Writing Back to “Writing Home”: Student Responses to a Seminar on US Hispanic Immigrant Novels

Zoya Khan
Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, University of South Alabama

This paper compares the course objectives of a seminar titled “Writing Home: Nation and Territory in the Writings of Hispanic Immigrant Writers” with how different students understood the learning objectives as demonstrated by their end-of-semester essays. This fall 2013 course was cross-listed as an undergraduate/graduate seminar.  All the course readings as well as the medium of instruction were Spanish. The seminar’s main purpose was to make students appreciate Spanish as an important language spoken within the United States and one that actively engages with and shapes American social life. However, its focus was not the US Latino experience, but specifically the experiences of Hispanic immigrants in the US as expressed through their own writings in the country. Bringing these two objectives—an insight into the Hispanic dialogue with the US and an understanding of the immigrant experience here—together was an examination of the concept of “home” as presented in the five novels we read. The novels ranged from an early twentieth-century Mexican-American novel to a twenty-first century novel on high school cheerleaders by a Bolivian writer. Through these readings, the seminar sought to motivate the students to see family and nation as a fluid and ever-evolving concept. The final papers and more long term projects undertaken by the students as a result of this course reflect how and to what extent students received this notion of fluidity. In my conference paper, I will examine three student projects in order to gauge the students’ dialogues with the course objectives on the basis of the novels they chose to work on, the questions they chose to address and the approaches they adopted to these questions.