The Chicano Novel and American Literary History

Spring 2016-2017


Jose Antonio Arellano

In 1971, the writer Tomás Rivera described the “Chicano renaissance” as a process of self-invention that involved the “exteriorization of our will”—an effort that motivated a “life in search of form.” This course will examine some of the most ambitious works of literature that are the result of this search. Our guiding inquiries will be simultaneously interpretive, theoretical, and historical: What does it mean to think of form as an “exteriorization” of one’s “will”? Whose will do these forms represent (who is the “us” in Rivera’s “our will”)? What representational strategies enable this exteriorization and dramatize its limitations? Why was the novel so often singled out, and why did some feminist writers prefer instead a collection of letters, poems, journal entries, and personal essays? These questions will inform our study of the consolidation of a self-conscious Chicago literature and its attendant literary history. Students of the course will therefore not only become familiar with exciting works of textual art, they will also study the institutional context that enables the consolidation of “a literature,” and a “literary history.” Authors will include José Antonio Villarreal, Tomás Rivera, Rudolfo Anaya, Cherríe Moraga, Ana Castillo, and Gloria Anzaldúa. (B)