American identity is a complex phenomenon to ponder. Demographic statistics, citizenship status, and geopolitical allegiances all count for something, but literature is more adept than politics at uncovering the imaginative aspects of American identity. Some years ago, I read Benedict Anderson, who famously identified a nation as an “imagined community.” If this is true, it’s also true that each person taps a personal imagination when regarding that nation.
In Zami and WHEREAS, Audre Lorde and Layli Long Soldier write from unique perspectives, expanding our multicultural understanding of American identity. Lorde’s is an individual’s coming-of-age story that expands outward to embrace a community of women. Long Soldier’s is a traumatizing story of the American frontier that employs experimental language in a quest for real accuracy. Imagination prompts both writers to consider alternative forms of belonging.
Reflecting on the impact of Lorde, Long Soldier, and one additional writer on our syllabus, describe how experimental writing/film/music has changed your view of American identity (or American culture more generally). Focus on imaginative artistry that, however unusual it might be in its delivery, presents you with a clear-eyed view of life in postmodern America. What are the major ideas will you take away from ENL 336? How do you imagine America now?