Language and Identity for Bilingual Writers (English/Spanish)

Department: Literature: Writing

Instructor: Shelby Driscoll-Salemi and Ana Carrete
Instructor's Email: 
Prerequisites: None

Course Description

Through the appreciation of contemporary bilingual works of literature and literary theory, conversational hikes through nature, and English/Spanish experimental writing exercises, this course will engage in the exploration of the identity concerns of bilingual contemporary student writers. This course will address the examination of identity as a question pertaining to all human beings, but specifically the peculiar challenges in identity development shaped by bilingualism/biculturalism. Student writers are encouraged to work with the lyrical aspects of any literary genre (fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction and playwriting) in any support or platform with an experimental approach on literature. Participants will experience the freedom of writing in a safe bilingual peer collaborative learning environment and will value the significance of the bilingual mind in the exploration of the possibilities of language, and in relation to Wittgenstein’s well-known aphorism: “the limits of language mean the limits of my world”.

Course Goals / Learning Objectives

Students can expect to develop a conceptual framework of ideas and approaches that are involved in the production and critique of bilingual writing. Participants will exercise their ability to engage with the selected readings accompanied by academic reading strategies, and to express a personal perspective based on informed arguments. Students are will be expected to understand the significance of on identity as a concept and the diverse ways in which it is relevant in the writing practice. Participants will be encouraged to experiment with form and mediation in order to explore innovative ways of textual production.

Content and Evaluation


Daily group discussions will be held based on readings from selected passages from:

  • Frances R. Aparicio and Susana Chávez-Silverman, Tropicalizations: Transcultural Representations of Latinidad, 1997
  • Denise Chávez, A Taco Testimony: Meditations on Family, Food and Culture, 2006
  • Leo R. Chávez, The Latino Threat: Constructing Immigrants, Citizens, and the Nation, 2008
  • Susana Chávez-Silverman, Killer Crónicas: Bilingual Memories, 2004
  • Isabelle de Courtivron, Lives in Translation: Bilingual Writers on Identity and Creativity, 2009
  • Cherríe L. Moraga, Loving in the War Years: Lo Que Nunca Pasó por Sus Labios (Bilingual Edition), 2000
  • Cherríe L. Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, 1967
  • Richard Rodríguez, Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodríguez, 1982
  • Mike Sell, The Avant-Garde: Race, Religion, War, 2011
  • William Zinsser, On Writing Well, 1976


2 texts derived from group prompts; 1 revision exercise with a final presentation

Assignment 1

  • Who has played an influential role in your life? The piece should result in a focused biographical text, with a character in a proper narrative arc, or a strong distinctive voice or speaker. The primary sources will come from research: experiential, textual, and/or oral. Go out into the world to find the subject of your piece. (2 pages)

Assignment 2

  • I don’t know why I remember __________.This piece should link the personal to the social, making an experience relevant to a broader audience by connecting it to larger social concerns, and with your reflection on that period with the benefit of distance and time. The primary source will be individual experience. (2 pages) Final Rewrite

Revision Exercise

Revision exercise of either assignments 1 or 2 for a revision of 3-4 pages. A full-scaled, noholds-barred, rethinking of a previous project. It will be followed by a final presentation of the revision process.

Course Outline

Week 1 - Introduction to Bilingual Writing

  • What is Bilingual Writing?
  • Conditions that give rise to the Bilingual Speaker
  • Genre: poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, playwriting
  • Immigration and Colonialism
  • Assignment 1

Week 2 - Telling My Story

  • The Bilingual Experience
  • Identity and Creativity
  • Responding critically to creative writing
  • Language and the Conceptualization of the World
  • Assignment 2

Week 3 - Postproduction in Bilingual Writing

  • Is Translation a Bad Thing?
  • Editing vs Revision
  • Revision strategies
  • Ready to Publish?
  • Final Presentations

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