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19.09.12

Classics of American Literature

Lecture 3

Topics for Further Consideration:

1. Summarize how "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is a parable about the "new" and the "old" America.

"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is a short story by Washington Irving .The story is set in 1790 in the countryside around the Dutch settlement of Tarry Town (historical Tarrytown, New York), in a secluded glen called Sleepy Hollow. Sleepy Hollow is renowned for its ghosts and the haunting atmosphere that pervades the imaginations of its inhabitants and visitors. The most infamous spectre in the Hollow is the Headless Horseman, said to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper who had his head shot away by a stray cannonball during "some nameless battle" of the American Revolutionary War, and who "rides forth to the scene of battle in nightly quest of his head".

The "Legend" relates the tale of Ichabod Crane, a lean, lanky and extremely superstitious schoolmaster from Connecticut, who competes with Abraham "Brom Bones" Van Brunt, the town rowdy, for the hand of 18-year-old Katrina Van Tassel, the daughter and sole child of a wealthy farmer, Baltus Van Tassel.

After having failed to secure Katrina's hand, Ichabod rides home "heavy-hearted and crestfallen" through the spook-infested woods between Van Tassel's farmstead and the Sleepy Hollow settlement.

The next morning, Ichabod has mysteriously disappeared from town, leaving Katrina to marry Brom Bones, who was said "to look exceedingly knowing whenever the story of Ichabod was related". Indeed, the only relics of the schoolmaster's flight are his wandering horse, trampled saddle, discarded hat, and a mysterious shattered pumpkin. Although the nature of the Headless Horseman is left open to interpretation, the story implies that the ghost was really Brom (an agile stunt rider) in disguise. Irving's narrator concludes, however, by stating that the old Dutch wives continue to promote the belief that Ichabod was "spirited away by supernatural means," and a legend develops around his disappearance and sightings of his melancholy spirit.

2. Explain why Rip Van Winkle sleeps for twenty years.

Rip Van Winkle slept for 20 years because he drunk liquor that he was offered by some men up the mountain as he was wondering by the ghosts of the crew of Hendrick Hudson. He fell asleep while "the country was yet a province of Great Britain" and awakes twenty years later, when George Washington is the nation's first president.

American Passages Unit 1

26.09.12

Classics of American Literature

Lecture 4-9

Topics for Further Consideration: (lecture 6)

1. Explain how Emerson's pronouncements about language in general and American culture in particular forecast developments in 19th-century American literature.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882) was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. Emerson gradually moved away from the religious and social beliefs of his contemporaries, formulating and expressing the philosophy of Transcendentalism. Emerson wrote on a number of subjects, never espousing fixed philosophical tenets, but developing certain ideas such as individuality, freedom, the ability for humankind to realize almost anything, and the relationship between the soul and the surrounding world.

Emerson, the guiding spirit of American Romanticism, lays the groundwork for a key tradition in American thinking and writing in his Essays. His status as essayist and philosopher in mid-19th-century American culture is unmatched by any other figure. Even though his "rank" in the pantheon has had its ups and downs, his influence is still with us, not only in our literature, but also in our lives and values. Chief architect for the American belief in the empowered self, Emerson has a range and reach that are not easily mapped or subject to simple definition. We will begin with his early wake-up calls, claiming the need for a new and original American literature, liberated from the influences of Europe and the past.

2. Conclude whether Emerson's view of self-reliance simplifies or complicates human behavior. Defend your answer.

This high estimation of self-trust can be explained with Emerson's belief in the superiority of Reason. By listening to his inner voice, man follows his intuitions and his Reason, whereas following external guides is only possible through the Understanding. Own thoughts have more significance than any adapted ideas, even if these come from ancient philosophers.

As for me, Emerson`s view of self-reliance human behavior. Because "I must be myself ", Emerson says in "Self-Reliance". His inference is: "We must go alone " The second statement can be understood in different ways. In the context of self- reliance, it implies in the first place that everybody has to find his own way of thinking.

Topics for Further Consideration: (lecture 9)

1. Explain how you would answer the charge that Thoreau is nothing but derivative Emerson.

Despite their different backgrounds and experiences, Emerson and Thoreau shared a number of ideas. You can find elements of individualism, nature and conformity in their other writings. Thoreau expresses his anti-conformity and individualism in pursuit of a political and ethical cause in spite of public/majority opinion. Emerson writes that an acute awareness of the natural world establishes a balance between the internal and external life. And he begins this essay by noting that the experience with nature is most effective in solitude. This is where nature, individualism and anti-conformity link up. Likewise, Thoreau lives alone for two years in Walden in order to achieve this balance. This balance is a transcendental unity where human, nature and spirit are unified.

2. Thoreau's project of confronting life at Walden Pond has the makings of an American myth. Explain whether you see evidence of this myth in subsequent American literature and in American life today.

Henry David Thoreau is the must-read for any American environmentalist, the founding father of the environmental perception and the prophet who gave the movement its philosophical background in the “bible” called Walden. He is the clear choice where to start any excursion on the landmarks of the environmental movement. Thoreau has become a symbol and a myth and as such lives his own life. Thoreau might not be the very first writer who contemplated on the natural world, but he was the first one to make literature an effective tool of the environmental imagination. He set an important example to be followed. He came to Walden Pond to live. He stayed for just over two years. He didn’t come to inspire a myth or a legend, or to found movements, or to make a name for himself. He came instead for the simplest of reasons: to live simply in nature, and find out what it could teach him.

American Passages Unit 2

How are American myths created, challenged, and reimagined through these works of literature?

American literature is the written or literary work produced in the area of the United States and its preceding colonies. For more specific discussions of poetry and theater, see Poetry of the United States and Theater in the United States. During its early history, America was a series of British colonies on the eastern coast of the present-day United States. Therefore, its literary tradition begins as linked to the broader tradition of English literature. However, unique American characteristics and the breadth of its production usually now cause it to be considered a separate path and tradition.

Native American mythology is the body of traditional narratives associated with Native American religion from a mythographical perspective. Native American belief systems include many sacred narratives. Such spiritual stories are deeply based in Nature and are rich with the symbolism of seasons, weather, plants, animals, earth, water, sky and fire. The principle of an all embracing, universal and omniscient Great Spirit, a connection to the Earth, diverse creation narratives and collective memories of ancient ancestors are common. Traditional worship practices are often a part of tribal gatherings with dance, rhythm, songs and trance.

Comprehension Questions

  1. What are borderlands? What boundaries besides geographical ones are challenged in border regions?

Borderlands are a geographical space or zone around a territorial border (a borderland between fact and fiction).

“Exploring Borderlands: Contact and Conflict in North America,” examines the contact zones and colonial experiences of European explorers and the Native Americans they encountered. The unit also pays special attention to the way the contact zone between present-day Mexico and the southwestern United States evolved into a hybrid border region that continues to be influenced by the legacies of the different groups who first struggled there for dominance in the sixteenth century. After hundreds of years of war, intermarriage, trade, slavery, and religious struggles, a complex, syncretic culture has flourished in the space that marks the current U.S./Mexico border. As conquerors and conquered merged, a new mestizo identity (a blending of Indian, European, and African heritage) was created and continues to find expression in the work of contemporary Chicano and Chicana writers of the “borderland” region. It explores the multiple and diverse ways that writers have represented encounters among cultures in contact zones and borderlands, from the fifteenth to the twenty-first century.

  1. What is a mestizo/mestiza?

A new mestizo identity (a blending of Indian, European, and African heritage) was created and continues to find expression in the work of contemporary Chicano and Chicana writers of the borderland region.

Mestizo /mɛˈstizoʊ/ is a term traditionally used in Spain and Latin America for people of mixed heritage or descent. In some countries it has come to mean a mixture of European and Amerindian, while in others, such as Venezuela, mestizo means being mixed without specifying which admixture. The term was used as a racial category in the Casta system that was in use during the Spanish empire's control of their American colonies; it was used to describe those who had one European-born parent and one who was a member of an indigenous American population in some countries, while it was used to refer to people of European, African and Indigenous admixture in others like Venezuela

  1. Who was Doña Marina, or La Malinche?

La Malinche known also as Malinalli [mali'nalːi], Malintzin [ma'lintsin] or Doña Marina , was a Nahua woman from the Mexican Gulf Coast, who played a role in the Spanish conquest of Mexico, acting as interpreter, advisor, lover, and intermediary for Hernán Cortés. She was one of twenty women servants given to the Spaniards by the natives of Tabasco in 1519.Later, she became a mistress to Cortés and gave birth to his first son, Martín, who is considered one of the first Mestizos (people of mixed European and indigenous American ancestry).

The historical figure of Marina has been intermixed with Aztec legends (such as La Llorona, a woman who weeps for lost children).Her reputation has been altered over the years according to changing social and political perspectives, especially after the Mexican Revolution, when she was portrayed in dramas, novels, and paintings as an evil or scheming temptresIn Mexico today, La Malinche remains iconically potent. She is understood in various and often conflicting aspects, as the embodiment of treachery, the quintessential victim, or simply as symbolic mother of the new Mexican people. The term malinchista refers to a disloyal Mexican.

Context Questions

  1. How does Cabeza de Vaca’s almost anthropological account of his time among the natives resonate with Americo Paredes’s sociological/anthropological approach to recording the traditional musical and folk traditions of Chicano culture?

Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (Jerez de la Frontera, c. 1488/1490 – Seville, c. 1557/1558) was a Spanish explorer of the New World, one of four survivors of the Narváez expedition. He is remembered as a proto-anthropologist for his detailed accounts of the many tribes of American Indians, first published in 1542 as La Relación (The Report) and later known as Naufragios (Shipwrecks).

Home to pre-Conquest indigenous peoples, European conquistadors, and mestizos of mixed racial and cultural background, the U.S./Mexico border region has long been a site of contact, conflict, and new beginnings. It is a place where geographical, cultural, political, and racial boundaries are challenged and restructured. Contemporary Chicano literature and culture arises out of a literary history that begins with the narratives of Spanish exploration. In the sixteenth century, Bernal Díaz del Castillo served as a footsoldier in the army of conquistadors that devastated the Aztec Empire in central Mexico. Much later, as an old man, he wrote about his experiences and offered insights into the Conquest from the perspective of a humble soldier. His narrative provides one of the earliest accounts of the controversial figure of Doña Marina, or La Malinche, the native woman who served as Cortés’s mistress, interpreter, and negotiator. Doña Marina became a key symbol in the oral and literary traditions of later generations of Chicanos. Another Spanish soldier of the sixteenth century, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, had a very different experience in the New World. Sailing to the Americas in 1527 as part of a Spanish expedition to Florida, he was shipwrecked off the coast of Texas. During his nine years in the border region, Cabeza de Vaca evolved into what some critics have called “the first cultural mestizo” and hence the first writer of Chicano literature. By learning the languages and becoming familiar with the culture of the many Native American tribes among which he moved, he constructed a mixed identity for himself. Centuries later, that mixed identity has become common in the border region. By the late twentieth century, people of mixed Spanish/Anglo/Indian/African blood who lived in this region began protesting the extent to which their culture had been marginalized by dominant Anglo society.

  1. How might Bernal Díaz’s description of Tenochtitlán have inspired Chicano activists’ ideas about Aztlán and its culture?

Aztlán is the mythical homeland from which the Aztec/Mexica migrated, along with other Nahua tribes, at about AD 1113, to reach the Valley of Mexico in the 13th century. The term Aztlan means “the place of whiteness” or “the place of the heron”.

The migration of the Aztecs from their homeland is narrated in many indigenous and colonial sources. Modern scholars have long debated whether Aztlán was a real place or simply a myth. The Mexica told the Spanish that their ancestors had reached the Valley of Mexico about 300 years before, after having left their homeland Aztlán-Chicomoztoc, traditionally located far north of Tenochtitlan.

In Aztlán, the Mexica ancestors dwelled in the place of the seven caves called Chicomoztoc (Chee-co-moz-toch), where each cave corresponded to one of the Nahuatl tribes which would later leave that place to reach, in successive waves, the Valley of Mexico. These tribes, with slight differences from source to source, were: the Xochimilca, Chalca, Tepaneca, Colhua, Tlahuica, Tlaxcala and the group who were to become the Mexica.

Oral and written accounts also mention that the Mexica, and the other Nahuatl groups, were preceded in their migration by another group, collectively known a Chichimecas, who migrated from north to Central Mexico some time earlier, and were considered by the Nahua people less civilized.

  1. How do corridos celebrating the exploits of Gregorio Cortez invoke and rewrite the legacy of Hernán Cortés the Spanish conquistador?

Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro, 1st Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca was a Spanish Conquistador who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire and brought large portions of mainland Mexico under the rule of the King of Castile in the early 16th century. Cortés was part of the generation of Spanish colonizers that began the first phase of the Spanish colonization of the Americas.

Born in Medellín, Spain, to a family of lesser nobility, Cortés chose to pursue a livelihood in the New World. He went to Hispaniola and later to Cuba, where he received an encomienda and, for a short time, became alcalde (magistrate) of the second Spanish town founded on the island. In 1519, he was elected captain of the third expedition to the mainland, an expedition which he partly funded. His enmity with the Governor of Cuba, Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, resulted in the recall of the expedition at the last moment, an order which Cortés ignored. Arriving on the continent, Cortés executed a successful strategy of allying with some indigenous peoples against others. He also used a native woman, Doña Marina, as an interpreter; she would later bear Cortés a son. When the Governor of Cuba sent emissaries to arrest Cortés, he fought them and won, using the extra troops as reinforcements. Cortés wrote letters directly to the king asking to be acknowledged for his successes instead of punished for mutiny. After he overthrew the Aztec Empire, Cortés was awarded the title of Marqués del Valle de Oaxaca, while the more prestigious title of Viceroy was given to a high-ranking nobleman, Antonio de Mendoza. In 1541 Cortés returned to Spain, where he died peacefully but embittered, six years later.

Because of the controversial undertakings of Cortés and the scarcity of reliable sources of information about him, it has become difficult to assert anything definitive about his personality and motivations. Early lionizing of the conquistadors did not encourage deep examination of Cortés. Later reconsideration of the conquistadors' character in the context of modern anti-colonial sentiment also did little to expand understanding of Cortés as an individual. As a result of these historical trends, descriptions of Cortés tend to be simplistic, and either damning or idealizing.

Exploration Questions

  1. How have Native American, mestizo, and mestiza identity changed over the course of hundreds of years of contact and conflict between groups in the U.S./Mexico border region?

A new mestizo identity (a blending of Indian, European, and African heritage) was created and continues to find expression in the work of contemporary Chicano and Chicana writers of the borderland region.

Mestizo /mɛˈstizoʊ/ is a term traditionally used in Spain and Latin America for people of mixed heritage or descent. In some countries it has come to mean a mixture of European and Amerindian, while in others, such as Venezuela, mestizo means being mixed without specifying which admixture. The term was used as a racial category in the Casta system that was in use during the Spanish empire's control of their American colonies; it was used to describe those who had one European-born parent and one who was a member of an indigenous American population in some countries, while it was used to refer to people of European, African and Indigenous admixture in others like Venezuela.

Home to pre-Conquest indigenous peoples, European conquistadors, and mestizos of mixed racial and cultural background, the U.S./Mexico border region has long been a site of contact, conflict, and new beginnings. It is a place where geographical, cultural, political, and racial boundaries are challenged and restructured. Contemporary Chicano literature and culture arises out of a literary history that begins with the narratives of Spanish exploration. In the sixteenth century, Bernal Díaz del Castillo served as a footsoldier in the army of conquistadors that devastated the Aztec Empire in central Mexico. Much later, as an old man, he wrote about his experiences and offered insights into the Conquest from the perspective of a humble soldier. His narrative provides one of the earliest accounts of the controversial figure of Doña Marina, or La Malinche, the native woman who served as Cortés’s mistress, interpreter, and negotiator. Doña Marina became a key symbol in the oral and literary traditions of later generations of Chicanos. Another Spanish soldier of the sixteenth century, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, had a very different experience in the New World. Sailing to the Americas in 1527 as part of a Spanish expedition to Florida, he was shipwrecked off the coast of Texas. During his nine years in the border region, Cabeza de Vaca evolved into what some critics have called “the first cultural mestizo” and hence the first writer of Chicano literature. By learning the languages and becoming familiar with the culture of the many Native American tribes among which he moved, he constructed a mixed identity for himself. Centuries later, that mixed identity has become common in the border region. By the late twentieth century, people of mixed Spanish/Anglo/Indian/African blood who lived in this region began protesting the extent to which their culture had been marginalized by dominant Anglo society.

  1. How has mestizo culture challenged dominant European American ideas about the origins of America? What does the term Chicano mean? Where does it come from? How does it differ from the terms Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish American? Which of these terms do you feel is most appropriate for the writers featured in the video and why?

A new mestizo identity (a blending of Indian, European, and African heritage) was created and continues to find expression in the work of contemporary Chicano and Chicana writers of the borderland region.

Mestizo /mɛˈstizoʊ/ is a term traditionally used in Spain and Latin America for people of mixed heritage or descent. In some countries it has come to mean a mixture of European and Amerindian, while in others, such as Venezuela, mestizo means being mixed without specifying which admixture. The term was used as a racial category in the Casta system that was in use during the Spanish empire's control of their American colonies; it was used to describe those who had one European-born parent and one who was a member of an indigenous American population in some countries, while it was used to refer to people of European, African and Indigenous admixture in others like Venezuela.

The terms Chicano/Chicana (also spelled Xicano/Xicana) are used as reference to U.S. citizens of Mexican descent. However, those terms have a wide range of meanings in various parts of the world. The term began to be widely used during the Chicano Movement, mainly among Mexican Americans, especially in the movement's peak in the late 1960s and early 1970s. For Mexicans, "Chicano" meant having Mexican parents, but being born into U.S. soil. The origin of the word "chicano" is disputed. Some critics claim it is a shorterned form of "Mexicano" ("Mexican" in Spanish). Some believe that the word "chicamo" somehow became "chicano", which (unlike "chicamo") reflects the grammatical conventions of Spanish-language ethno- and demonyms, such as "americano" or "castellano" or "peruano". Chicano literature tends to focus on themes of identity, discrimination, and culture, with an emphasis on validating Mexican American and Chicano culture in the United States. Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales's "Yo Soy Joaquin" is one of the first examples of Chicano poetry, while José Antonio Villarreal's Pocho is widely recognized as the first major Chicano/a novel. The novel, "Chicano" by Richard Vasquez, was the first novel about Mexican-Americans to be released by a major publisher (Doubleday, 1970). It was widely read in high schools and Universities during the 1970s, and has now been recognized as a literary classic. Vasquez's writing has been compared to Upton Sinclair and John Steinbeck. Other important writers include Rudolfo Anaya, Sandra Cisneros, Gary Soto, Raul Salinas, Oscar Zeta Acosta, John Rechy, Ana Castillo, Denise Chávez, Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Dagoberto Gilb, Alicia Gaspar de Alba and Gloria Anzaldua .

  1. What modes of protest do you think are most effective at enabling an oppressed group to challenge stereotypes and limitations imposed by the dominant culture?

Contemporary Chicano literature and culture arises out of a literary history that begins with the narratives of Spanish exploration. In the sixteenth century, Bernal Díaz del Castillo served as a footsoldier in the army of conquistadors that devastated the Aztec Empire in central Mexico. Much later, as an old man, he wrote about his experiences and offered insights into the Conquest from the perspective of a humble soldier. His narrative provides one of the earliest accounts of the controversial figure of Doña Marina, or La Malinche, the native woman who served as Cortés’s mistress, interpreter, and negotiator. Doña Marina became a key symbol in the oral and literary traditions of later generations of Chicanos. Another Spanish soldier of the sixteenth century, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, had a very different experience in the New World. Sailing to the Americas in 1527 as part of a Spanish expedition to Florida, he was shipwrecked off the coast of Texas. During his nine years in the border region, Cabeza de Vaca evolved into what some critics have called “the first cultural mestizo” and hence the first writer of Chicano literature. By learning the languages and becoming familiar with the culture of the many Native American tribes among which he moved, he constructed a mixed identity for himself. Centuries later, that mixed identity has become common in the border region. By the late twentieth century, people of mixed Spanish/Anglo/Indian/African blood who lived in this region began protesting the extent to which their culture had been marginalized by dominant Anglo society. Americo Paredes contributed to this movement by collecting and recording the musical border ballad tradition of the corridos, subversive songs about Chicano heroes who resist Anglo oppression. Building on Paredes’s legacy, contemporary writer Gloria Anzaldúa explores the positive, inclusive possibilities that a mixed background offers to mestizos and mestizas. Protesting oppression based on race, class, and gender, she has given a voice to mestiza women inhabiting the borderlands and redefined the role of women as envisioned by Bernal Díaz del Castillo and other earlier writers.

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