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Book Chapter

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Description of a fourteen week course taught by Michelle Loris, professor of English at Sacred Heart University. The course, titled Recent Ethnic American Fictions, introduced students to several concepts from contemporary literary theory. The theories included New Criticism, Deconstruction, Cultural Studies, New Historicism, and Feminist Theory. The assumption was that these concepts would give students the tools to become critical readers, which would then provide them with a deeper understanding of these multicultural novels and their particular cultural contexts.

For a semester, reading and thinking about these multicultural novels engaged and challenged the students' assumptions about themselves and the America in which they live. Through their reading, research, and discussion of these novels, students had been exposed to a course dealing with more than a single group; they had grappled with the questions of identity as an essential or as a constructed quality, as well as with the issue of "essentializing" a single group; they had interrogated the forces of power and domination, of prejudice, and of hate; and they had thought about pedagogy and canon formation. Most important, reading these novels developed in the students a realization of our common humanity with all people, as well as an understanding of and respect for our multicultural society.