This module is a Pathway Approved Option for the North American Pathway and a Distributional Requirement for the English Pathway. Can be selected as an option under the remaining Pathways.
This module has several overlapping and complementary aims: first, to examine the long tradition of American expatriate writing, while seeing this writing not as an escape from questions of American identity, but as a paradoxically privileged space for a dialectical encounter with them. Thus, we will see how for James, Hawthorne, Stein, Larsen, Eliot, and Baldwin, to list the most obvious examples, “Europe” becomes an indispensable space and conceptual construct, be it often a fantasmatic one, for the interrogation of any sort of “Americanness.”
Second, the module will also examine writing which if not biographically “expatriate” nevertheless undertakes an explicit revaluation of the relationship between “American” and “European” from the perspective of a rejection of prevailing myths of historical, religious, or cultural separation and difference, especially as they inform American “exceptionalism" (Howe).
Third, the module will look at expatriation from the opposite angle—that of ethnic internal exile within the United States, and the travails of assimilation and prejudice (Paredes, Larsen).
Finally, the course will introduce some of the methodology and key issues of transatlantic studies, in an effort to think through how “area studies” and other forms of work on cultural appurtenance and specificity can be rearticulated along comparatist lines, in a movement of resistance to reified regionalist or nationalist ontologies. In this connection, certain authors whose biographies test the question of what or who is or is not “American” (Carpentier, McKay) are deliberately included.
This module will build on recent critical work on cultural identity as performative construction rather than “endangered authenticity” (James Clifford, Judith Butler); language, identity, ethnicity, and dialect (Michael North, Steven Yao); exoticism, authenticity, and conspicuous leisure (Dean MacCannell); as well as recent explorations in transatlantic and transnational literary studies (Robert Crawford, Paul Giles, Wai Chee Dimock, Brent Edwards). Among the module’s major concerns will be such issues and tropes as tourism and cultural capital; the relation of Eros to exoticism; local idiom and linguistic identity; diaspora and cultural palimpsest; and constructions of home and foreign.
Syllabus, 2015-16 (additions to "recommended reading" to come; list of set texts to buy is final)
1. (Introduction) Constructing Americanness
Presentation of the class and discussion of short excerpts from D. H. Lawrence, “The Spirit of Place,” in Studies in Classic American Literature, F. J. Turner, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History," and R. W. Emerson, “The American Scholar” and “Self-Reliance,” among others. (week 1)
2. The Guilty Abroad
Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Marble Faun (weeks 2-3)
3. Cosmopolitans and Aliens
Henry James, The Ambassadors, “Occasional Paris,” (weeks 4-5)
4. When Good Americans Die, They Go To Paris (continued)
Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises (also published in the UK as Fiesta) (week 11)
Américo Paredes, George Washington Gómez (week 18)
4. Conspicuous Leisure and the Suburban Palimpsest
John Ashbery and James Schuyler, A Nest of Ninnies, selections from Reported Sightings (Ashbery). (week 19)
H. James, The Ambassadors (Oxford World’s Classics, 1985)
C. McKay, Banjo: A Story Without a Plot (Harcourt, 1971)
E. Wharton, The Custom of the Country (Penguin Classics, 2006)
E. Dundy, The Dud Avocado (New York Review of Books Classics, 2007)
J. Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room (Penguin Modern Classics, 2000)
S. Howe, The Birth-mark (Wesleyan UP, 1993)
A. Carpentier, Baroque Concerto (Andre Deutsch, 1991)
N. Larsen, Quicksand and Passing (Serpent's Tail, 2001)
All other set texts will be available online or in photocopy.
100 % assessed: Two 5,000 word essays