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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Jill E. Gatlin
ENGL 452
Seattle Campus

Topics in American Literature

Exploration of a theme or special topic in American literary expression.

Class description

For AUTUMN 2007: Contemporary Chicano/a Literature and the Environment.

In this course, we'll read fiction, poetry, plays, and essays by Chicano/a authors, exploring the ways in which these writers engage with issues of "the environment" in their works. We’ll take the term “Chicano/a” loosely to explore works by self-proclaimed Chicano/a activists as well as other writers of Mexican/native/American origin. We'll also be reading secondary and theoretical texts to gain a richer understanding of the cultural, environmental, and literary contexts of these works. Some of the questions we’ll ask about these texts—in addition to the questions you bring to class, of course—include: *How do Chicano/a authors challenge, affirm, or modify conventional understandings of “American literature”? What thematic and stylistic features are significant in their responses? *What do these writers say about “nature” and “nation”—two of the concepts foundational to “American studies”? What do they indicate about borders—between nations, between “nature” and humans, or between different groups of humans? *How does Aztlán—the material and conceptual notion of a Chicano/a homeland—resist or reconstruct ideas of the nation? What sorts of “homes” do these literary texts imagine? *What does “the environment” mean—besides just “nature”—to these writers? *What kinds of “environmentalism” do these writers seem to advocate or resist?

As a capstone course, this class will be especially meaningful to students who have taken other courses in American literature or literature and the environment (although these are by no means prerequisites and anyone is welcome to join the class!). The class does not require Spanish-language proficiency, but it does require a willingness not only to keep handy your standby English dictionary (as in any other course) but also to consult a Spanish-English dictionary to look up words in the texts that employ code-switching (a mixture of English and Spanish).

We will read literary works from the 1970s to the present along with secondary historical, critical, and theoretical texts on environmentalism and Chicano/a literature. Primary authors will include Rudolfo Anaya, Helena María Viramontes, Cherríe Moraga, Luis Valdez, Gloria Anzaldúa, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Pat Mora, Alma Luz Villanueva, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Ana Castillo, Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Deborah Parédez, Teresa Palomo Acosta, Raúl R. Salinas, Demetria Martínez, Gary Soto, Bernice Zamora, Luis J. Rodriguez, María Herrera-Sobek, Alberto Ríos, Carmen Tafolla, Ricardo Sánchez, Evangelina Vigil-Piñon, and Angela de Hoyos.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

Course requirements include attentive reading, active participation in all discussions and in-class activities, presentations/leading discussion, formal response papers, informal writing, and a final paper.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
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Last Update by Jill E. Gatlin
Date: 08/01/2007