Georgia Highlands College is expanding its opportunities for students to learn more about other cultures.
Fall semester, the college will begin offering its first Latino literature course, ENGL 2135, which is potentially one of the first Latino literature classes available on the sophomore level in the University System of Georgia.
The new course follows on the heels of a successful African-American literature class, ENGL 2133, and is a great next step toward giving students more options for learning about different cultures, according to Dean of Humanities Jon Hershey.
“There are so many Spanish-speaking countries and so much outstanding literature that has originated from these countries that the course will have a tremendous amount of literary work to select from,” he said in a press release. “The literature will be offered in English translations so knowing Spanish will not be a requirement for the course.”
English instructor Jessica Lindberg, who will be teaching the course at the Cartersville campus, said GHC students over the years have asked for literature courses that “reflect a range of perspectives.”
“I was happy to help develop this class in response to their interest,” she said. “I earned a BA in Spanish many years ago, and I loved reading the work of writers from Chile, Peru, Puerto Rico, Colombia, etc. It is exciting to recounter these writers from the other side — as a teacher.”
The class will help students learn about a culture they will more than likely encounter often in their future careers, according to Lindberg.
“As we prepare our students for life beyond college, we want them to be successful co-workers, employees, managers and innovators,” she said. “Being able to work in a diverse cultural environment requires empathy, and literature teaches empathy. By reading the stories, poems and essays of other cultures, we begin to identify with the struggles of a wider group of people; we grow beyond our own corner of the world and become global thinkers. This is a vital part of GHC’s philosophy.”
Lindberg said she wants “all students to feel welcome” in the class.
“I have emphasized that no one in the class needs to speak Spanish or have any prior knowledge of Latin American history, politics or geography,” she said.
The course is a survey of Latino literature from the 16th century to the present and includes writing from Chicano, Cuban, Puerto Rican and Dominican-American traditions as well as from other Spanish-speaking countries.
Students will read letters written by “El Inca,” who was the first man born in the Americas to enter the Western literary canon, as well as stories from the frontier, popular poetry from Southwestern newspapers, poetry by well-known Modernist poet William Carlos Williams and documents by activist leader César Chávez.
More contemporary readings will include works by Junot Diaz, who won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2008, and Judith Ortiz Cofer, who lives in Georgia.
“We’ll ask questions like ‘What does “Latino” mean? How is that different from “Hispanic?” How did native populations and European explorers write about each other during colonization? How are the literary traditions and styles of Mexico different from the literary traditions and styles of Chile? How have all of these voices contributed to the multilayered story of Hispanic culture and identity?’” Lindberg said.
Studying any group’s literature “means listening to their stories,” the instructor said.
“When we listen to their stories, we hear their joys, their sorrows, their triumphs and their tragedies,” she said. “In each of these, we hear reflections of our own stories. We connect. As the Hispanic population of the United States continues to grow, it makes sense to study the stories that define this rich and historic culture.”
She also said she plans to invite guest speakers to “come share their stories with us.”
“I’m particularly excited to host Latino/Latina members of our community — GHC and surrounding areas — to join the class for informal conversations about what it means to be a first- or second-generation immigrant and what it means to claim more than one country as ‘home,’” she said. “And, of course, if there’s any possible way to work in a reason to bring food into the classroom, I’ll find a way to do that, too.”
Fall semester classes begin Aug. 19, and the deadline to apply for admission is July 15.
For information on the course or to apply for admission, visit highlands.edu.