Professor Sophia McClennen / Dept. of Comparative Literature , Penn State University, Mailbox: 311 Burrowes, Office: 435N Burrowes  Office Phone: 865-0032 E-mail:, Office Hours: M 11-12, T 8-9 and by appointment.

CMLIT 405: Inter-American Literature

Spring 2004

Simon Bolivar Statue in New York City



Spring 2004, Section 001: T R 11:15A - 12:30P

304 Willard, 3 Credit Hours

Course Description

The Representation of Sex, Power, and Politics in the Americas

This course asks how political struggles depend on certain ideologies of sex and gender and how literature has represented and challenged these descriptions.  In what ways is the representation of the sexed body both ancillary and central to political struggle?  Can political conflict take place without recourse to traditional tropes of sex and gender?  When we analyze the rhetoric and imagery used by political groups, how often do we notice that this rhetoric and imagery rest on the body?  For instance, how do authoritarian regimes depend on the notion that they are protecting the mother land and how do authoritarian leaders construct themselves as the father of the nation?  As we study the history of the Americas we note that even the concept of colonization, which literally means the planting of one’s seed, is engulfed in the conflation of sex and politics. Later during the epoch of independence, American leaders organized the struggles against colonial control according to a logic of masculinity, where “real” men were compelled to fight for independence.  From Christopher Columbus to Hernan Cortes, from Simon Bolivar to Thomas Jefferson, from Che Guevara to Malcolm X, we can read a long line of male leaders who depend on a particular construction of gender in order to advance their political goals.  But these instances of sex and politics typically use the body as emblem and as iconography and not as “bodies that matter.”  In what ways are the Americas founded on and propagated by gendered/sexed icons: The Virgin of Guadalupe, Malinche, Columbia, the Statue of Liberty, the caudillo, the gaucho, the cowboy, Zorro, Roosevelt, JFK, Castro and others. This course will read a number of texts from a variety of American political conflicts by paying careful attention to their representation of sex and gender.

Course Objectives

Students enrolled in this course should expect to develop the following skills:

·       Acquire intercultural and international competence by developing the ability to establish connections among literary works emerging from various American contexts.

·       Appreciate the complexity and diversity of various forms of writing.

·       Employ comparative methods in order to better understand literary diversity, intertextuality and parallel development.

·       Acquire a critical knowledge of literary themes, motifs, structures, narratives, points of view, and values that are typical of American writing.

·       Consider questions of social conflict (especially in terms of gender and sexuality) as they are reflected in works of literature.

·       Read a variety of critical positions.

·       Be familiar with a number of critical terms used in critical theory and literary theory.

·       Critically analyze literary works in terms of form and style.

·       Practice techniques of literary analysis.

·       Develop and refine critical thinking, oral and written expression, and techniques of textual analysis.  

·       Develop communication skills in essays, class discussions, presentations, web discussions and research papers.

·       Engage in collaborative learning and teamwork, especially while working on a group project.

·       Acquire a sound basis for further work in Women's Studies and Comparative Literature.

·        Actively participate in the creation of a vibrant and rewarding learning community.



A note on on-line readings: Many of our readings are available on-line.  This saves us money!  You need to access the texts well in advance in case there are problems with the website.  Also printing all of the sites can be very wasteful. It is often best to copy the text into a word document and convert it to a small font without the graphics.  This will allow you to print less pages. 


(All of these books are on reserve in the library)

Original Language Texts:

Students who can read translated texts in their original language are highly encouraged to use the originals.  I will often indicate the original language for essays and shorter readings through our course website.  Of the required texts to purchase five are available in the original language and can be purchased through or another on-line bookstore. Please let me know if you would like publication information or look up the original language texts on the CAT.

General Information:

Academic dishonesty: Students are expected to uphold the University's standards of academic integrity. Academic dishonesty will be dealt with according to University policies.

Registration Policy: During the drop/add period at the beginning of the semester, the department of Comparative Literature encourages students to visit this and other courses in order to make informed decisions about which courses to take. After the first week, however, only students registered in the course may remain; no student may late-add (or restore a dropped registration) after the third week of the semester without petitioning the department on a form available in the office, 311 Burrowes.

University Access Statement: The Pennsylvania State University encourages qualified students with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities.  If you anticipate needing any kind of accommodations in this course or have any questions about physical access, please tell the instructor as soon as possible. 

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Created and Maintained by Sophia A. McClennen

Copyright Sophia A. McClennen 2001-2004


Created on 12/5/2003

Last updated on 01/09/2004