Contemporary Latin American Fiction

Syllabus

Course: LTS/CMP 3058 EMA (33849/38048): Contemporary Latin American Fiction

Professor: Rojo Robles, PhD

Email: rojo.roblesmejias@baruch.cuny.edu

*I respond to emails from Monday to Friday during regular working hours 9:00 am-5:00 pm. Estimated time to respond 1-2 days. *

Office (student) hours: Mondays from 1:00-2:20 pm in-person (Office 4-272) or via zoom. This designated time is to discuss any questions, needs, or concerns about the class. We can meet briefly if you have a quick question or schedule a longer session if you need help with coursework or content. If you would prefer to meet at some other time, that is also a possibility, just write me an e-mail and we could set up a meeting time that works for both of us.

Course blog: https://blogs.baruch.cuny.edu/latinamericanfiction/  

Class meets:  Mondays from 2:30-3:45 pm in-person (Room B- Vert 9-180) or via zoom + weekly online posts. Please note that we will consider in-person sessions after 09/20/2021.

Weekly announcements: Wednesdays

Institutional course description: This course examines significant Latin American novels and short stories. While concentrating on literary themes and narrative techniques, this course aims to provide students with a better understanding of contemporary Latin American societies. Issues of feminism, gender, sexuality, and race, as well as political expressions, are central to the class discussions. Critical essays dealing with those issues, as well as videos and films, are integrated into the course work.

Course description for this section: In a recent issue of World Literature Today, Puerto Rican writer, and professor Jotacé López describes contemporary Boricua literature as one that is reflecting on and responding to a prolonged state of emergency. “The state of emergency is the exception, the overturned routine, the searing pause, the lost tranquility,” he says. In this course, we will take López’s editorial conceptualization as one that could lead us also into a complex discussion about current Latin American fiction. As López suggests, the vulnerability of bodies and the deteriorating circumstances in which life occurs are at the center of these examinations. The writers we will put in conversation are addressing gender, sexual and gun violence, racism and anti-blackness, governmental corruption, (sub) urban decay, lack of economic opportunities, climate disasters and aftershocks, displacements, family separations, life, and struggles in the diasporas. We will notice that these texts challenge borders and fixed national constructs presenting instead hemispheric fluidity and archipelagic flows. The states of emergency point towards global crisis, of course, but also to all the inventive ways that people are using to survive, envision futures, narrate their realities, and create spaces for achieving self-reliance and hope.

TLH: This class is part of an exciting new initiative at CUNY called “Transformative Learning in the Humanities (TLH).” TLH focuses on equitable, creative, student-centered teaching. That means that this class is built with you—students—at the center. You are now an “Andrew W. Mellon Transformative Learning in the Humanities Student Scholar (Fall 2021),” simply for showing up to this class. This title is something you can put on your CV/resume either now, or down the road, to show future employers that you participated in this exciting program by taking this class. Thank you for being you and for being here.

Student-centered pedagogy: The student-centered approach puts participants’ interests first by acknowledging their needs as central to the learning experience. Rather than designing the course from the professor’s perspective, it is designed from the learner’s perspective. Each student will select their learning path via an option-based pedagogy.

Community building and zoom: The pandemic is still affecting many communities and people. Our physical and mental health are priorities. Because of that, many sessions will be on zoom. We will decide as a group the frequency of our in-person encounters. While zoom allows us to get together virtually, it does not get close to the real thing. We will lose body language, nods, interrogative gestures, sounds, and smiles.  To avoid isolation and disconnection, I encourage you to turn on your cameras while we are together in our zoom sessions. Seeing each other helps build community and stimulate conversations and other types of interactions (breakout rooms, chats, etc.) If you are concerned about privacy you can switch to a neutral pre-set background or an image of your choosing. You can turn on your camera intermittently when you are participating and, when off, you can set a photo of yourself.  When in zoom, let’s personalize the learning experience as much as we can with the tools we have. Thanks!

Course objectives: During this course, students will:

. Survey some key points in contemporary literary history and cultures of Latin America.

. Demonstrate knowledge of the dynamics of colonialism, race, ethnicity, class, migration, and diasporic formations concerning the experience of Latin Americans throughout the hemisphere and the archipelagos.

. Evaluate the effects of different states of emergency: colonial life, neo-colonial extraction, displacement, gender and state-promoted violence, corruption, and patriarchy.

. Articulate experiences of resistance, queer, feminist, racial, and cultural affirmation in a transnational and often migratory context.

. Interpret the content, discourse, and form of literary fiction through different writing styles: the blog post, the creative writing piece, and the argumentative essay or audio piece.

. Discuss, debate, and get inspired to keep learning about contemporary issues in Latin America and keep engaging in Black, Latin American, and Latino Studies.

Statement on grades and assessments: Grades do not reflect the subjective character of learning nor societal issues of access and equity. Everybody learns in different and complex ways that grades usually cannot reflect. This course will mostly focus on qualitative assessment. Qualitative assessment is driven by the intention of understanding how people make meaning of and experience the sources they engage with, something we will discuss further during the class. While you will get a final grade at the end of the semester, I will not be grading individual assignments, but rather commenting and asking questions that engage your work.

Grade breakdown: 

Online posts (3% each x 10): 30%

Oral/slide presentation: 10%

Midterm project + self-evaluation: 25%

Final project + self-evaluation: 25%

Attendance & participation: 10%

Online survey: 3 extra credit points

*Attendance and participation include in-person and zoom sessions. *

Self-evaluation: You will reflect critically on your own learning (with specific questions and rubrics) and evaluate your midterm and final project. After interacting with your work, I will give you feedback on your midterm and optionally of your final. If there is a disparity between your self-evaluations and my appreciation of your work, I will reach out to discuss it with you.

Grading:

93-100 A; 90-92 =A-; 87-89 =B+; 83-86 =B; 80-82 =B-; 77-79 = C+

73-76 = C; 70-72 = C- ; 67-70 = D+; 63-66 = D; 60-62 = D-; <60 = F

Attendance: Students are encouraged to attend and be on time for all in-person and zoom sessions and to submit blog posts. If you are having issues with your access to the Internet and attending any of the sessions, please contact me to find solutions and alternative engagements. After three absences your standing in class could be affected. If you are missing a lot of work, I will contact you to discuss how to re-engage. Special consideration will be taken for those affected by COVID 19. Please communicate your needs and concerns.

Assignments:

Presentation

Research and analyze an assigned source from the syllabus. Present your breakdown orally and with slides based on the following questions (6-8 minutes):

. What are the central ideas of this writer?

. Analyze one specific section by your chosen author that best communicates what you identified in the question above.

. Discuss how the structure of the text and its linguistic choices (style) enhance the narrative goals of the author.

. Pose a critical question about the text to the group.

Midterm project

You may choose one of the following two options for your midterm project:

Option 1: Argumentative essay

Instructions

. Select one of the research questions developed collaboratively.

. Write an introduction in which you present the author(s) and text(s) to be discussed, your chosen research question, and your thesis statement (your main argument and answer to the question).

. Develop at least two body paragraphs in which you present supporting evidence from the primary source(s). You may also use secondary sources that you find during your research.

. Write a conclusion in which you wrap up your discussion on the author(s) and text(s), summarize your argument(s), and finish with a personal statement.

(3-4 Pages/Double Space/ Times New Roman/ Font size: 12)

Option 2:  Short story project

Instructions:

. Choose the source discussed in the class and a question developed collaboratively that had an impact on you intellectually, emotionally, and creatively.

. Respond to the selected source and question through a short story (2-3 pages). Remember to:

Identify the central concerns of the selected source.

Present your piece as an artistic interaction.

Refer or underscore specific sections or your chosen piece.

. In a reflective essay (2 pages) describe your creative process. Reflect on what have you learned from your chosen work? Discuss how your short story integrates, interacts with, and/or replies to the main ideas presented by the primary source? How has this exercise helped you integrate past experiences into your sense of identity and/or worldview?

Final project

You may choose one of the following three options for your final project:

Option 1: Argumentative essay

Instructions

. Select one of the research questions developed collaboratively.

. Write an introduction in which you present the author(s) and text(s) to be discussed, your chosen research question, and your thesis statement (your main argument and answer to the question).

. Develop at least two body paragraphs in which you present supporting evidence from the primary source(s). You may also use secondary sources that you find during your research.

. Write a conclusion in which you wrap up your discussion on the author(s) and text(s), summarize your argument(s), and finish with a personal statement.

(3-4 Pages/Double Space/ Times New Roman/ Font size: 12)

Option 2: A podcast episode

Instructions

. Select one of the research questions developed collaboratively.

. Record a podcast (8-10 minutes) using the following template:

. Present the author(s) and text(s) to be discussed, your chosen research question, and your thesis statement (your main argument and answer to the question).

. Develop at least two sections in which you present supporting evidence from the primary source(s). You may also use secondary sources that you find during your research.

. Wrap up your discussion on the author(s) and text(s), summarize your argument(s), and finish with a personal statement.

Option 3: Social media project

Instructions

. Select one of the research questions developed collaboratively.

. Create a social media project (a series of Twitter threads; an annotated playlist; a series of Instagram photos or videos with captions; a TikTok or YouTube video; etc.) using the following template with flexibility. Creative posts could have a different structure, but you should include in some way the major prompts.

. Present the author(s) and text(s) to be discussed, your chosen research question, and your thesis statement (your main argument and answer to the question).

Develop at least two sections in which you present supporting evidence from the primary source(s). You may also use secondary sources that you find during your research.

. Wrap up your discussion on the author(s) and text(s), summarize your argument(s), and finish with a personal statement.

*A podcast or social media project has a more informal tone than an essay. It is a project that could let you own the material. If you have other ideas that could go beyond the referred template, please brainstorm with me. *

Statement on academic honesty: Learning involves the pursuit of honesty and dialogue which cannot be achieved by presenting someone else’s work as your own. Writing in college means taking part in a conversation with other scholars, writers, and thinkers. By using academic citation you demonstrate the relationship between your ideas and those of others. On the other hand, plagiarism is the failure to prove that relationship. I want to hear your voices and read the ways you get involved in the dialogue. Part of your academic experience is to enter these conversations by learning different ways to engage with sources.

If questions remain, ask me. For the record, if you violate the precepts of academic honesty, you will receive a zero for the assignment. 

Baruch College guides and resources

Statement on missing work: If you have concerns about assignment due dates or the use of technology, please, let me know ahead of time. I am ready to work with you. Special consideration will be taken for those affected by COVID 19. I will deduct the full percentage of any missing work from your final grade. You are encouraged to email me or request a zoom meeting for any questions or further clarification of any readings, audiovisual pieces, and assignments. 

Course materials:  Except for Elizabeth Acevedo, Roberto Bolaño, and Daniel Alarcón’s books all readings will be available on Blackboard as PDFs.

Required books: 

Acevedo, Elizabeth. Clap When You Land. Harper Teen, 2020.

Alarcón, Daniel and Sheila Alvarado. City of Clowns. Riverhead Books, 2015. 

Bolaño, Roberto. 2666. Translated by Natasha Wimmer, Picador, 2008

*There are many copies of these three books via different used books outlets, links are suggestions. *

Languages: Although I will conduct the class in English, if you feel more comfortable and fluent in either Spanish, Spanglish, Portuguese, or French, you may also write in any of these languages.

Looking for a Minor or Major? Make BLS your choice: The Department of Black and Latino Studies offers interdisciplinary, intersectional approaches to the study of the ideas, history, politics, literature, music, religions, cultures, economic and social contributions by people of African and Latin American descent, including the United States, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Our courses practice skills in critical thinking and analysis, advanced writing, communication, and research. They also engage digital literacies, collaboration, and project management— important workforce skills. The interdisciplinary structure of our courses also offers excellent preparation for graduate school as well as for careers in education, the law, business, public relations, marketing, journalism, the arts, and education.

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