This course will untether the term “America” from its all-too-easy connotation with the continental United States and set it adrift among the island formations comprising the western hemisphere and beyond. By accounting for the ocean as a crucial shaping force of human culture and survival, much in the same way that land has been understood, we will craft an archipelagic approach to our study of the Americas and, indeed, the globe. We will examine how colonial discourses and expansionist policies have attempted to construct islands as spaces to be governed, instrumentalized, and appropriated while at the same time immersing ourselves in literature and other forms of cultural production that imagine islands as portals towards more liberatory ways of belonging in this globe. By thinking with a variety of American Archipelagoes, students will come out of this course with a more nuanced grasp of the multi-racial, multi-lingual, and trans-imperial American oceanscape, as well as how the United States has drawn from it to take on its various, shifting forms.

As a First-Year Seminar Seminar, this course is also geared towards building your writing skills and setting you up for success at Swarthmore College and beyond. I have designed this course with the following learning objectives in mind:

  •  Reading texts with an eye towards formal analysis: “close reading” 
  • Developing research questions about the texts you’ll be reading. 
  • Understanding the development of good research questions leads to making original arguments and interventions. 
  • Using appropriate sources to open up the text for you and enhance your argument. 
  • Using verbal discussion of literary texts as a form of professional intellectual growth and collaboration.