Reading List: Alexie

Key Terms:

  • Food Studies
  • Labor
  • Immigration

Secondary / Theoretical Works:

  • Brady, Mary Pat.  “‘So Your Social is Real?’ Vernacular Theorists and Economic Transformation”  Contemporary U.S. Latino/a Literary Criticism, edited by: Lyn Di Iorio Sandín and Richard Perez.  Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2007. pp. 209-226. EBSCOhost.
  • Folsom, Michael B.  “Upton Sinclair’s Escape from The Jungle: The Narrative Strategy and Suppressed Conclusion of America’s First Proletarian Novel”  Prospects, vol. 4, 1979.  pp. 237-226.
  • Gerber, Larry G. “Shifting Perspectives on American Exceptionalism: Recent Literature on American Labor Relations and Labor Politics”  Journal of American Studies, Vol. 31, No. 2, 1997, pp.  253–274. JSTOR.
  • Hapke, Laura.  “The Usable Past”  Labor’s Text: The Worker in American Fiction.  Rutgers University Press, New Jersey, 2001.  pp. 285-295.

Academic Journal:

  • MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the U.S.


Over the summer, as I had begun to shape rough ideas about my Senior Thesis subject, I quickly understood that I wanted to connect it to Food Studies in some way.  Typically, when food is mentioned in literature and in literary theory, it is through the lens of the culinary dimension of food. While this element is important to pay attention to, I also recognized that this was not the type of lens I wanted to use to explore food in literature.  Eventually, I came across Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel, The Jungle.  My exposure to this novel’s content and learning about its impact led me towards questioning the overall presence of food industry labor in American literature.  My attention was thus turned to what I consider to be the contemporary version of the concerns Sinclair raises in his novel- exploitation of Latinx/ Chicanx migrant and immigrant labor in food cultivation.  Knowing that I wanted to learn more about this ethnic group’s experiences in labor, I turned to MELUS, which I had learned about last week in class. I was able to find compelling articles published in the past year that I want to read to help build up my knowledge and clarity in this Thesis process.  Additionally, I made sure my key words could apply to the food labor narratives of Sinclair’s time and those of today. By using my key words to help lead my research and making sure I was still within the literary studies discipline, I found the Secondary texts listed above.

Secondary texts aside, compiling a list of literary texts that explore contemporary food labor has proved to be no easy task.  In the 112 years since The Jungle was published, there has not been another literary text about labor in food that has matched the widespread attention and shock that Sinclair’s work managed to capture.  This had come up during a conversation I had with Professor Phillips, who I asked for help in finding a stronger connection between Food Studies and English. This conversation led me to the nonfiction works, Tomatoland (2011) by Barry Estabrook and Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser (2001).  While neither are literary texts, they detail modern labor conditions and exploitations in a manner that is similar to Sinclair, and I would like to connect the strong public reactions these exposé-like books created to the aftermath of The Jungle’s publication.  In terms of literary works detailing contemporary immigrant / migrant labor conditions, I was able find a collection of short stories, Breathing, In Dust, by Tim Hernandez.  Published in 2010, the collection is much more obscure than The Jungle, however from what I have read so far, its narrative is very similar to Sinclair’s in its ability to expose the reality of being an immigrant laborer facing exploitation and harsh working conditions through literature.  Using these texts, writers, and my own emerging ideas, I am hoping to carve out a solid proposal by the end of the semester.

Blog #3