The Americas

*NOTE: All readings listed in the course descriptions below are subject to change.





Alexandra Watson

The Americas: Imagining American Communities

This course will approach the idea of America in a broad sense, with attention to how each text constructs, deconstructs, and/or reconstructs ideas of America. We will assess the ways in which an author’s (and reader’s) identity and context shape understandings of community, while being careful to critically examine assumptions about these identities and contexts. We will explore thematic oppositions—belonging and alienation; freedom and restriction; subservience and resistance—while observing how these concepts influence one another and thus resist binaries.

Rather than attempting to pursue a comprehensive sense of literature of the Americas, we will read deeply into a few texts that bring up intriguing questions about the nature of community and identity across The Americas. These texts will include Toni Morrison’s Jazz, Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place, and Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits.


Barbara Morris

The Americas: Postcolonial and Contemporary Contexts

This course examines the rich cultural artifacts that result from the multiple contact zones in the Americas. Literary, historical, and political texts give us the opportunity to explore the formation of identities and communities -- be they personal, tribal, or national -- the intersections of race and gender, and how language and discourse frame those junctures. Studies in postcolonialism, (eco)feminism, immigration, and class will also inform our discussions. Through these explorations and analysis, students will work on writing, presentation, and discussion skills.

Course readings include, but are not limited to:

Galeano, Eduardo. The Open Veins of Latin America.
Guaman Poma, Felipe. Selections from The First New Chronicle and Good Government.
hooks, bell. Selections from Class Matters.
Kincaid, Jamaica. A Small Place.
Luiselli, Valeria. Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions.
Neruda, Pablo. The Heights of Macchu Picchu.
Pratt, Mary Louise. “Arts of the Contact Zone”.
Simpson, Leanne Betasamosake. Islands of Decolonial Love.
Valenzuela, Luisa. Selections from Other Weapons.
Woods, Chavisa. Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country.




FALL 2018


Linn Cary Mehta

The Americas: Contact, Colonialism, Revolutions 

This course breaks away from traditional distinctions separating Caribbean, North, South and Central American literatures. Through its literature, the Americas emerge not as colonial subjects but as active historical and aesthetic agents. Emerging as the geographical site of modernity, American literature is characterized by diversity and innovation. In addition to poetry and essays, short stories and a novel, this multicultural curriculum includes works ranging in scope from fictional accounts to autobiographies, as well as indigenous genres such as creation myths, slave narratives, and New World declarations of independence. We will discuss both linguistic and cultural translation, and the interaction of cultures. Readings will be in English, though students are encouraged to read in the original language. Bilingual students (especially Spanish) are welcome.

Readings will include:

Anzaldúa, Gloria. From Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987) 
Apess, William, "An Indian's Looking-Glass for the White Man" (1833)
Bolivar, Simón Bolívar. The Jamaica Letter (1815)
de la Cruz, Sor Juana. Poems, Protest, and a Dream: Selected Writings (Penguin)
Darío, Rubén. From Prosas profanes y otros poemas (1896)
Dickinson, Emily. Selected Poems (c. 1860)
Esteban Echeverría, “El Matadero” (“The Slaughterhouse”, 1838)
Gates, Henry Louis, ed. The Classic Slave Narratives (Signet)
Gómez de Avellaneda, Gertrudis. Sab (Texas Pan-American Series)
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Young Goodman Brown and Other Stories (Dover)
Martí, Jose. “El Poeta Walt Whitman” (1887)
Melville, Herman. Bartleby and Benito Cereno (Dover)
L’Ouverture, Toussaint. Memoir of Toussaint L’Ouverture (1803)
Poe, Edgar Allan, The Gold-Bug and Other Tales (Dover)
Tedlock, Dennis, tr. Popol Vuh (The Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life)
Thoreau, Henry David. Civil Disobedience (1849)
Wheatley, Phillis. Poems on Various Subjects (1773)
Whitman, Walt. “Song of Myself” (1855)


Alexandra Watson

The Americas: American Encounters

This course will approach the idea of America in a broad sense, both geographically and temporally, with attention to how each text constructs, deconstructs, and/or reconstructs ideas of America. We will assess the ways in which an author’s (and reader’s) identity and context shape understandings of events and encounters, while being careful to avoid unfounded assumptions about these identities and contexts. 

We’ll explore thematic oppositions—colonialism and indigeneity; darkness and lightness; freedom and bondage; belonging and alienation; subservience and resistance--while observing how these concepts influence one another and thus resist binaries. Our reading list will not at all be comprehensive of “The Americas”--this is not a literature survey course, but a writing course with some thematic threads across its readings.

Full-length texts:
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, “Prologue to the Mystery Play, Divine Narcissus” from Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: Selected Works(ISBN: 0393351882)
Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (ISBN: 0140437959)

Excerpts, shorter works, and articles (provided; subject to change):
Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala, “The First New Chronicle and Good Government”
Phillis Wheatley, selected poetry
Herman Melville, “Benito Cereno”
Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”
José Martí, “Our America” and selected poetry
Mary Louise Pratt, “Arts of the Contact Zone” 
bell hooks, “choosing the margin as a space of radical openness”


Jennifer Rosenthal

The Americas: The Revolutionary Imagination

This course invites students to investigate the explosive ways in which power and the imagination were wielded in the colonial, revolutionary, and independent Americas. In reading myths, poems, stories, plays, and historical accounts, students pursue the ways race, gender, and religion play parts in self- and nation-defining narratives. Delving into an extraordinary diversity of genres produced by the “contact zone” of the early Americas, we explore how questions of autonomy play out in both the personal and larger political realms. Exploring the literature and history of the early Americas, students develop their skills in critical reading and analysis, writing, and effective speaking.

The course also invites students to explore and enjoy the myriad resources New York City has to offer. Our literary approach to the early Americas will be enriched by interdisciplinary sources: visual art, dance and film will enhance our studies of the colonial and republican eras in the Americas.

Mary Louise Pratt, Arts of the Contact Zone
Popol Vuh
Alejo Carpentier, The Chosen and Like the Night
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Loa for The Divine Narcisus
Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence
Phillis Wheatley, selected poetry 
Nathaniel Hawthorne, My Kinsman, Major Molineux 
Andres Bello “Ode to Tropical Agriculture”
Walt Whitman “Song of Myself" and “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"
Ralph Waldo Emerson, selected readings 
Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, Sab