Blood, Terror, and Belonging: Culture at American Borders

Module code: AM3020
Module coordinator: Dr Zalfa Feghali

This course examines 20th and 21st century literature and visual art emerging from and reacting to America’s border regions. We will engage with literary and visual representations of American borders, considering issues such as territorial expansion and sovereignty, immigration and labour, community formation and race and ethnicity, and indigenous communities, as well as broader questions of citizenship, nationalism, hemispherism, and terrorism.

Topics covered

We will read texts 'originating' from and responding to both the US-Mexico and Canada-US border, such as: 

  • Thomas King’s: 'Borders' (1993)
  • José David Villareal: Pocho (1959)
  • Gloria Anzaldúa: Borderlands/La Frontera (1987)
  • Guillermo Verdecchia: Fronteras Americanas: American Borders (1993, 2011)
  • Guillermo Gómez-Peña: 'Border Brujo' (1991)
  • Wayde Compton: 49th Parallel Psalm (1999)

We will also consider visual representations and artistic responses to North American borders, including the films Highway 61 (1991), and No Country for Old Men (2007), and border art such as Alex McKay’s Treaty Canoe (1999, 2013), and Los Angeles Nomadic Division’s Manifest Destiny Billboard Project (2015).

Alongside each primary literary text we will read historical co-texts. These co-texts, whether state documents or artistic manifestoes, contextualise the primary material within border studies and North American history more broadly.

Learning

  • 20 hours of seminars
  • 130 hours of guided independent study

The module is taught through two-hour weekly seminars, and you will be expected to engage with the set texts through the discussion of student-generated seminar questions. Each session will focus on one or two specific themes through which to analyse the set texts. In the final weeks of the module, students will give group presentations on one of the themes discussed in the module. 

Assessment

  • Document Response/Passage/Art Analysis, 1,000 words (20%)
  • Essay, 4,000 words (80%)

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