San Jose State University
MAS 252: Comparative Ethnic Studies
W 6:00 – 8:45 pm Clark #231
Dr. Magdalena L. Barrera
Mondays 1:00 – 3:00pm; Tuesdays 10:00am – 12:00pm; and by appointment
In this course, we will be approaching Comparative Ethnic Studies through two means.
will be to examine how select ethnic groups express themselves through a variety of literary
works, from autobiography and memoir to poetry and fiction.
We will read these with an eye
towards how Americans of Mexican, Native, Irish, African and Jewish descent choose to
represent their collective past through creative works, and we will seek to place these texts into a
dialogue that reveals how each group defines itself contextually, and sometimes against the
We will ask what sets a particular ethnic group apart from others, and whether there is
anything these groups share in common.
Our second focus will be an exploration of social/collective memory.
We will investigate the
process by which individual experiences and memories become part of a narrative shared by an
ethnic group as a whole, and examine the particular memories and historical moments by which
ethnic groups define themselves and use to represent their collective experience.
question the ownership of collective memories:
Who determines what is kept and what is
discarded, and why?
How are memories articulated and negotiated in everyday life?
In bringing these two areas of emphasis together, we will try to understand how literary
metaphor becomes an aid to memory and, therefore, a way to heal the wounds of the past.
will seek a new understanding of how we put to use in the present our visions of the past.
The following texts are available for purchase at the San Jose State University Bookstore:
A History of Stories
Snapshots of a Girlhood en la Frontera
(University of New
John Phillip Santos,
Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation
I, Rigoberta Menchú:
An Indian Woman in Guatemala
N. Scott Momaday,
Way to Rainy Mountain
(University of New Mexico, 1976)