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Migration Matters: (Im)migration, Memory, and Identity in American Literature and Film


Admission requirements



To migrate, Salman Rushdie writes in Imaginary Homelands, is “to lose language and home, to be defined by others, to become invisible, or, even worse, a target; it is to experience deep changes and wrenches in the soul.” However, he adds, “the migrant is not simply transformed by [this] act; he [or she] transforms his new world” (210). In this course we will explore the ways in which first- and second generation immigrant writers as well as writers who are descendants of forced migrants to America testify to the complex transformations migration, diaspora, and exile have brought about and how in the process they have profoundly changed American literature in the past three decades. Complicating the idea of the United States as a self-proclaimed nation of immigrants, the recent immigrant and minority writers we’ll read imagine hybrid or multiple identities and alternative, multicultural and multiethnic, national and transnational communities. We will study literary works by Jewish American, Native American, African American, Chicana and Latino American, and Asian American writers as well as a few movies such as John Sayles’s Lone Star, focusing on the interrelated themes of diaspora and home(land); borders and border-crossings; exile and otherness; language and silence; gender and sexuality; trauma and memory; intercultural and generational conflict and reconciliation; race and ethnicity. We will also read a few theoretical texts about migration, ethnicity, and trauma. We’ll focus on U.S. literature and film, but will also explore the relevance of the insights gained to our own changing and globalizing communities today.

Course objectives

This course aims to

  • hone students’ analytical and critical skills through in-depth reading of literary texts and films in their historical and cultural contexts.

  • introduce students to theoretical concepts in migration, ethnic and memory

  • develop critical understanding of the concept of U.S. exceptionalism

  • develop students’ skills to conduct independent research

  • develop students’ oral and written communication skills

  • develop their ability to apply theoretical and critical insights in a research essay


See timetable

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Total course load: 280 hours

  • hours spent on attending seminars: 40 hours;

  • time for studying the required literature and film screening: 120 hours;

  • time to prepare presentation and write a research proposal and essay (including research): 120 hours.

Assessment method

Oral presentation and participation (30 %) and research essay c. 4000 words (70 %)

If the final grade is insufficient, only the research essay can be rewritten.


Blackboard will be used for specific information about (components of) the course, such as links to recommended critical and theoretical articles, websites, discussion questions, presentation and essay topics, and academic writing materials. ### Reading list

  • Anzia Yezierska, Bread Givers (Persea Books);

  • Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior (Vintage);

  • Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderland/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. 4th edition. (Aunt Lute);

  • Louise Erdrich, Tracks (Harper Perennial);

  • Thomas King, Green Grass, Running Water (Bantam);

  • Octavia Butler, Kindred (Beacon Press);

  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah (Anchor);

  • Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Riverhead Books, ISBN-10: 1594483299);

  • Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss (Grove Press);

  • DVD Lone Star, dir. John Sayles.


Via uSis.

Registration Studeren à la carte

Not applicable.


Dr. J.C. (Joke) Kardux