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

2. Exploring

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
•  Timeline
•  Activities
- Overview Questions
- Video
- Author
- Context
- Creative Response
- PBL Projects

Activities: Overview Questions

Instructor Overview
A brief description of the literary movement within its historical context.
• What is a mestizo/a? How has mestizo/a identity and consciousness altered and developed over the past four centuries?

• What kinds of relationships did European explorers and colonizers have with the Native Americans they encountered in the New World? What stereotypes and conventions did they rely on to represent Indians in their narratives?

• How did European colonizers use their narratives to mediate their relationships with authorities back in Europe?

• How do writings that originated in South America, Mexico, the West Indies, and Canada fit into the American canon? Why have writings in Spanish, Dutch, and French been absent from the canon for so long? What responsibilities do we have as readers when we read these works in translation?

• How do concepts of writing and literacy differ among cultures? How did these differences shape the colonial experience?

• How does bilingualism affect mestizo/a narratives?

• What characterizes a "borderland" or "contact zone"? What boundaries are challenged in a border region? How have conceptions of borderlands and contact zones changed over time?

• What differentiates assimilation, acculturation, and transculturation? Which of these terms seems most appropriate for the colonial experiences described in the texts for this unit?

• How did the Spanish, French, Dutch, and English approaches to colonizing the New World differ? How did those differences affect European-- Native American relationships in different regions of the Americas? How did differences among native cultures in Mesoamerica, Florida, Virginia, the Middle Atlantic, and New France affect contact between Native Americans and colonizers?

• How did the first European explorers envision the New World? How did their preconceptions affect their experiences in the Americas?

• Why do early narratives of the New World so frequently invoke the language of wonder? What narrative strategies did explorers and colonizers use to describe their experience of wonder?

• Most of the texts discussed in Unit 2 can be characterized as belonging to more than one genre. Why do texts that represent border and contact experiences so often combine different genres? What is the effect of this genre blurring?

• How are early mestizo texts influenced by the oral tradition and pre-Conquest literary styles?

• What kinds of images of America did the European writers featured in Unit 2 construct to promote colonization and settlement? What kinds of natural resources and environmental factors did they extol in their accounts of the New World?

• How did European writers justify taking over Native American lands and resources?

• How are Native American women characterized in colonizers' and mestizos' narratives? What archetypes and legends have developed about relationships between native women and European colonizers?

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