Wednesday, January 16, 2019
January 16, 2019: Spring Previews: American Literature II
[A new semester is upon us, and with it comes a new Spring Preview series. Leading up to a special weekend post on book updates, plans, and hopes!]
On three short texts I’m adding to my three main units/time periods in Am Lit II.
1) “A Sweatshop Romance” (1898): All of these additions originated out of an overall sense that I wasn’t including in each unit some of the histories and issues that I most wanted to; in a lit survey, if there aren’t texts that address those particular contexts, we aren’t likely to talk much about them. Abraham Cahan’s short story about Jewish American workers in a NYC sweatshop allows me to add three to my late 19th century unit: immigration histories, Jewish American histories, and labor histories. It’s also a funny and romantic short story, one that engages its readers while it asks them to consider those complicated and vital time period and American issues and histories. I look forward to hearing my students’ responses!
2) “In the Land of the Free” (1909): The Chinese Exclusion Act, its many aftermaths and effects, and Asian American communities and histories are also central parts of that late 19th century unit, of course. But they continued into the early 20th century to be sure, and so featuring a short story by the great Sui Sin Far in that middle unit makes perfect sense. I’ve written about “Free” and Far many times in many spaces, so here will just say that this particular story teaches extremely well and should be a great way to expand the meanings of early 20th century America and Modernist writing in my survey class. I look forward to hearing my students’ responses!
3) Excerpts from Citizen (2014): My Am Lit II class begins with a heavy emphasis on African American histories and stories, with the late 19th century unit’s two main texts (Huck Finn and Marrow of Tradition) as a key reason why. The middle unit likewise features Nella Larsen’s Quicksand and Passing as two of the three main texts, so that emphasis continues into unit two as well. So I suppose it stands to reason that my late 20th/early 21st century unit focuses on other voices, cultures, and histories, and I remain very happy with the two main texts (Ceremony and The Namesake) in that unit. But I don’t think we can talk about 21st century America without some serious discussion about African American texts and contexts, and excerpts from Claudia Rankine’s wonderful poem seems like a perfect way to do that. I look forward to—well, you get the idea.
Next preview tomorrow,
PS. Spring previews of your own to share? I’d love to hear them!