English 285.401: Topics in Contemporary American Literature

Frontier, Borderland, Nation: Reimagining American Space

Fall 1996
MWF 2-2:50 pm
Bennett Hall 226

Kathryn Conrad
kconrad@ dept.english.upenn.edu

Office: Bennett Hall 202
Office phone: 898-6365
Office hours: MW 3-4

This page last modified 13 September 1996.

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Course Description | Texts
Requirements | Syllabus


The American frontier has often been written as a space for adventure and self-definition; in many ways, it can be seen as the birthplace of American individualism. In this course, we will take a somewhat more critical view of "frontier," one that considers different notions of American space and the place of the individual in those geographies. We will investigate the intersections between geography, gender, history, and ethnicity, reading not only literary texts but also contemporary political debates about, among other things, the use of land and the significance of national borders.


Books will be available at House of Our Own Bookstore, 3920 Spruce. Please buy your books here!


I plan either to screen or to encourage students to see


A bulkpack for the course will be available at Campus Copy Center at 39th and Walnut.

The bulkpack will contain articles on issues we will discuss in the course, such as nationalism and immigration, and will also include essays and short literary selections from Cherrie Moraga, Dorothy Allison, Judy Baca, Achy Obejas, Paula Gunn Allen and others.

You are encouraged to suggest short (i.e., not book-length) readings for the course. You may e-mail suggestions to me now, but you will also be given an opportunity to suggest texts throughout the course.

Supplemental resources:


Grades will be based on papers (45%), class participation (35%), and a final exam (20%).


Texts and dates subject to change.

W September 4: Introduction
F 6: The Nation, the Frontier. Readings: Renan, from "What is a nation?" (handout); Turner's Frontier Thesis.

M 9: Westward Ho! Kerouac, On the Road. Bulkpack: Campbell, "Myth and Dream" and "The Hero and the God."
W 11: Kerouac cont.
F 13: Kerouac cont.

M 16: Kerouac cont. Check out Howl, by Allen Ginsberg. Also Amiri Baraka poems (handout Friday, 9/13).
W 18: Bulkpack: Obejas, "Above All, a Family Man."
F 20: Bulkpack: Allison, "A Question of Class."

M 23: North/South. Morrison, Song of Solomon.
W 25: Morrison cont.
F 27: Morrison cont.

M 30: Morrison cont.
W October 2: Inside/Outside. Bulkpack: Foucault, "Panopticism" and "Complete and Austere Institutions."
F 4: Wideman, Brothers and Keepers.

M 7: Wideman cont.
W 9: Wideman cont.
F 11: (Fall Break)

M 14: Fall Break
W 16: The National Body: Gender and Frontier. Terry Tempest Williams, Refuge.
F 18: Williams cont.

M 21: Williams cont.
W 23: Bulkpack: Robinson, "Hearing Silence: Western Myth Reconsidered,." Roush, Rawlins.
F 25: Ecofeminism, the West, etc.

M 28: Joy Harjo, The Woman Who Fell from the Sky.
W 30: Harjo cont.
F November 1: Harjo cont.

M 4: Borderlands. Americo Paredes, With His Pistol in His Hand. Bulkpack: Proposition 187 summary.
W 6: Paredes cont.
F 8: Paredes cont.

M 11: Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands/La Frontera. Bulkpack: Allen, "Some Like Indians Endure"; Baca, "Our People Are Internal Exiles."
W 13: Anzaldua cont.
F 15: Anzaldua cont.

M 18: National Allegiances. Maxine Hong Kingston, Woman Warrior.
W 20: Kingston cont.
F 22: Kingston cont.

M 25: Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. Both response papers must be turned in by this date.
W 27: (Thanksgiving)
F 29: Thanksgiving

M December 2: Lorde cont.; Bulkpack: Lorde, "Grenada"; Moraga, "Queer Aztlan."
W 4: Bulkpack: Berlant, "Queer Nationalism."
F 6: Bulkpack articles & Lorde cont.

M 9: Last Day. Papers due; final exam questions available.

F 13: Final exams due no later than 3 pm.

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