Race, Ethnicity, & Literature

“Ethnic American and Indigenous Short Fiction”

This course will examine Ethnic American and Indigenous short fiction, paying particular attention to the ways its structure and content uphold and contest literary, corporeal, and national form(s). While the short story has been a celebrated component of the American literary tradition, it has also been understudied in comparison to other forms such as the novel and poem. From the short-short story to the novella—and even allied narrative forms such as the short film, the web series, the music video, the comics series, and the podcast—this course asks what may be gained by reading short fiction as a form specifically attuned to the liminal social and political positions of Ethnic American and Indigenous writers and communities. We will trace this theory of the liminal as it plays out in relation to corporeal concerns, such as gender, mixed/ race, and indigeneity; national concerns, such as citizenship and migration; and literary concerns, such as formal and generic conventions. We will also examine liminal sub/genres, such as science fiction, magic realism, and Afro- and Indigenous futurisms. This course will draw on frameworks from ethnic studies, Native studies, feminist studies, and post/settler colonial studies, among others.

Possible Texts (compiled in a course reader):

  • George Schuyler, Black No More
  • Kristiana Kahakauwila, This is Paradise
  • Rebecca Roanhorse, “Your Authentic Indian Experience”
  • Ken Liu, “The Paper Menagerie”
  • Sandra Cisneros, “Never Marry a Mexican”
  • Junot Diaz, “Monstro”
  • Nisi Shawl, “The Water Museum”
  • Octavia Butler, “Blood child”

Possible films, music videos, and web series:

  • Beyonce, “Grown Woman” and Formation
  • Issa Rae, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl
  • Dinh Thai, Monday
  • Nanobah Becker, The Sixth World
  • Danis Goulet, Wakening

Possible Assignments:

  • Quizzes (4)
  • Leading a class discussion (1)
  • Attending a campus or community event and writing a response (1)
  • Analyzing a short film, music video, or web series episode (1)

This course meets the following English Department Pathways for Majors: Literary Histories and Genres; Cultural and Literary Geographies.