Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. Who (or what) is an American? What has the term “American” meant throughout history to the people living in what we call North and South America? How might issues of race, ethnicity, class, and gender among other social constructs inform and impinge on our definitions of “American” identity and culture? How do literature and film help to create a national and/or transnational community? Through an introduction to the literary and cultural productions of the Americas from the pre-Columbian era to the present, this course seeks to explore the complexities of and broadness of the terms “America” and “Americanness.”
The course will expose students to a broad range of films and literature emerging from the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, and Latin America. (All readings will be in English translation where applicable.) As this is a class with a comparative focus, students will be encouraged to draw connections between and highlight differences among authors throughout the Americas. Topics for the course may include: inter-American creation stories and foundational myths, formation of American republics, North-South dialogues, and American modernism(s). Possible authors and directors for the course include, but are not limited to: Langston Hughes, Walt Whitman, Maya Angelou, Walter Salles, José Enrique Rodó, José Vasconcelos, José Martí, Elena Garro, Fernando Ortiz, Ruben Dario, Herman Melville, Nicolás Guillén, Fernando Meirelles, Jorge Luis Borges, Carlos Fuentes, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, Clarice Lispector, Rachel de Queiroz, and Laila Lalami.