Skip to main content Skip to navigation

EN271 Expatriation, Dispatriation, and Modern American Writing

This module is not currently running. 

Professor Daniel Katz

Thursdays 2.30pm-4.00pm


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)

Term 1:

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)
  Recommended Reading: W. Stowe, "Travel as Ritual."

3. Cosmopolitans and Aliens
Henry James, The Ambassadors, “Occasional Paris,” (weeks 4-5)
 Recommended Reading: D. MacCannell, The Tourist (introduction, on handout); D. Katz, "The Mother's Tongue."
Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas and "An American and France" (handout) (week 7)
  Recommended Reading: J. Kristeva, "Toccata and Fugue" (from Strangers to Ourselves)
Claude McKay, Banjo (week 8)
 Recommended Reading: B. Hayes Edwards, "Chapter 4: Vagabond Internationalism" from The Practice of Diaspora (available as en ebook through our library portal)
Larsen, Quicksand and Passing (week 9)
4. When Good Americans Die, They Go to Paris
Edith Wharton, The Custom of the Country (week 10)

Term 2:

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)
Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado (week 12)
James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room, “Encounter on the Seine: Black Meets Brown,” and other short texts (week 13)
5. Americanas: Colonial Fantasies, Demystified Origins, Material Negotiations
T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets (Week 14)
Susan Howe, The Birth-mark (week 15)
  Reccomended Reading: P. Nicholls, "Unsettling the Wilderness: Susan Howe and American History" (Contemporary Literature, vol. 37, no. 4, Winter 1996)
Alejo Carpentier, Baroque Concerto (week 17)
Américo Paredes, George Washington Gómez (week 18)
  Recommended Reading: J. Miller, "Spanglicizing Modernism" (pp. 287-303 only) in Accented America (available as ebook through our library portal)

4. Conspicuous Leisure and the Suburban Palimpsest 
John Ashbery and James Schuyler, A Nest of Ninnies, selections from Reported Sightings (Ashbery). (week 19)

5. The Spirit of Placelessness
Ben Lerner, Leaving the Atocha Station (week 20)
Set texts to buy
N. Hawthorne, The Marble Faun (Oxford World’s Classics, 2002)
H. James, The Ambassadors (Oxford World’s Classics, 1985)
G. Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (recommended editions: Penguin Modern Classics or Selected Writings of Gertrude Stein, edited by Carl Van Vechten, Vintage Books (this more expensive book contains other interesting Stein texts too )).
C. McKay, Banjo: A Story Without a Plot (Harcourt, 1971)
E. Wharton, The Custom of the Country (Penguin Classics, 2006)
E. Hemingway, Fiesta / The Sun Also Rises (Scribner's if possible and not too expensive; otherwise, try Arrow Classics)
E. Dundy, The Dud Avocado (New York Review of Books Classics, 2007)
J. Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room (Penguin Modern Classics, 2000)
T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets (any edition)
Américo Paredes, George Washington Gómez (Arte Público Press, 1990)
S. Howe, The Birth-mark (Wesleyan UP, 1993)
A. Carpentier, Baroque Concerto (Andre Deutsch, 1991)
N. Larsen, Quicksand and Passing (Serpent's Tail, 2001)
J. Ashbery and J. Schuyler, A Nest of Ninnies (Dalkey Archive, 2009)
Ben Lerner, Leaving the Atocha Station (Coffee House Press, 2011)

All other set texts will be available online or in photocopy.

Selected Secondary Reading (extended bibliography will be provided during term):
Kwame Anthony Appiah, Cosmopolitanism (WW Norton, 2006)
Emily Apter, The Translation Zone (Princeton UP, 2005)
Bendixen, Alfred, and Hamera, Judith, eds. The Cambridge Companion to American Travel Writing (Cambridge UP, 2009)
Shari Benstock, Women of the Left Bank (University of Texas Press, 1986)
James Clifford, The Predicament of Culture (Harvard UP, 1988)
Robert Crawford, Devolving English Literature (Edinburgh UP, 2000)
Wai Chee Dimock, Through Other Continents (Princeton UP, 2006)
Brent Edwards, The Practice of Diaspora (Harvard UP, 2003)
Paul Giles, Virtual Americas (Duke UP, 2002)
Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic (Harvard UP, 1993)
J. Gerald Kennedy, Imagining Paris (Yale UP, 1993)
Julia Kristeva, Strangers to Ourselves (Columbia UP, 1994)
Dean MacCannell, The Tourist (University of California Press, 1999)
Susan Manning and Andrew Taylor, eds., Transatlantic Literary Studies: A Reader (Edinburgh UP, 2007)
Michael North, The Dialect of Modernism (Oxford UP, 1994)
Ross Posnock, The Trial of Curiosity (Oxford UP, 1991)
William Stowe, Going Abroad: European Travel in Nineteenth-Century American Culture (Princeton UP, 1994)
Steven Yao, Translation and the Languages of Modernism (Palgrave, 2002)
Alex Zwerdling, Improvised Europeans: American Literary Expatriates and the Siege of London (Basic Books, 1998)


100 % assessed: Two 5,000 word essays
50% assessed, 50 % examined: One 5,000 word essay and one 2-hour examination.