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C LIT 321 A: Studies in Literature of the Americas

Love, Art and Revolution in Contemporary Fiction

Summer Term: 
Meeting Time: 
MTWTh 1:30pm - 3:20pm
DEM 112
Joint Sections: 
JSIS 480 B
Photo of Cynthia Steele
Cynthia Steele

Additional Details:

C LIT 321A / JSIS 480B

Love, Art and Revolution in Contemporary Fiction

B Term

MTWTh 1:10-3:20

This course will focus on two recent novels from the Americas that address the intersection between love, art and revolution, set in Mexico City during the 1920s-1950s: Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna (Harper Perennial, 2010) and Leonardo Padura’s The Man Who Loved Dogs (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014). These novels, written by an American and a Cuban, portray the intertwined lives of Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo with that of the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky; the assassination of Trotsky in Mexico City in 1940 by Spaniard Ramón Mercader, and the trials of the House Un-American Activities Committee in the U.S.. In order to place our readings of the novels into artistic context, we will read James Oles’ new Art and Architecture in Mexico (Thames and Hudson, 2013) and Hayden Herrera’s Frida Kahlo: The Paintings (Harper Perennial, 2002). In addition, we will study several documentary and fiction films about Frida, Diego, Trotsky, and their era.

How does fiction serve as an echo chamber for the lives, artistic creations and struggles of actual historical figures? Why was Mexico City a magnet for artists, particularly those committed to social change, during the 1930s and 1940s? How did the actual people portrayed in these novels negotiate love, politics and art across various cultural and social environments, including Moscow, Paris, Mexico City and New York? How did the art that Rivera and Kahlo created relate to the history of Mexican art and the experiments of their contemporaries?

Students will keep a reading journal, give a group presentation, take four quizzes, and write a short essay. Texts are in English or in English translation; students who are fluent in Spanish may read the Padura text in the original.


Catalog Description: 
Emphasizes connections between twentieth century literature of the United States and Canada and current literature of Latin America. Emphasizes that, despite obvious differences, much is shared in terms of culture and national sensibility across the two continents.
Department Requirements Met: 
Literature Core
GE Requirements Met: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
August 2, 2019 - 9:12pm