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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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2. Exploring Borders   

2. Exploring

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Activities: Author Activities

Gloria Anzaldúa - Author Questions

Back Back to Gloria Anzaldúa Activities
  1. Comprehension: What is a Chicana? A mestiza? What does Anzaldúa mean when she calls for "a new mestiza consciousness"?

  2. Context: Examine the "Visit Mexico" poster featured in the archive. What relationship does the poster seem to posit among Mexico, women, and food? Examine the portions of Borderlands/La Frontera in which Anzaldúa discusses cooking and the cultivation of corn. How does Anzaldúa restructure Chicanas' relationship to food and fertility? How does her comparison of mestizas to indigenous corn and her lyrical description of a woman making tortillas challenge the poster's image of a woman invitingly offering up a bounty of fruit?

  3. Context: What traits and values characterize the "new mestiza" as Anzaldúa conceives of her? How does the new mestiza compare to the ideals of femininity expressed in the three traditional representations of women in Mexican culture, La Virgen de Guadalupe, La Malinche, and La Llorona? How might Anzaldúa's work help readers understand these traditional figures differently?

  4. Context: Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca has sometimes been called "the first mestizo" because he had a hybrid identity influenced by and oriented within both native and European cultures. How does de Vaca's narrative of the "first mestizo" experience compare to Anzaldúa's narrative of the "new mestiza"? How do these two writers articulate their intercultural and interlinguistic abilities? How do they benefit from their status as hybrid? When does their hybridity become problematic for them?

  5. Context: Gloria Anzaldúa is not the first person to acknowledge the power of sexual deviance to shape people's experience of a "contact zone." Spanish exploration accounts and art representing the Conquest are rife with descriptions of the berdaches--Native American males who cross-dressed and performed female sex and social roles. What does Anzaldúa argue is the relationship between the "queer" and the borderlands? Compare Anzaldúa's notion to the role that transgendered figures play in Cabeza de Vaca's narrative.

  6. Exploration: Do writers have a responsibility to make their work clear and easily understandable for readers? When might it be artistically or politically important for a writer to use languages or styles that might be unfamiliar to readers?

  7. Exploration: Compare Anzaldúa's use of polyvocality in her poem "El sonavabitche" to Sarah Piatt's use of polyvocality in "The Palace-Burner" or "A Pique at Parting" (Unit 9). How does each poet use polyvocality to articulate her consciousness of her own status as a woman? How do they use polyvocality to register protest? Do you find one of the poems easier to understand? Why?

  8. Exploration: In recent years queer writers and activists have sought to break down traditional ideas of normal and deviant and to argue for a more fluid notion of identity and sexuality. Compare Anzaldúa's use of the term queer and her construction of a queer identity to the notions of lesbianism developed by poets Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich (Unit 15).

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