Monthly Archives: October 2014

Week of November 4: La Ciudad and Soledad

On Tuesday 11/4, we’ll finish watching David Riker’s La Ciudad. In preparation, watch the YouTube video embedded below with director and screenwriter David Riker discussing his approach to making the film. Also think about the following thematic questions:

  • What does the film tell us about immigrants/migrants to the city?
  • How are the visions here similar or different from those we read in Pietri, Pinero, and Quinonez?
  • What does it tell us about work in the city and, again, similarities and differences with/from the Pietri’s vision, particularly “Puerto Rican Obituary”?
  • What sort of environment does the city present in the film?
  • How does the notion of urban space work in the film?
  • Watch Riker’s short documentary of the making of the film on YouTube.



    On Thursday, 11/6, we turn to Angie Cruz’s novel of Dominican immigrants in Washington Heights, Soledad.

    Angie Cruz, author of "Soledad"

    Angie Cruz, author of “Soledad”

    Read the first 55 pages (halfway through chapter 4). Note: it starts slow and Cruz’s narrative is non-linear and slightly more challenging than what we’ve read so far, but the effort is worth it. It is also the first from a female POV and female author. Here are a few things to think about as you read:

  • What do the different urban spaces in the book (the East Village) and (Washington Heights) represent to Soledad?
  • What are Soledad’s feelings toward her family and the neighborhood and how do they change? (Spoiler: they do)
  • The narrative is “non linear” (i.e. it doesn’t proceed in chronological order, time-wise) and the narrator (person telling the story) changes. Try to track the characters and who is speaking.
  • What tensions are there between old school Dominican culture and the different strands of US culture?
  • Week of October 28: Miterm exam/ La Ciudad

    Photo credit: Columbia Spectator newspaper (columbiaspectator.com)

    Photo credit: Columbia Spectator newspaper (columbiaspectator.com)

    The Midterm will be on Tuesday the 28th in class. We started review in the last class, and here are some things to consider.

  • Exam format will be short answers (about 8) and one essay.
  • Review all the readings. Make sure you have them handy and re-download anything you can’t find.
  • Know writers and the key plot points of the book and plays we’ve read so far and be able to talk about the main characters in each.
  • Review Juan Flores’ “The Structuring of Puerto Rican Identity” essay that we started the semester with and know the “4 moments” he describes.
  • Review the poems and writers. You don’t need to know everything we’ve done, but you should know a few key poems from Pietri and Pinero and basic biographical info about their lives.
  • Think about key themes that we’ve been talking about so far this semester and how they occur in different works we’ve read. Think about how you would write an essay about one (or more) of them and examples of those themes in different things we’ve read/watched/listened to.
  • If you haven’t read or watched anything, now’s the time to do it! You’re responsible for anything that’s been assigned or posted here as an assignment.
  • Be on time and do not miss it! I will not be offering make-ups unless you’re hospitalized and have proof. So be there. Set your alarm clock and leave earlier than usual. The exam is hard, but not tricky. If you’ve been in class, paid attention, and done the work, you should be fine.
  • If you missed class, do not ask me via email for info about the exam. Ask a classmate for detailed notes instead. Better yet, arrange to meet classmates for a study group. We spent an entire class period on review: I don’t have anything else to add.
  • la__cuidad

    For Thursday 10/30, we’ll take a turn into filmic representations of the city and city life from an immigrant’s perspective with a screening of director David Riker’s 1998 film La Ciudad/(The City). we’ll watch the first half of La Ciudad on Thursday and finish it on Tuesday 11/4. Prepare to take good notes, as there may be a writing assignment on it at some point and it will be on the final. For people following online, though apparently out of print, the film’s available on Netflix and at the NY Public Library if you’re in the NYC area. Read this short review and one from the New York Times of the film.

    Week of October 21: The Bronx is Next and midterm review

    Sonia Sanchez at Miami Book Fair International, 1990. / Wikicommons user MDCarchives

    Sonia Sanchez at Miami Book Fair International, 1990. / Wikicommons user MDCarchives

    First, thanks to Don Ramon of Rutgers University for coming to lead the discussion on Dutchman! Even though we’re done with it, please bring your copy on Tuesday, when we’ll look at a few scenes from the film version.

    For Tuesday October 21st, we’ll continue looking at Black writers from the 1960s with Sonia Sanchez. We’ll read a short play titled The Bronx is Next. It’s part of a longer PDF file on the Readings page. You do not have to read Sister Son/Ji, but do read the essay titled “Preface to Uh, Uh, But do it Free Us?”, where she describes her creation of The Bronx is Next.

    Also watch her perform “A Poem to Some Women” on Def Poetry Jam.

    Watch: Director SC 2 talk about his 2009 production of Sonia Sanchez’s “The Bronx is Next” and “Sister Son/Ji”.

    … and this preview of The Bronx is Next and Sister Son/Ji

    Questions to think about as you read/watch:

    • What’s the vision of the city (and of Harlem, specifically) in The Bronx is Next?
    • What do the interactions at the heart of the play say about city life?
    • What roles do female characters play in Bronx?
    • What kind of woman does Sanchez give voice to in “A Poem for Some Women”? Who’s voice is the poem written in?
    • For Thursday, October 23rd, we’ll have a formal in-class review session for the midterm exam, which is Tuesday, October 28th. Begin gathering all your notes and papers together and start preparing now.

    Week of 10/14: Bodega Dreams conclusion and Dutchman

    For Tuesday October 14th: Read pages 157-213 (end of book) in Bodega Dreams.

    Reminder: I’ll be at a conference on Thursday 10/9. Continue reading Bodega Dreams.

    On Tuesday 10/14We’ll start with a presentation by Joanna, Jay, and Nathaniel.

    To guide your reading, think about the following things:

    bodegaDs

  • What are the key themes of the book? Mark specific examples of them in the text.
  • How do characters develop. What changes do you see? Are there any surprising changes? Again, note specific examples in the text.
  • What seem to be key turns of the plot?
  • How does Quiñonez present urban space and the urban experience? How do different characters see the neighborhood that they live in?
  • What is the role of culture?
  • dutchman-dvd-1967-shirley-knight-al-freeman-leroi-jones-e0aa.png
    Photo: Still from the 1967 film version of Dutchman

    For Thursday October 16th:, we take a sharp turn and read the classic play Dutchman from Amiri Baraka (then named LeRoi Jones). For Tuesday, read only the first half of the book :the play Dutchman. Even though it’s short, you need to read it slowly and carefully.

    Pay attention to the following to guide your reading:

  • What are the key themes or topics that you think the play talks about?
  • How does the setting of the play affect the action? What role does the subway train play?
  • What does it say about life in the city or urban environments?
  • There are crucial points in the play where the plot (action) turns that decide the outcome. What do you think they are?
  • Read the final few pages of the play more than once. What’s the significance of Clay’s final speech?
  • We will also have a special guest speaker, Don Ramon of Rutgers University, to facilitate the discussion and present the play.

    Watch the following short YouTube video with Baraka discussing the context of the play and some of what influenced him to write it.


    Donavan Ramon of Rutgers University

    Donavan Ramon of Rutgers University

    Donavan L. Ramon earned his B.A. in English and the Special Honors Curriculum at Hunter College (CUNY), where he was a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow. A specialist in African American Literature, he earned his M.A. in English at Rutgers University in 2012 and is now writing a dissertation that traces a genealogy of twentieth-century narratives of racial passing. Donavan coordinates the African American Graduate Interest Group at Rutgers where he is also a graduate assistant at the Center for Race and Ethnicity and he serves as the Member-at-Large for Diversity with the Northeast Modern Languages Association (NeMLA).

    Week of October 7: Bodega Dreams, cont.

    ElBarrioBoxSet_HiResFor Tuesday 10/7: Read pages 55-107 in Ernesto Quiñonez’s Bodega Dreams and watch the first 30 minutes (chapters 1-4) of The Salsa Revolution, which is streaming online on PBS. We’ll talk a little about the role of music as an urban cultural form and how Quiñonez uses it to help shape the narrative of the book. Also think about what the PBS documentary says about how Salsa music is a unique product of New York City.

    A few things to pay attention to in the book are 1) the role of culture and what it means, 2) Quiñonez’s relationship as a writer to Pietri and Piñero (there are numerous references to both and their poetry throughout the book), 3) the “American Dream” and what it means to the characters in the book, 4) how different generations of immigrants/migrants relate to the city and city life, 5) race and gender relations. This isn’t a complete list, but these are a few key things that jump out at me. Begin to look for connections/ similarities / differences in things we’ve read (and other things you’ve read/ watched /studied in other classes, etc).

    We’ll also have our first student presentation from Aubreyne, Chloe, Javier, and Joe.

    For Thursday 10/9: I will be away at a conference at the College of Staten Island (link opens a PDF file) and class will not meet. Instead, read ahead in Bodega Dreams and I’ll catch you next Tuesday. As always, I’ll be checking in via email, so contact me with questions.

    For Tuesday 10/14: finish Bodega Dreams: that is, up to page 213.

    We’ll have a presentation by Jay, Joanna, and Nathaniel.

    To guide your reading, think about the following things:

    bodegaDs

  • What are the key themes of the book? Mark specific examples of them in the text.
  • How do characters develop. What changes do you see? Are there any surprising changes? Again, note specific examples in the text.
  • What seem to be key turns of the plot?
  • How does Quiñonez present urban space and the urban experience? How do different characters see the neighborhood that they live in?
  • What is the role of culture?