets
Hector Tobar,The Tattooed Soldier