Italian American Literature and Film
Prof. Fabio Girelli-Carasi
INTRODUCTION TO THE COURSE
READING : NEW YORK TIMES: MIXED IDENTITIES http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/30/us/30mixed.html?_r=1
Italian Americans as a Tribe.
Tribe: this word triggers THOUGHTS and IMAGES. Describe what YOU SEE in your mind when you hear the word TRIBE.
Write down what you visualize in your mind.
Where do these people live, in what country, or in what kind of natural environment? What is the climate? What do they wear? Describe the people. What are they doing? Don't be overly cautious, don't hide your real response.
Here are some examples of what we normally associate with the word "tribe":
For me personally, the word tribe suggests an image of African people living in the countryside, with little of no modern technology. Although this may sound borderline racist, this is what my mind conjures up. I was born, raised and schooled in Italy and the idea that penetrated into my brain is that a tribe is something "primitive," "uncivilized," "stone-age like".
Of course now I know that we use the word "primitive" to justify a sense of superiority based on the use of certain technologies; that "civilization" has nothing to do with written laws and organized religion; and that our technologies are a shortcut to cover our inability to cope with nature without destroying it.
If some of you were from the the South West, in particular the 4-Corners area, the word TRIBE would bring up images of Native Americans.
If you were from Brazil, it would be people from the Amazons.
If you were from Central Asia (Eastern Pakistan, Afghanistan etc.) or the Middle East/ Northern Africa.....
TRIBE is now a term commonly used by sociologists, anthropologists, cultural historians, all throughout academia and beyond to describe AMERICAN groups that are identified by a common history, roots, culture, sometimes language, sometimes religion.
What does it mean that we all belong to a TRIBE?
A tribe is a place where you can find shelter and that you must help defend.
---- Here are some possible tests:
We feel a DIFFERENT kind of solidarity when ONE OF US is a victim of
Think about racism, intolerance, etc. toward: African Americans, Hispanics (especially "Mexicans"), Arabs and now by extension Muslims. Let's not forget that Anti-Semitism is still well and alive in many parts of the nation.
If you feel involved, personally hurt as if this person were a member
of your distant family, then you know you belong to a tribe.
(You could also add LGBTQ to the list of "persecuted tribes," although normally in academia this classification is not used for gender-related identity.)
Another test, in reverse: We feel bad, ashamed and even guilty when someone we don't know commits an indefensible act of violence, if this person is a member of our tribe (-- and we go crazy explaining that "No, these are not our values, we are better than that!")
Another test: when you feel proud of someone's achievement because s/he is.... well, because s/he is a member of your tribe.
My two daughters are ethnic Chinese, adopted when they were less than
one year old.
I realize it's infantile but during the World Cup (soccer) I am in pain if Italy loses, ecstatic when it wins.
Don't we all feel the same sense of unreasonable pride when someone from our tribe wins the Nobel prize? Or an Oscar? Or Wimbledon?
TRIBE, depending on the context, can also refer to NATIONALITY, although normally the sense of TRIBAL IDENTITY clicks in when one is in a MINORITY.
So, by many criteria, Italian Americans are a tribe: common geographical origin, traditions, religious practices (I would avoid the term 'religion'), to an extent common language, food, Weltanschauung, cultural and historical IDOLS and ICONS, etc.
SO: what tribe do you belong to?
If you read the article from the NYT (I hope you did, it's required),
you know that you are not alone if you think you belong to more than one
tribe, or belong to no tribe at all.
Do you want another test? How do you feel about "wannabees," the people who claim to be members of your tribe: what TESTS do you apply to them? Language? Clothing? Music choices? Favorite role model? Favorite food? What else?
-- LAST TEST: if you look Asian, regardless of your personal identity, OTHER PEOPLE will place you in the Asian tribe. You could have been adopted by a Finnish family when you were 10 months old, lived in Estonia and Eritrea until you were 18, but if you enter a classroom at BC, people will say you are Asian. Period.
--- So, at times, the tribe is imposed on us, for better or worse. The WORST case, as far as my knowledge allows it, was the fate of Jewish people in Europe under Nazi rule. It was sufficient for a person to have 1/8 of "Jewish blood" to be declared Jewish, and therefore subjected to persecution. That means it was enough to have on great-grand parent who was Jewish.
In apartheid-era South Africa, a white person who married a mix-blood or black person, would be officially "reclassified" as being part of the spouses 'lower race'. (No, you could not "marry up," only "marry down.") His/her ID would report the person's "new race" and could no longer live in a white area etc. etc. etc.
And now let's see what OTHER PEOPLE think of YOUR TRIBE.
In bullet format, write down a few STEREOTYPES people have toward your TRIBE.
If you are Latino, what are the stereotypes people immediately associate with your tribe? What PREJUDICES do you have to overcome?
What if you are Albanian and in America very few people have a mental image of your tribe? Don't despair: somewhere in the world (near Albania) there is another people that does stereotype your tribe.
If you are from a 'small tribe' in America, indicate which other tribe has prejudices against your people (ex: if you are Belgian, both the French and the Dutch, etc.)
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
Another way to think of education
WHY ARE YOU PURSUING A COLLEGE DEGREE?
WHAT IS COLLEGE ABOUT FOR YOU?
TIMELINE: the period of largest mass immigration of ITALIANS to the UNITED STATES was 1880-1920
These cartoons are taken from a variety of newspapers from 1880 to 1920.
youtube video - opens in a new window
WHAT DO THE CARTOONS MEAN?
Of all the things we covered today, which one made
the deepest impression on you ?
For all assignments:
Compose a document. Acceptable formats RTF, DOC, DOCX
If you don't know what "format" means, USE THE WEB, GOOGLE OR YOUTUBE
to find out.
NAME THE FILE: the filename will always be the same. your last name /dot/ the due date
Example: carasi.january1 LAST NAME / DOT/ MONTH+DATE
Send the file by email, as attachment.
SUBJECT OF YOUR EMAIL: Example: assignment january 1 THE WORD <ASSIGNMENT> FOLLOWED BY MONTH AND DATE
Nothing else, 'assignment' and the due date. I set up filters on my email app that automatically sort out and direct your messages.
DO NOT MISSPELL <ASSIGNMENT>: it's like a password, even the tiniest error and the file will end up in a different folder.
Email subject: assignment february 10
read the article from the NYTIMES
read the lecture on TRIBES
TASK 1:Type the following statement at the top of your compito:
"I understand that assignments will be accepted ONLY IF these conditions are met:
1) assignment is sent to the correct email address;
2) assignment has correct filename;
3) email subject is correct."
TASK 2 in bullet form, what tribe do you belong to? Write a list of stereotypes that are applied to your tribe. Don't write a long list. Focus on the major characteristics that OTHER PEOPLE attribute to your tribe.
TASK 3: stereotypes and free association. In bullet form, write a list of what people think when they think of ITALIAN AMERICANS.
What do they associate this term, <ITALIAN AMERICAN> with? Again, short and realistic.
Task 4: screen the Father Guido Sarducci's video on getting a college degree.
write What do you think of his humorous take on college? Of course there is an element of truth. Where does he go wrong, if you think he does?
How much should I write? A solid, well written paragraph up to half a page.
Task 5: screen anti-Italian CARTOONS video
write after watching the cartoons, analyze:
1) what was your very first EMOTIONAL REACTION, as soon as you started watching them?
2) HOW DO YOU FEEL after you saw the entire presentation? What kind of feelings were you left with?
Interrogate yourself, pay attention to your emotional reaction.
DO NOT DESCRIBE THE CARTOONS (you may mention some details for clarity but DO NOT TELL ME WHAT I ALREADY KNOW.)
Go beyond the obvious outrage. Look inside yourself and see what you can find that is original to your response to the images.
If you approach 1) and 2) correctly, your essay will write itself.
How much should I write? Up to a page.
TASK 6: type your notes on the NYTimes article and the TRIBE lecture.