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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Cynthia Steele
SISLA 489
Seattle Campus

The Mexico-U.S. Border in Literature and Film

Analysis of the Mexico-U.S. Border region in literature and film of the 1990s and early 2000s. Includes migration, tourism, NGOs, globalization, transnational commerce, multiculturalism, and politics of gender, sexuality and race. Prerequisite: either SPAN 303 or SPAN 316; either SPAN 321 or SPAN 322; one additional 300-level course above SPAN 303. Offered: jointly with SPAN 489.

Class description

Analysis of representations of the U.S.-Mexico border in film and literature, by artists and scholars from the U.S., Mexico, and Europe. While we will begin with images of the border region, and of Latin America in general, in Orson Wells Touch of Evil (1951) and clips from other classic Hollywood films of the 1940s and 1950s, we will pay particular attention to the blossoming of border scholarship and authors during the late 1990s and early 2000s. While there will be some consideration of formal issues like genre and cinematography, our primary focus will be on representation and ideology. Topics will include longstanding U.S. stereotypes of the border region and of Latin America in general, as they relate to race, ethnicity, gender and social class; and anti-imperialist and postcolonial critiques of these stereotypes. We will examine how performance art, fiction film, and both traditional and experimental documentary film have each been brought to bear on these issues, from a Northern or a Southern perspective, in the context of globalization and postmodernism. Required Textbooks: 1. Luis Humberto Crosthwaite et.al., Puro Border: Dispatches, Snapshots & Graffiti from La Frontera. El Paso: Cinco Puntos Press, 2003.

2. Tom Miller, ed. Writing on the Edge: A Borderlands Reader. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 2003.

Required Films: Orson Welles, Touch of Evil (1951); Jesse Lerner and Rubén Ortiz, Fronterilandia (1997); Gullermo Gómez Peña, Border Brujo (1987); Marlo Bendau, Guillermo Gómez Peña (1996); María Novaro, The Garden of Eden (1994); John Sayles, Lone Star (1999); Ursula Biemann, Performing the Border (1999); Lourdes Portillo, Señorita Extraviada (2001); Bruno Sorrentino, City of Dreams (2001); Dee Dee Halleck, Gringo in Mañanaland (1999); and Chantal Akerman, De lautre côte (2002).

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Lecture and discussion.

Recommended preparation

For SISLA portion: at least two years of Spanish language instruction For SPAN portion: SPAN 303; either SPAN 321 or SPAN 322; one additional 300-level course above SPAN 303.

Class assignments and grading

Two 5-6-page analytical essays, including bibliography, 30% each 60%

Two in-class film response papers, 10% each 20%

Class participation 20%


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.
Last Update by Cynthia Steele
Date: 04/16/2005