English - Free topic 4: America and the World: Reading American Literature Transnationally and Globalization, the U.S. South, and New Southern Studies

Course content

America and the World: Reading American Literature Transnationally (Christa Vogelius)

 This course looks at American literature in its international contexts, thinking about the ways that this writing has been defined against, and as part of, the world. Questions that we will think about in the class include: What is the so-called transnational turn in American studies, and how has it changed the way we read American literature? How do the local and the global interact in literary texts? How do texts “move” in the world, either through transnational characters and settings, or the international dissemination and translation of texts?  The course will span early nationalist movements in defining a canon of literature in the nineteenth century, the literatures of immigrant groups in the late nineteenth-century, expatriate writers in the early twentieth century, and contemporary transnational writing by authors with roots across cultures. We will also take our own local and global works into context, considering the reception of American texts in Europe, and Scandinavian-American literary exchanges.


Globalization, the U.S. South, and the New Southern Studies (Martyn Bone)

This course will consider recent cultural texts that respond to and represent the U.S. South’s relationship to contemporary globalization—and relatedly, the region’s complex relationship to the nation. We will discuss texts—novels, non-fiction writing, documentary, film, and music--that have focused on the ways in which economic globalization and its demographic corollary, immigration, have challenged and transformed traditional understandings of U.S. southern identity (as a distinctive region within the United States; as characterized by a rooted “sense of place”; as structured around a rigid black-white racial dichotomy, etc.). By reading a range of primary texts produced by native southerners, non-southern Americans, and immigrants, we will map the changing terrain of the U.S. South as it has been reshaped by an influx (and exodus) of global capital, and by the arrival of immigrants from around the world. We will consider, among other things, how globalization and immigration may or may not have transformed not only regional identity, but also whether it is plausible to situate (as some scholars have) the U.S. South as simultaneously part of the “Global South” and “Global North.”

The course will locate the selected primary texts in relation to and dialogue with recent critical and theoretical work in U.S. southern studies, especially the “New Southern Studies” (2001-present). Among this secondary reading will be excerpts from my recent book Where the New World Is: Literature about the U.S. South at Global Scales (2018). The course is designed at least partly as a graduate-level progression from my undergraduate classes “Introduction to American Studies” (which features a subsection on the U.S. South) and “Reinventing the Southern Renaissance”; however, no prior knowledge of southern studies is required.

Teaching: The module is taught in two seven-week blocks beginning in the first half with ‘America and the World’ (taught by Vogelius) and continuing in the second half with ‘Globalization, the U.S. South, and the New Southern Studies’ (taught by Bone).

America and the World: Reading American Literature Transnationally

Primary texts will likely include poems by Walt Whitman; stories by Edgar Allan Poe and Herman Melville; Drode Krog Janson’s A Saloonkeeper’s Daughter (1887) excerpts of Gloria Anzuldua’s Borderslands/La Frontera (1987); Nella Larson’s Quicksand (1928); and Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007). Critical articles will include work by Wai Chi Dimock, Paul Giles, Shelley Fisher Fishkin, Werner Sollors, Orm Øverland, and Edward Said.


Globalization, the U.S. South, and the New Southern Studies

Primary texts may include (TBC):

  • Russell Banks, Continental Drift (novel, 1985)
  • Lan Cao, Monkey Bridge (novel, 1998)
  • Monique Truong, Bitter in the Mouth (novel, 2010)
  • Cynthia Shearer, The Celestial Jukebox (novel, 2005)
  • Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing (novel, 2016)
  • Mississippi Masala (film, 1991)
  • CSA (film, 2005)

Dave Eggers, Zeitoun (non-fiction, 2010)

This course only leads to exams Free Topic 1, Free Topic 2 and Free Topic 3.

Type of assessment
Portfolio, Portfolio uploaded in digital exam: Deadline June 12th 2019
Exam form: The portfolio examination combines the two parts of the module, and you will receive one final grade, based on the following assignments (NB: precise deadlines TBC, depending on scheduling of course):

• First coursework essay (5-7 standard pages) relating to ‘America and the World.’ To be submitted after the final class (i.e., halfway through the semester): 30% of the final grade. Deadline: late March 2019
Your coursework essay should be organized around a theme that is relevant to the course and focus on one or two of the primary texts. It should also exhibit evidence of engagement with secondary critical material (from and/or beyond the course reading). Please ensure that your teacher has sanctioned your theme before you begin writing the essay.
• Second coursework essay (5-7 standard pages) relating to ‘Globalization, the U.S. South, and the New Southern Studies’: 30% of the final grade. Requirements same as above. Deadline: start of May 2019
• Student conference presentation, late May 2019
The combined module will conclude with a student conference covering both courses. Students will be organized into thematic panels of approximately 60 minutes, each featuring individual fifteen-minute presentations by three students. All students from the combined course are encouraged to attend all sessions and participate in the Q&A portion (the final 15 minutes) of each panel. The individual presentations should draw on material from both courses and develop a comparative argument. Your presentation may focus more on one of your chosen primary texts than the other (and/or on one side of the course than the other), but the presentation should at least contain some comparative references. Each student’s conference presentation theme/focus must also be approved by the teacher(s) following consultation and the submission of a brief abstract prior to the conference itself. 40% of the final grade. Deadline for the submission of an abstract for the conference presentation: one week before the conference.
Criteria for exam assessment
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 353,5
  • English
  • 409,5