415: Advanced Studies in Textuality and
the History of the Book:
Publishing and Race in 20th-Century America


Dr. Fagan 3 credit hours

          “I have to declare in all candor that no one interested in being published in our time can afford to be so naive as to believe that a book will make it merely because it's good.”  Literary agent Richard Curtis’s dream-deflating claim about the contemporary American publishing industry prompts an important question: what stands between a good book and “making it”? In this course, we will examine the way race and ethnicity condition a text’s position and reception in American literary culture.  We will ask, how do concepts of race and ethnicity shape the publishing process?  What issues do American authors from historically marginalized groups face as they pursue print publication?  What expectations do editors, publishers, and readers have for those authors and their texts?  And what do these issues and expectations tell us about the current state of identity in American literature? 

          We will examine questions of material loss and recovery, book banning and other kinds of censorship, and the various factors at work in deeming work by ethnically identified writers “authentic” or “inauthentic.”  We will study texts by authors whose voices are subverted by the interests of publishers and readers and vice versa.  Authors will include Sherman Alexie, Oscar Zeta Acosta, Junot Díaz, Maxine Hong Kingston, Nella Larsen, Danny Santiago, Richard Wright, and Maria Cristina Mena.

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