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


Admission requirements

Relevant bachelor’s degree.


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.” He adds, however, that “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 migration to America—testify to the complex transformations the act of migration has brought about and discuss how these works have profoundly changed American literature, especially in the past twenty-five years. 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 works by Jewish American, Native American, African American, Chicana and Latino American, and Asian American writers as well as a graphic narrative and a few movies such as John Sayles’s Lone Star. Drawing on a few theoretical texts about migration literature, ethnicity, and memory, we’ll discuss the following interrelated themes: 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. Though the focus is of course on U.S. literature and film, we’ll also explore the relevance of the insights gained to our own changing and globalizing communities today.

Course objectives

This course aims to

  • (further) develop students’ analytical and critical skills through in-depth reading of literary texts and some films in their historical and cultural contexts.

  • introduce students to some basic theoretical concepts in migration and ethnic studies as well as to trauma and memory theory

  • develop students’ skills to conduct independent research

  • develop students’ oral presentation skills through an oral, in-class presentation (individual or small group)

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


See timetable

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

  • Oral presentation and discussion (30%) and

  • research essay (c. 4000 words; 70%).


At least four weeks before the course starts, the Blackboard site will be open for self-enrolment. There you can find the course syllabus, as well as study questions, recommended critical articles, links to useful websites, and essay topics. Please note that there is a reading assignment for week 1 (see syllabus on Blackboard).

Reading list

  • Anzia Yezierska, Bread Givers (Persea Books)

  • Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior (Vintage)

  • Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderland/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. 3rd ed. (Aunt Lute)

  • Louise Erdrich, Tracks (HarperPerennial)

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

  • Julia Alvarez, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (Plume)

  • Lan Cao, Monkey Bridge (Penguin)

  • Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon (Vintage)

  • Art Spiegelman, The Complete Maus: A Survivor’s Tale (Pantheon) NB: this edition includes vol. 1 (“My Father Bleeds History”) and vol. II (“An Here My Troubles Began”). You can also buy the volumes separately.


Via uSis.

Registration Studeren à la carte

More information in Dutch can be found here
Information in English can be obtained via email.


Email: Ms.dr. J.C. Kardux