Americas Essay

From the course information page:

4-6 page Essay 15% (Write an informed and incisive academic essay on the geographical imaginary of ONE of the 4 historical novels assigned for this course. You MUST use key terms drawn from Abbot’s Introduction to Narrative in a thoughtful and germane manner. Due dates: Daughter of Fortune [9/27], The Kingdom of This World [10/23], The General in His Labyrinth [11/13], Atomik Aztex [12/11]. Further details forthcoming.)

Here are the formal guidelines:

Focus on the ways that your novel represents, and thus constructs, the Americas. Consider your novel as a form of fictive historiography: a narrative about particular places and times using elements of historiography and elements of fiction.

There are three things to address, then:


Historical context. This will require some research. Documentary film, academic essays, encyclopedia entries, and actual books are your best bet. I will not accept Wikipedia or other non-scholarly sources.


Literary form. Think about all the formal elements (narrative discourse) of the historical novel as a genre: imagery, metaphor, character, storyworld, constituent event, etc. How do these techniques accumulate to create specific dramatic effects? Revisit Abbott and Anderson. You may also decide to read more about the historical novel. I have added a few pdfs to the ereader. You can also do your own research on the historical novel or Latin American literature.


Social content. What’s the message? What are the novel’s ideological commitments? Imagining the Americas as a particular kind of place where particular kinds of events have occurred is a form of judgement, an assertion of values.

This is one way to approach the notion of the Geographical Imaginary– as a whole system of images and tropes that possesses ideological weight. We could use a geographical imaginary of California as an example. Orange groves, surf, Hollywood, the red woods: these are images and locales culled from a geographical imaginary that partakes of an idealized, touristic vision of California. Another geographical imaginary of California might emphasize the office buildings and bars of LA (ex. Raymond Chandler) or the massive agricultural tracts of the San Joaquin Valley (ex. John Steinbeck).

If you have any questions about this assignment please direct them to the comments section of this page so that everyone can benefit.