CoursesCourses for the American Literature & Culture Major

The Department of English offers a wide variety of courses at the general and advanced levels. Courses are divided into the following sections:

0-99 Lower Division Courses (Freshman, Sophomore)
100-199
Upper Division Courses (Junior, Senior)
200 & above
Graduate Courses

Fall 2022

Lower Division Courses in English (Freshman, Sophomore)

Please note that these courses are intended as preparation for the major in American Literature and Culture. Limited space may be available for students wishing to take these courses for GE or Diversity credit.

Introduction to American Cultures

English 11 / Prof. Silva

This course is a gateway to the American Literature and Culture major. In a time when ideas of American exceptionalism, supremacy, and justice are as contested as they have ever been, our goal will be to examine what “America” and what the “United States” mean in national, hemispheric, and global contexts. Using interdisciplinary approaches, we will consider the literary and cultural currents that shaped how those terms were used over five centuries of colonial history and how they continue to shape literary and cultural studies. The key terms that will shape our discussions are origins (the making of a colony; the making of a nation; the making of culture), identities (the relation between individual, community, and culture), and media (how we access the past and how we narrate for the future).

 

This course fulfills a preparatory requirement for the American Literature and Culture major.

Topics in American Culture: Fever!

English 87 / Prof. Looby

In light of our COVID-19 pandemic we will focus on a famous earlier public health emergency, the Philadelphia Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793. Over the summer and fall of that year, roughly a tenth of the population of the city—then the nation’s capital—perished from what we now know to be a viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes, but which was then thought to be caused either by putrid vapors or physical contact. The epidemic produced journalism, medical treatises, poems, novels (Charles Brockden Brown’s Arthur Mervyn notably), and one of the most important early Black political publications, a defense of the African American community after it had been publicly slandered. The epidemic has recently been revisited by contemporary writers including John Edgar Wideman (“Fever”) and Laurie Halse Anderson (the young adult novel Fever 1793). We will examine this event and its textual archive from the perspectives of literary study and cultural history, and also using methods from the medical humanities, urban humanities, and critical race theory.

 

This course will be reserved for American Literature and Culture majors on first pass and during summer orientation. Non-majors hoping to take the course for GE or Diversity credit may enroll after September 14.

 

Upper Division Writing, Research, and Practicum Opportunities

Please note that these courses do not satisfy any ALC major requirements; however, they are valuable opportunities for upper-division credit that ALC students may wish to explore.

Writing in the English Major: Analytical Writing

English 110A / Prof. Stephan

In this course, designed specifically for English majors but now open to students from all majors for the first time, you will learn to build on your skills and abilities as a writer of literary and cultural analyses. You’ll find ways to ask richer literary questions, develop more nuanced analyses of complex texts, and shape your own voice as a writer. We’ll focus on literary arguments and begin with this basic question: what constitutes a good, rich, complex question in literary analysis? What makes a substantial topic that might lead to a top-notch persuasive argument? Because good writing (and thus good argumentation) is also a process, we will practice creation, revision, contemplation, and editing, as well as seeking and giving feedback. Throughout the course, we will workshop writing exercises with the goal of making ourselves and others more comfortable and more successful as writers of good academic prose.

 

Not open for credit to students with credit for English 110T.

This course counts as an elective for the Professional Writing Minor. 

Westwind Journal

Undergraduate Practicum in English
English M192.1 / Prof. Wilson

This course is for the staff of Westwind, UCLA’s Journal for the Arts. If you are interested in joining the Westwind staff, please familiarize yourself with the journal at www.westwind.ucla.edu, and plan to attend the first Fall meeting (as listed in the Schedule of Classes)!

 

Upper Division Courses in English

ORIGINS – Beginnings, Events, and Trajectories

The Intimacy of Queer Life in Early Queer Literature

Queer Literatures and Cultures, 1850 to 1970
English M101B / Prof. Little

From the elegiac and tragic to the comic, this course begins with Walt Whitman and ends (most likely) with lesbian pulp fiction. The course surveys not only some of the most groundbreaking queer texts—novels, poems, plays (sometimes in the form of film)—written between 1860 and the late 1960s but also the intriguing personalities/authors behind so many of them.  Our course attends to how this literature and these personages resisted systemic efforts to disappear, silence, and erase queer bodies, voices, and subjectivities. Without resorting to autobiography (at least in any straightforward sense), the queer literature produced during this period makes emphatically evident the intimate relationship between life and narrative: importantly, literature in this era was far less a way of reporting on one’s life than a way of laying claim to one. Queer literature was indeed a way to demonstrate and perform the fact that queer folk, like non-queer folk, had intimate lives. This course serves as a literary and cultural introduction to the period under consideration as well as to some of the ideas that have come to shape our own contemporary queer epistemologies and sensibilities.

 

Not open to students who took English M101B, LGBTS M101B, or Gender Studies M105B in Fall 2018, 2019, 2020, or 2021.

Early African American Literature [PRE-1848 COURSE]

English M104A / Prof. Yarborough

Survey of African American literature from the 18th century to World War I, including oral and written forms (folktales, spirituals, sermons; fiction, autobiography, poetry).  Authors covered include Phillis Wheatley, David Walker, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Frances Harper, Charles Chesnutt, and W. E. B. Du Bois.  The class will focus on the historical and cultural contexts of the works as well as on diverse strategies for engaging formal aspects of the assigned materials.  Requirements include attendance and participation in section, a term paper, and a final exam.

 

Qualifies as a pre-1848 course for American Literature and Culture majors.

Indigenous Literatures of North America

Studies in North American and Indigenous Literature
English 106 / Prof. Mo’e’hahne

In this course, we will be introduced to the Indigenous literatures of North America by reading fiction and poetry. We will consider how authors imagine Indigenous lifeworlds, affective and embodied experiences, and genders and sexualities in ways that index and transcend historic and ongoing settler-imperial violence. We will examine the ways that authors craft decolonial forms of memory, affect, intergenerational connection, and relationships with more-than-human life. We will ask, how do Indigenous literatures represent significant spaces of cultural, ecological, feminist, and queer theorizing with the power to enact a decolonial present and future?

Exiles, Migrants, and Refugees

Studies in Postcolonial Literature
English 131 / Prof. Goyal

This course focuses on twenty-first century representations of race and migration in a range of media (including short stories, novels, poetry, documentary film, music videos, and journalism). We live in an era where challenges to mobility are starker than ever, part of growing global inequality and state violence. How do contemporary writers from the US and the postcolony generate new forms of cultural memory, re-imagine the language of crisis, and generate new ideas of human rights? What does it mean to say that the border is everywhere? How do notions of identity, belonging, and citizenship change in an era of conflict and war? The course explores connections across camp and colony, prison and plantation, checkpoint and cage to analyze artistic visions of justice and redress. Works by Octavia Butler, NoViolet Bulawayo, Teju Cole, Valeria Luiselli, Mohsin Hamid, and Ling Ma encourage us to think broadly and rigorously about the varied meanings of individual and collective identity, self-making, nationhood, and citizenship.

 

Students who have not yet completed the English 10 series, including students outside of the English major, may request permission to enroll. Contact the English undergraduate advising office via MyUCLA MessageCenter for enrollment assistance.

CLASS CANCELLED
Colonial Beginnings of American Literature

English 166A / Prof. Colacurcio

Class cancelled for Fall 2022.

American Literature, 1865 to 1900

English 170A / Prof. Looby

After the Civil War American literature entered a period of ferment. In this course we will study American literary expression after the war and up to the beginning of the twentieth century, tracing lines of development as it underwent radical changes. We’ll begin by reading De Forest’s Civil War novel, Miss Ravenel’s Conversion. At the center of the course will be a sustained reading of a cluster of writers who, in the mid-1880s, participated in a collective literary undertaking sponsored by the popular Century Magazine, an effort to review the war itself and unify the nation in its aftermath. James serialized The Bostonians there; Howells’s The Rise of Silas Lapham too; excerpts from Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as well. African American writer Charles Chesnutt tried to contribute to the Century at this time but was rebuffed: we will read him, too. Women writers of various stripes—sentimental and conventional, caustic and rebellious—came to the fore in this period: we will read Chopin’s The Awakening and Jewett’s The Country of the Pointed Firs.

IDENTITIES – Places, Communities, and Environments

The Intimacy of Queer Life in Early Queer Literature

Queer Literatures and Cultures, 1850 to 1970
English M101B / Prof. Little

From the elegiac and tragic to the comic, this course begins with Walt Whitman and ends (most likely) with lesbian pulp fiction. The course surveys not only some of the most groundbreaking queer texts—novels, poems, plays (sometimes in the form of film)—written between 1860 and the late 1960s but also the intriguing personalities/authors behind so many of them.  Our course attends to how this literature and these personages resisted systemic efforts to disappear, silence, and erase queer bodies, voices, and subjectivities. Without resorting to autobiography (at least in any straightforward sense), the queer literature produced during this period makes emphatically evident the intimate relationship between life and narrative: importantly, literature in this era was far less a way of reporting on one’s life than a way of laying claim to one. Queer literature was indeed a way to demonstrate and perform the fact that queer folk, like non-queer folk, had intimate lives. This course serves as a literary and cultural introduction to the period under consideration as well as to some of the ideas that have come to shape our own contemporary queer epistemologies and sensibilities.

 

Not open to students who took English M101B, LGBTS M101B, or Gender Studies M105B in Fall 2018, 2019, 2020, or 2021.

Early African American Literature [PRE-1848 COURSE]

English M104A / Prof. Yarborough

Survey of African American literature from the 18th century to World War I, including oral and written forms (folktales, spirituals, sermons; fiction, autobiography, poetry).  Authors covered include Phillis Wheatley, David Walker, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Frances Harper, Charles Chesnutt, and W. E. B. Du Bois.  The class will focus on the historical and cultural contexts of the works as well as on diverse strategies for engaging formal aspects of the assigned materials.  Requirements include attendance and participation in section, a term paper, and a final exam.

 

Qualifies as a pre-1848 course for American Literature and Culture majors.

Chicana/o/x Literature since el Movimiento, 1970s to Present

English M105C / Prof. Perez-Torres

This class surveys Chicanx literature from the 1960’s onward to examine the various meanings (social, sexual, racial, ethnic, cultural, political, economic) evoked by the term Chicanx. We’ll use this term because it complicates a simple binary gender identification. The class analyzes literary texts as cultural expressions of lived Chicanx experiences. These experiences are one legacy of global European expansion beginning in the 15th century. Our focus will be the thematic and formal ways that Chicanx literature engages this legacy: social inequalities, collective political action, oppositional consciousness, gender and sexual identification, class consciousness, aesthetic production, and racial stratification. The goals of the class will be: 1) to express oneself in a clear and organized way; 2) to analyze literary material critically; 3) to generate original ideas by synthesizing different critical thoughts and analyses; 4) to learn about Chicanx life and culture.

Indigenous Literatures of North America

Studies in North American and Indigenous Literature
English 106 / Prof. Mo’e’hahne

In this course, we will be introduced to the Indigenous literatures of North America by reading fiction and poetry. We will consider how authors imagine Indigenous lifeworlds, affective and embodied experiences, and genders and sexualities in ways that index and transcend historic and ongoing settler-imperial violence. We will examine the ways that authors craft decolonial forms of memory, affect, intergenerational connection, and relationships with more-than-human life. We will ask, how do Indigenous literatures represent significant spaces of cultural, ecological, feminist, and queer theorizing with the power to enact a decolonial present and future?

California Literature

Literatures of California and American West
English 117 / Prof. Allmendinger

California has always been a land of contestation, ruled by different nations and colonial empires; populated by various races, cultures, religious institutions, and commerical enterprises, each with their own conflicting claims to the region.  The literature about California falls into one of two categories.  Some works feature a utopian narrative, presenting California as a region with an ideal climate and valuable natural resources, as well as the site of the entertainment industry—a place where dreams come true.  According to dystopian narratives, California has been occupied by a succession of foreign oppressors, and remains a state divided by race wars and debates over immigration.  It is associated in the cultural imaginary with overpriced real estate and superficial celebrities; afflicted by droughts, earthquakes, and other forms of apocalyptic weather.  The authors and filmmakers in this course cover major chapters in the history of California, including the Mission era, the Gold Rush, the rise of the urban West, the Depression and World War II, the Civil Rights movement, and the new millennium.  There will be several short writing assignments and no in-class exams.  Regular participation is mandatory.

Exiles, Migrants, and Refugees

Studies in Postcolonial Literature
English 131 / Prof. Goyal

This course focuses on twenty-first century representations of race and migration in a range of media (including short stories, novels, poetry, documentary film, music videos, and journalism). We live in an era where challenges to mobility are starker than ever, part of growing global inequality and state violence. How do contemporary writers from the US and the postcolony generate new forms of cultural memory, re-imagine the language of crisis, and generate new ideas of human rights? What does it mean to say that the border is everywhere? How do notions of identity, belonging, and citizenship change in an era of conflict and war? The course explores connections across camp and colony, prison and plantation, checkpoint and cage to analyze artistic visions of justice and redress. Works by Octavia Butler, NoViolet Bulawayo, Teju Cole, Valeria Luiselli, Mohsin Hamid, and Ling Ma encourage us to think broadly and rigorously about the varied meanings of individual and collective identity, self-making, nationhood, and citizenship.

 

Students who have not yet completed the English 10 series, including students outside of the English major, may request permission to enroll. Contact the English undergraduate advising office via MyUCLA MessageCenter for enrollment assistance.

Technology and Racial Difference in the Age of Colonialism [PRE-1848 COURSE]

Transatlantic Literatures and Cultures
English 133.2 / Prof. Mazzaferro

This course uses a series of colonial contact scenes centered on technology to investigate early ideas about racial difference. We’ll survey the many early American reenactments of Francis Bacon’s 1620 claim that the invention of printing, gunpowder, and the compass gave Europeans the right to rule the world like “Gods.” Reading works by Thomas Hariot, José de Acosta, John Smith, Richard Ligon, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Banneker, Phillis Wheatley, and Olaudah Equiano, we’ll explore how Europeans used their apparently superior technology—“talking” books, otherworldly bullets, and mystifying scientific instruments—to subjugate Native Americans and enslaved Africans. How could an acquired cultural trait like technological proficiency authorize claims about innate racial superiority? How was the political hierarchy built atop these technological disparities informed by religious ideas about which groups God had cursed or blessed? And how did Indigenous and African knowledges undermine the colonizer fantasy of scientific, spiritual, and political dominance?

 

Qualifies as a pre-1848 course for American Literature and Culture majors. This course will be restricted to American Literature & Culture majors on first pass, and will open up to English majors on second pass.

Tennessee Williams: On Stage and Film

Individual Authors
English 139.2 / Prof. Stefans

This course examines the career of one of America’s great dramatists, Tennessee Williams (1911-1983), starting from his earliest work in the 1930s through the most celebrated period of his writing — The Glass Menagerie (1944), A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955) and others — and ending with a look at his last period in which he failed to achieve much critical or commercial success. We will also look at some of the great films that were based on his plays starring such actors as Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor, Katherine Hepburn and Montgomery Clift and directed by a string of luminaries including Elia Kazan, Richard Brooks and John Huston.

Major American Authors [PRE-1848 COURSE]

English 168 / Prof. Mazzaferro

This course offers a survey of works by major American writers, from the colonial period through the nineteenth century. Reading across a variety of genres—including settlement narratives, poetry, sermons, autobiographies, short stories, and novels—we’ll track how an American literary tradition emerged in response to new intellectual developments and major political crises. We’ll explore the formal strategies writers used to craft a distinctive “American” identity amidst religious turmoil, scientific enlightenment, and the violent confrontations of colonization, revolution, and the civil war that would eventually end slavery in the United States. Readings will include seventeenth-century texts by John Smith, John Winthrop, and Anne Bradstreet; eighteenth-century texts by Jonathan Edwards, Benjamin Franklin, Phillis Wheatley, Samson Occom, and Hannah Webster Foster; and nineteenth-century texts by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, and Herman Melville.

 

Qualifies as a pre-1848 course for American Literature and Culture majors.

Contemporary American Poetry

English 173C / Prof. Mullen

Full description coming soon.

American Fiction since 1945

English 174B / Prof. Perez-Torres

Study of American novels and short stories since end of World War II.

US Fiction after the Cold War

Contemporary American Fiction
English 174C.1 / Prof. Huehls

This course examines recent trends in contemporary American fiction, focusing in particular on the past thirty years of literary output from U.S. novelists. As this literary period is nascent and in constant flux, we’ll be particularly interested in establishing its thematic and formal departures from postmodernism. The class will examine the period’s critique of its postmodern predecessors and will then investigate various themes and techniques that contemporary authors engage to distinguish themselves and their literary moment. Readings include work by Chris Kraus, Colson Whitehead, Jennifer Egan, and Ling Ma.

Contemporary American Short Fiction

Contemporary American Fiction
English 174C.2/ Prof. Torres

An examination of the diversity and evolution of American short fiction over the last forty years. We’ll read stories about work, death, sex, tech, race, place, love, gender, class, climate, catastrophe, religion, justice, and more. Narratives will vary in length from flash fiction to novellas, with a primary focus on the short story form. By examining short stories historically, critically, and aesthetically, students will learn how to interpret and critique short fiction as a reflection of our contemporary society and collective humanity. Assignments will be both creative and analytical. Students will deepen their critical skills through essay writing, as well as craft their own short stories.

Ethnic Comedy, Family Drama

Interdisciplinary Studies in American Culture
English 177.2 / Prof. Decker

We examine the intersection of family and ethnicity as staged in comedy and drama in order to consider how literary and TV expressions of laughter, love, and emotional conflict have both reinforced the nuclear family ideal and challenged it by reimagining the American family variously (as single-parent and female-headed; as multi-generational and ethnic). We ask if there’s more to comedy than how many times it makes you laugh, or if accounting for changing times and mores can somehow compensate for jokes that age badly. Situation comedies include Father Knows Best, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Fresh Off the Boat, and Black-ish; TV dramedies include Desperate Housewives, Devious Maids, and Louie. Dramatic fiction and autobiography (The Godfather, The Woman Warrior, Autobiography of Malcolm X) will be paired with comic novels (Portnoy’s Complaint, Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen, The Sellout). Telenovela-inspired Chicana literature (Caramelo and So Far from God) will be read alongside TV dramedies adapted from Latin American telenovelas (Ugly Betty and Jane the Virgin).

MEDIA – Aesthetics, Genres, and Technologies

 

Experimental Games

Topics in Genre Studies, Interdisciplinary Studies, and Critical Theory
English 129 / Prof. Snelson

For example, consider Dungeons & Dragons. This once-fringe role-playing game has remained a pervasive force in tabletop gaming since its publication in 1974. However, in recent years, its popularity has skyrocketed across a range of media through edited podcasts (like The Adventure Zone), streaming actual plays (like Critical Role), video games (like Baldur’s Gate), and TV series (like Stranger Things), among other genres from fan fiction and xerox zines to social media art and webcomics. In this lineage of transmedia storytelling, this course will consider ten experimental games “exempli gratia” (e.g., or, for example) in emergent genres. Potential examples include: AI Dungeon, What Remains of Edith Finch, The Quiet Year, the historical avant-gardes, Beat SaberGetting Over It with Bennett Foddy, the Oulipo, Alan Wake, Queers in Love at the End of the World, Katamari Damacy, Elden Ring, Surrealism, Dialect, Doki Doki Literature Club, and unexpected works that may emerge over the quarter and in collaborative conversations. Each example will spur a range of critical and scholarly experiments into the form, format, genre, and framework of each game. No previous experience with games or expanded media necessary. 

Tennessee Williams: On Stage and Film

Individual Authors
English 139.2 / Prof. Stefans

This course examines the career of one of America’s great dramatists, Tennessee Williams (1911-1983), starting from his earliest work in the 1930s through the most celebrated period of his writing — The Glass Menagerie (1944), A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955) and others — and ending with a look at his last period in which he failed to achieve much critical or commercial success. We will also look at some of the great films that were based on his plays starring such actors as Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor, Katherine Hepburn and Montgomery Clift and directed by a string of luminaries including Elia Kazan, Richard Brooks and John Huston.

Major American Authors [PRE-1848 COURSE]

English 168 / Prof. Mazzaferro

This course offers a survey of works by major American writers, from the colonial period through the nineteenth century. Reading across a variety of genres—including settlement narratives, poetry, sermons, autobiographies, short stories, and novels—we’ll track how an American literary tradition emerged in response to new intellectual developments and major political crises. We’ll explore the formal strategies writers used to craft a distinctive “American” identity amidst religious turmoil, scientific enlightenment, and the violent confrontations of colonization, revolution, and the civil war that would eventually end slavery in the United States. Readings will include seventeenth-century texts by John Smith, John Winthrop, and Anne Bradstreet; eighteenth-century texts by Jonathan Edwards, Benjamin Franklin, Phillis Wheatley, Samson Occom, and Hannah Webster Foster; and nineteenth-century texts by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, and Herman Melville.

 

Qualifies as a pre-1848 course for American Literature and Culture majors.

American Literature, 1865 to 1900

English 170A / Prof. Looby

After the Civil War American literature entered a period of ferment. In this course we will study American literary expression after the war and up to the beginning of the twentieth century, tracing lines of development as it underwent radical changes. We’ll begin by reading De Forest’s Civil War novel, Miss Ravenel’s Conversion. At the center of the course will be a sustained reading of a cluster of writers who, in the mid-1880s, participated in a collective literary undertaking sponsored by the popular Century Magazine, an effort to review the war itself and unify the nation in its aftermath. James serialized The Bostonians there; Howells’s The Rise of Silas Lapham too; excerpts from Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as well. African American writer Charles Chesnutt tried to contribute to the Century at this time but was rebuffed: we will read him, too. Women writers of various stripes—sentimental and conventional, caustic and rebellious—came to the fore in this period: we will read Chopin’s The Awakening and Jewett’s The Country of the Pointed Firs.

Contemporary American Poetry

English 173C / Prof. Mullen

Full description coming soon.

American Fiction since 1945

English 174B / Prof. Perez-Torres

Study of American novels and short stories since end of World War II.

US Fiction after the Cold War

Contemporary American Fiction
English 174C.1 / Prof. Huehls

This course examines recent trends in contemporary American fiction, focusing in particular on the past thirty years of literary output from U.S. novelists. As this literary period is nascent and in constant flux, we’ll be particularly interested in establishing its thematic and formal departures from postmodernism. The class will examine the period’s critique of its postmodern predecessors and will then investigate various themes and techniques that contemporary authors engage to distinguish themselves and their literary moment. Readings include work by Chris Kraus, Colson Whitehead, Jennifer Egan, and Ling Ma.

Contemporary American Short Fiction

Contemporary American Fiction
English 174C.2/ Prof. Torres

An examination of the diversity and evolution of American short fiction over the last forty years. We’ll read stories about work, death, sex, tech, race, place, love, gender, class, climate, catastrophe, religion, justice, and more. Narratives will vary in length from flash fiction to novellas, with a primary focus on the short story form. By examining short stories historically, critically, and aesthetically, students will learn how to interpret and critique short fiction as a reflection of our contemporary society and collective humanity. Assignments will be both creative and analytical. Students will deepen their critical skills through essay writing, as well as craft their own short stories.

Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

Interdisciplinary Studies in American Culture
English 177.1 / Prof. Grossman

This course will explore in depth Mark Twain’s extraordinary 1889 satirical historical novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. As the novel’s title announces, we will be reading a tale about the transmigration of a nineteenth-century Yankee industrial leader back to mythic medieval times. Twain’s novel mixes up a host of genres of interest to us: romances, including queer ones; slave narratives; knightly adventure stories; political and economic satire; dystopian science-fiction; and the historical novel, including that genre’s relation to the indigenous peoples of America. Meanwhile, as we will also investigate, through it all Twain is laughing: how can readers of a book possibly grasp the era before the printing press? Please understand in advance that there is a heavy reading and writing load in this class. Lively class participation is expected.

Ethnic Comedy, Family Drama

Interdisciplinary Studies in American Culture
English 177.2 / Prof. Decker

We examine the intersection of family and ethnicity as staged in comedy and drama in order to consider how literary and TV expressions of laughter, love, and emotional conflict have both reinforced the nuclear family ideal and challenged it by reimagining the American family variously (as single-parent and female-headed; as multi-generational and ethnic). We ask if there’s more to comedy than how many times it makes you laugh, or if accounting for changing times and mores can somehow compensate for jokes that age badly. Situation comedies include Father Knows Best, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Fresh Off the Boat, and Black-ish; TV dramedies include Desperate Housewives, Devious Maids, and Louie. Dramatic fiction and autobiography (The Godfather, The Woman Warrior, Autobiography of Malcolm X) will be paired with comic novels (Portnoy’s Complaint, Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen, The Sellout). Telenovela-inspired Chicana literature (Caramelo and So Far from God) will be read alongside TV dramedies adapted from Latin American telenovelas (Ugly Betty and Jane the Virgin).

 

Reading Like a Writer: A Short Story Intensive

Topics in Literature, circa 1850 – present
English 179 / Prof. Huneven

In this class, we will learn to read short stories with a writer’s eye to enlarge our understanding of that difficult, capacious form and thus enrich our own fiction writing. Students will read 10 assigned stories, each at least three times: once for pleasure, once critically, and once more, to approach the deep familiarity in which we begin to glimpse the writer at work, making decisions and solving problems.

 

At the end of each reading, students will write a short paragraph about elements they noticed/admired. These 3-part “reading sheets” are due by class time each week. In class, teams of students will present the assigned story.

 

Student fiction writers will be provided with weekly prompts.

 

We will also turn to contemporary practitioners and critics of the form to see how they read and analyze stories. Students are graded on their reading sheets (30%), class participation and presentations (40%), and final project, an essay on a story chosen by the student (30%).

Senior/Capstone Seminars

 

Immigrant Stories: Literary and Cinematic

Topics in 20th and 21st Century American Literature
English 183C / Prof. Decker

This course examines literary and cinematic representations of the American immigrant experience over the last century. To live between cultures, to experience the confounding processes of racialization and assimilation, to labor to translate one’s deepest interiority into a foreign language––all these aspects of migration make a new imaginative relationship with the world a necessity for the migrant and, as such, are fertile ground for literary exploration and cinematic expression. In this class, we study novels and movies as distinct mediums even as we attend to their affinities, such as an impulse toward narrative storytelling. Among our films, one is from the silent era (Chaplin’s The Immigrant); among our novels, one is a wordless story of sequenced, illustrated panels (Tan’s The Arrival). Other novels include Eugenides’ Middlesex, Ozeki’s A Tale for a Time Being, Herrera’s Signs Preceding the End of the World. Other movies: Coppola’s The Godfather, Nair’s The Namesake, Fukunaga’s Sin Nombre.

 

Enrollment will be restricted to American Literature & Culture seniors on first pass. English seniors may enroll during second pass, space permitting.

Queer Indigenous Literatures

Topics in Gender and Sexuality
English M191E / Prof. Mo’e’hahne

This course considers the intersections of queerness and Indigeneity in the Indigenous literatures of North America. Reading fiction, poetry, performance, and critical theory, we will trace the ways that queer Indigenous literatures craft decolonial conceptions of gender, sexuality, the erotic, kinship, and futurity. We will ask, what roles have queer Indigenous literatures played in histories of Indigenous art and critical thought in North America? We will consider how queer Indigenous literatures represent vital spaces for enacting anticolonial politics, ethics, and relationships with the more-than-human world.

Enrollment will be restricted to American Literature & Culture seniors on first pass. English seniors may enroll during second pass, space permitting.