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EIU Humanities Center


Michael Dowdy: "Ascendance and Abjection: Reading Latina/o Literature in the Age of Trump" 

trumpThis talk explored the ways in which U.S. Latina/o writing has grappled with the questions of citizenship dominating the news headlines during what has been called “the Summer of Trump.” For Latinos, it has been an endless summer, from the early-19th Century’s failed dreams of autonomy in what is now Texas to the present era’s undocumented “Dreamers” seeking the right to pursue college educations free of the fear of deportation. Recent high-profile literary honors—the Pulitzer Prize for Junot Díaz, the Yale Younger Poets Prize for Eduardo C. Corral, and the U.S. Poet Laureate for Juan Felipe Herrera—have put in sharp relief the tensions between the cultural ascendance of Latinos and their continuing civic abjection. Incorporating images, short audio and video clips, and meditations on Latino texts, this talk attempted to untangle the contradictions between resistance and assimilation, critique and praise, and belonging and dispossession of central concern to many Latino writers. The talk gave special attention to the difficulties posed by innovative Latino texts, particularly by “undocumentary” writing—writing that challenges the exclusions of anti-Latino nativism, that attends to the precarity of life without papers, and that eschews many of the representational techniques that have defined Latino writing since the movement era of the late-1960s. The talk thus considered how citizenship in a “republic of letters” relates to citizenship in the nation-state. In short, how might what the poet Carmen Giménez Smith calls, partly tongue-in-cheek, “poems for ascension,” interrogate nativist shouts for banishment?

Michael Dowdy is an associate professor of poetry at Hunter College of the City University of New York.  He has two books—Broken Souths: Latina/o Poetic Responses to Neoliberalism and Globalization (2013) and American Political Poetry in the 21st Century (2007)—and has published articles on twentieth-century Latin American literature, as well as African-American and Mexican poets, and hip-hop culture. His poetry has appeared in numerous journals and in his chapbook The Coriolis Effect (Bright Hill Press, 2007).  He received his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

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