Defining the Humanities: Multicultural Literature

Defining the Humanities: Multicultural Literature

I look at literature and what it has to say about race because I'm interested in how our world is shaped by race and literature can help us understand that in a really interesting way in a fun way I think by multicultural literature I mean works of literature that treat race and ethnicity in interesting and complicated ways that have a referential relationship to the empirical world when we look at those works those works are often but not always written by those people who have been constituted as minority or subaltern subjects in a society like our own that is socially stratified along the lines of say race ethnicity gender sexuality to some extent the people who write what I call multicultural literature often they are African American or Mexican American but it's less the identity the author is less important to me than what the work itself is doing so I am so I'm looking at what the work itself is doing and and using that to help define my my corpus or my archive I'm very interested in the dynamics of race and ethnicity and I understand race and ethnicity as a dynamic system of social distinction and it's one that we live with and it shapes our worlds in very consequential ways so I'm often looking at literature to see how any given work is commenting on it reflecting upon it figuring it like in the metaphors literature is one of those cultural products that humans make to help them understand themselves mostly I read a lot and I read broadly within American literature because that's my field of study but beyond that I read broadly across the disciplines about race and ethnicity I'm always looking for instance at the newspaper or at movies not because I'm necessarily going to write about something involving race that comes up in the newspaper or something in a movie but because it helps provide a context for understanding what I see happening in literature and then I take notes and I start formulating you know an idea about what I might want to say about it that will help illuminate some of those myriad mechanisms by which race is done then as when I start the process of testing what I'm thinking with other people maybe presenting a version of this an early version at different talks and and I find that it's helpful often to present it more than once and in different audiences because you have very different reactions from it then it becomes a an argument as a whole either in the form of an article which I might send out to a journal or in more recently in the form of a book chapter that will go to make integrated whole about race in literature I think sometimes people when they're reading novels they're not as conscious about the fact that the literature is just by the virtue of the fact that they're reading it is influencing their ideas about the way the world is it is in a sense helping to build their schemas about in this case race so that you've read you watch it movie or you read a book or you you know see a TV show and that there are representations in it and so part of what I'm doing in my work is helping people to be more critical readers of the cultural products that we humans create to help us understand ourselves on one hand a more critical how to be a more critical consumer of cultural products and to you know what is race why is race why do we believe the stuff that we believe why do we behave the way we do why do we see some people as trustworthy and other people as not why do we why are we attracted to some people and you know try away from others so those are that's what I want to get to you can find the answers to these questions and literary works literature is one of the most sophisticated ways that people have to both create meaning and to explore meaning

5 thoughts on “Defining the Humanities: Multicultural Literature

  1. Her approach to literature, while certainly different from my own approach, is nevertheless valid and valuable. And dismissing her work as "cultural Marxism" or "cultural warfare" is simply a convenient way to avoid thinking about her ideas. You accuse her of weak scholarship, but, frankly, to make comments about "some Mexican" and "unnatural Marxist direction" is to engage in a very unscholarly, anti-intellectual dialogue that is far inferior to anything she has said.

  2. It's not "our world" but it's her slanted view on one country in this world called USA. Picking apart some book by some Mexican who moved to USA has nothing to do with finding truth… while probably quite a lot with manufacturing a narrative of oppression.

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