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

Spring 2021

The course distribution reflected on this page applies to American Literature and Culture majors whose declared major term is Fall 2018 or later. If you declared the American Literature and Culture major prior to Fall 2018, please consult with a Department of English undergraduate advisor when selecting major courses.

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. McMillan

This course utilizes an interdisciplinary approach to examine U.S. culture writ large, specifically “America” itself, as an imagined and often-contested idea, a trenchant source of belonging and exclusion, and a fecund site of aesthetic and cultural production. We will explore the manifestation of these ideals across a variety of contemporary literary and media-based forms—including poetry, visual culture, film, performance, photography, music, and art. In doing so, we will examine how artists, writers, and musicians perform “America” and/or “the American dream” and their relationship to it. The class centers on seven keywords to delineate different ways to approach how America is imagined: performance, citizenship, Indian, racial icon, class, queer, and sound. We will study newer writing by poets Claudia Rankine and Tommy Pico alongside scholarship in performance studies, queer theory, American studies, and visual culture. In addition, we will analyze music videos, performance art, and filmic representation in efforts to analyze how identity, culture, and regionalism are staged. By situating the study of American culture in an interdisciplinary context, this course encourages students to think both rigorously and expansively about the varied meanings of citizenship, nationhood, borders, and belonging.

 

This course is a required preparation course for the American Literature and Culture major. Students in other majors may enroll for Foundations or Diversity credit.

Castaways, Captives, and Converts

Topics in American Culture
English 87 / Prof. Mazzaferro

This seminar explores three quintessential New World experiences: being shipwrecked in an unfamiliar environment, becoming the captive of a foreign culture, and converting to a new religion. These experiences are frequently linked in early American literature: castaways are taken captive; captives are forcibly relocated; and the victims of these traumas use new spiritual frameworks to make sense of them. We’ll examine both the castaway episodes and Native American captivities endured by European settlers and the dislocation and enslavement they inflicted on indigenous and African people. And we’ll compare Europeans’ conversion experiences with those of non-Europeans, for whom Christianity could seem either to sanction an oppressive status quo or to offer new sources of dignity and power. Reimagining colonial America as a space of spectacular suffering and personal transformation, we’ll consider Christianity’s paradoxical take on liberty and slavery; the connections between castawayism and colonialism; and the role of faith, race, and gender in narrating tragedy.

 

This course is a required preparation course for the American Literature and Culture major. Students in other majors may enroll during second passl, space permitting, for Foundations or Diversity credit.

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.

If you declared the ALC major prior to Fall 2018, certain courses listed here may be applied as major electives. Contact the English undergraduate advising office for more information.

Public Readers, Public Writers: Writing about Books for a 21st-Century Audience

English 110C / Prof. Stephan

Students will learn the art and craft of the book review with a focus on the what, why, and how of literary criticism for a general (rather than for a specifically academic) 21st-century audience, looking at reviews of literary texts from the 18th century to the present, including a case study of a 20th-century novel (Nella Larsen’s Passing) and its contemporary critical reception. We’ll examine the recent developments in literary and cultural criticism that have led to the emergence of internet publications dedicated to those forms, including sites like Public Books and the Los Angeles Review of Books, as well as the ways in which national and global periodicals have successfully adapted their book review sections to reach a wider internet-based audience. Finally, we’ll look at the ways in which contemporary book reviews encompass other forms of culture, especially visual and digital culture. Students will compile a portfolio of criticism and other writing, as well as a critical analysis of the role of cultural criticism in historical and current contexts.

 

This course is eligible for credit on 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 come to the first Fall meeting on Tuesday, January 5, 2021!

UCLAPoem

Undergraduate Practicum in English
English M192.2 / Prof. Wilson

This course is for students in UCLAPoem, which creates and sponsors poetry readings, events, and activities throughout the year, as well as plans and directs an annual UCLAPoetry Festival every spring quarter. If you’re interested in poetry (or just curious about it), come to the first Fall meeting on Thursday, January 7, 2021!

Upper Division Courses in English

Courses that meet the American Literature and Culture major requirement for pre-1848 material are marked with an asterisk.

ORIGINS – Beginnings, Events, and Trajectories

Colonial Beginnings of American Literature**

English 166A / Prof. Mazzaferro

This course offers a survey of colonial American literatures and cultures. While many of our texts were written in colonies that would become part of the United States, the course is not a literary history of the U.S. Instead, we’ll read works from the Chesapeake, New England, and the Caribbean on their own terms, stressing their local, regional, and Atlantic contexts and recovering the contingencies that made the new nation far from inevitable. Each week will focus on a pair of typical early American figures: the explorer, the native, the castaway, the captive, the convert, the heretic, the preacher, the witch, the master, the slave. Tackling a range of genres—settlement reportage, sermons, natural histories, political pamphlets, slave narratives, poetry—we’ll explore themes of discovery, indigeneity, puritan theology, imperialism, cultural exchange, and the parallel rise of Enlightenment and slavery. We’ll conclude with a 1767 novel whose mixed-race, gender-inverted retelling of Robinson Crusoe recaps these themes by reconvening the course’s key character types.

 

**This course fulfills the pre-1848 requirement for the American Literature & Culture major. Enrollment will be limited to American Literature and Culture majors during first pass; English majors may enroll during second pass.

American Literature, 1776 to 1832**

English 166B / Prof. Cohen

This class surveys American literary history from the revolutionary conflict of the 1770s, through the founding of the United States and the early national period, across the expansionist period of the early nineteenth century, and up to the Jacksonian era and the beginnings of the sectional conflict.

We will read a range of different genres (declarations, essays, sketches, drama, travel writing, sentimental fiction, poetry, oratory, and novels) covering major social, political, and intellectual debates of the period: the tensions between liberty and sovereignty and Federalism and states’ rights; the “battle of the sexes” and the rights of women; westward expansion and Indigenous North America; the conflict over slavery; and civil rights and resistance.

**This course fulfills the pre-1848 requirement for the American Literature & Culture major. Enrollment will be limited to American Literature and Culture majors during first pass; English majors may enroll during second pass.

American Literature, 1865 to 1900

English 170A / Prof. Colacurcio

Historical survey of American literature from end of Civil War to beginning of 20th century, including writers such as Howells, James, Twain, Norris, Dickinson, Crane, Chesnutt, Gilman, and others working in modes of realist and naturalist novel, regional and vernacular prose, and poetry.

IDENTITIES – Places, Communities, and Environments

Queer American Autobiography

English M101D / Prof. Looby
Studies in Queer Literatures and Cultures

Autobiography has been essential to the emergence of queer identities in the modern world. Autobiographies, memoirs, and other genres of self-writing have to do with selfhood and subjectivity; gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual and other queer forms of selfhood and subjectivity have often been articulated in such forms and even, it can be argued, were substantially created by autobiographical forms. This course will explore various self-authoring forms (including several diaries, a travel narrative, several memoirs, a medical case study, a graphic novel, and a film). Some of them are queer in ways anyone would recognize, such as Mary MacLane’s remarkable I Await the Devil’s Coming (first published in 1902 under a more innocuous title, The Story of Mary MacLane), Ralph Werther’s Autobiography of an Androgyne (1918), Jonathan Caouette’s film Tarnation (2003), and Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2006). Others will test the boundaries of what we mean by “queer,” for example the Diary of Michael Wigglesworth (1653-1657) and Margaret J. M. Sweat’s autobiographical novel, Ethel’s Love-Life (1859). Careful attention will be given to the ways in which queer gender and sexuality intersect with experiences of race, ethnicity, class, and nationality.

 

Texts:

 

Wigglesworth, Michael. The Diary of Michael Wigglesworth, 1653-1657.

Sweat, Margaret J. M. Ethel’s Love-Life. 1859.

Whitman, Walt. Memoranda During the War. 1875-76.

MacLane, Mary. The Story of Mary MacLane. 1902.

Werther, Ralph. Autobiography of an Androgyne. 1922.

Arenas, Reinaldo. Before Night Falls: A Memoir. 1992.

Caouette, Jonathan. Tarnation. 2004.

Bechdel, Alison. Fun Home. 2006.

African American Literature of 1960s and 1970s

English M104C / Prof. Bradley

This course surveys African American literary expression from the insurgent politics and aesthetics of the Black Arts Movement in the 1960s to the flourishing of Black women’s writing and the birth of hip hop in the 1970s. We shall analyze novels and short stories, poems and plays, essays and songs. Major figures include Lorraine Hansberry, James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Ishmael Reed, Grandmaster Flash, Kurtis Blow, Roxanne Shanté, and more.

Contemporary African American Literature

English M104D / Prof. Goyal

Introductory survey of African American literature from 1980s to present covering range of genres, with emphasis on diversity of perspectives and styles that have emerged over past 30 years or so. Authors may include Toni Morrison, August Wilson, Octavia Butler, Anna Deavere Smith, June Jordan, Charles Johnson, and Rita Dove.

Queer of Color Feminisms

Feminist and Queer Theory
English M126 / Prof. S.K. Lee

This course offers a survey of the rifts and relations between queer theory and feminist theory, particularly paying attention to how race and ethnicity structure the theoretical debates between them. Students will consider the critical interventions of black and women of color feminism, postcolonial feminism, queer of color critique, trans of color critique, and queer crip of color critique to engage ongoing discussions around Western colonial formations of modern subjectivity, care and consent, embodiment, desire, as well as aesthetic and political representation. Queer theory and feminist theory will be approached as distinct yet entangled collaborative modes of thought with theoretical turns that emerge in the wake of racial and ethnic difference.

 

This course qualifies as a critical theory course for students planning to pursue Departmental Honors.

Voices of the Early Black Atlantic**

Literature of the Americas
English 135 / Prof. Silva

This course will investigate how voices of the early Black Atlantic constituted themselves in the literary and historical imagination of the era. Drawing from Anglophone texts written by authors of African and European descent between the seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries, we will consider the various forms that these voices inhabit, their modes of expression, and the tropes and figures associate with them. As the quarter progresses, we will ask ourselves what we mean by voice, by speech, by silence, and by authority—particularly as these relate to a broad constellation of forms, genres, and modes of mediation. We will push the conceptual limits of these seemingly familiar narrative categories, and consider how the literatures of the early Black Atlantic reshape our understanding of the structures and methods of literary study. Please note that a number of the texts for this course include accounts and descriptions of the Atlantic slave trade.

 

**This course satisfies the pre-1848 requirement for the American Literature and Culture major.

Major American Writers

English 168 / Prof. Calder

In this course, we will focus on well-known American authors who seek to change how “America” and American literature are understood. We will attend carefully to histories of settler colonialism and slavery by interrogating the cultural logics that drive these processes and consider how the authors we engage with critique them. Readings will include works by Gloria Anzaldúa, W.E.B. Du Bois, Gil Cuadros, Saidiya Hartman, Rebecca Harding Davis, Audre Lorde, Subcomandante Marcos, Simon Ortiz, Assata Shakur, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Colson Whitehead.

American Poetry, 1900 to 1945

English 173A / Prof. Schmidt

This course will consider American poetry from the turn of the century through the end of World War II. We will read substantial selections from T. S. Eliot, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Marianne Moore, Gertrude Stein, William Carlos Williams, and others. Throughout the quarter, we will pay particular attention to how different authors define and put pressure on the conceptual components of the phrase “Modern American Poetry.” To do so, we will examine how individual poems engage with notions of history, nation, and literary form as we explore a range of approaches to reading, analyzing, and writing about poetry.

American Poetry since 1945

English 173B / Prof. Bradley

This course offers both a survey of major poets and poetic movements in the United States since World War II and close engagement with the work of a handful of contemporary poets. In the first half of the term, we shall chart the course of American poetry since 1945 so as to establish a common foundation and a sense of the evolving critical, aesthetic, and political concerns of the times. We shall read poems by Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg, John Ashbery, Lyn Hejinian, and many others. In the second half of the course, we shall dedicate each week to a book by a living poet. The goal here is to foster a deeper immersion in the work of that poet and a greater appreciation for the craft of composing a sequence of poems. All of these contemporary poets will make virtual visits to our class, which will allow students the opportunity to hear them read and to engage them in discussion. Throughout the term, class meetings will focus on honing different ways of reading poems and writing about them.

 

American Fiction since 1945

English 174B / Prof. Youn

In this course, we will explore a wide range of literary narratives—mainly the novel, but also short story and graphic novel—from 1945 to the present. The main focus of the course is tracing the formal and thematic developments of the novel in the period, paying particular attention to the innovations in the novel’s form to respond to and engage with the social upheavals and transformations in the United States. In the process, students will be able to identify and discuss the themes, concerns, and formal strategies of post-1945 American novels, and situate them within its socio-cultural and historical contexts. Topics of discussion include gender, race, immigrant narrative, technology, environmental issues, and consumerism among others.

Contemporary American Fiction (What’s Happening Now?)

English 174C / 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 Jeffrey Eugenides, Percival Everett, Junot Diaz, and Jennifer Egan.

The Evolution of Anti-racism in Nonfiction Prose and Documentary Film

American Nonfictional Prose
English 175 / Prof. Solomon

 This course will highlight the significant contribution made by writers, visual artists, and filmmakers to the on-going project of anti-racism in U.S. culture. We will trace the development of anti-racist arguments from the late 19th century to the present, examining important essays, speeches, manifestos, exposés, graphic novels, and documentary films that were produced with the explicit intent of challenging the status quo, redefinining notions of community, and – ultimately – bringing about a more perfect union.

American Sex

Interdisciplinary Studies of American Culture
English 177.1 / Prof. Looby

American Sex will be an interdisciplinary exploration of a series of significant episodes in the long and complicated history of American sex. From the secret diary of a Puritan minister, Michael Wigglesworth (1652-57), in which he recorded his sexual transgressions, to the scandalous “bad book affair” in Jonathan Edwards’s congregation (1744), to Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton’s famous sex scandal (1790s), and on through the nineteenth century, what counted as “sex” constantly changed and what we call “sexuality” gradually emerged. To trace these changes and this emergence we will also study novels and stories by Charles Brockden Brown, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Julia Ward Howe, Sarah Orne Jewett, Margaret Sweat, Walt Whitman and Theodore Winthrop. In addition we will study notorious neoclassical marble sculptures by Hiram Powers (The Greek Slave, 1843), Harriet Hosmer (Zenobia in Chains, 1859), and Benjamin Paul Akers (The Dead Pearl Diver, 1858), as well as a scandalous painting by Thomas Eakins (Swimming, 1885). In each case, we will ask: how did these texts and art works understand and represent the acts, identities, and pleasures that today are collected under the rubric of “sexuality”? American Sex will combine rich primary materials with active reflection on interdisciplinary research methods.

 

Not open for credit to students who took English 177 with Prof. Looby in Spring 2018.

 

MEDIA – Aesthetics, Genres, and Technologies

Queer of Color Feminisms

Feminist and Queer Theory
English M126 / Prof. S.K. Lee

This course offers a survey of the rifts and relations between queer theory and feminist theory, particularly paying attention to how race and ethnicity structure the theoretical debates between them. Students will consider the critical interventions of black and women of color feminism, postcolonial feminism, queer of color critique, trans of color critique, and queer crip of color critique to engage ongoing discussions around Western colonial formations of modern subjectivity, care and consent, embodiment, desire, as well as aesthetic and political representation. Queer theory and feminist theory will be approached as distinct yet entangled collaborative modes of thought with theoretical turns that emerge in the wake of racial and ethnic difference.

 

This course qualifies as a critical theory course for students planning to pursue Departmental Honors.

Major American Writers

English 168 / Prof. Calder

In this course, we will focus on well-known American authors who seek to change how “America” and American literature are understood. We will attend carefully to histories of settler colonialism and slavery by interrogating the cultural logics that drive these processes and consider how the authors we engage with critique them. Readings will include works by Gloria Anzaldúa, W.E.B. Du Bois, Gil Cuadros, Saidiya Hartman, Rebecca Harding Davis, Audre Lorde, Subcomandante Marcos, Simon Ortiz, Assata Shakur, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Colson Whitehead.

American Literature, 1865 to 1900

English 170A / Prof. Colacurcio

Historical survey of American literature from end of Civil War to beginning of 20th century, including writers such as Howells, James, Twain, Norris, Dickinson, Crane, Chesnutt, Gilman, and others working in modes of realist and naturalist novel, regional and vernacular prose, and poetry.

American Poetry, 1900 to 1945

English 173A / Prof. Schmidt

This course will consider American poetry from the turn of the century through the end of World War II. We will read substantial selections from T. S. Eliot, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Marianne Moore, Gertrude Stein, William Carlos Williams, and others. Throughout the quarter, we will pay particular attention to how different authors define and put pressure on the conceptual components of the phrase “Modern American Poetry.” To do so, we will examine how individual poems engage with notions of history, nation, and literary form as we explore a range of approaches to reading, analyzing, and writing about poetry.

American Poetry since 1945

English 173B / Prof. Bradley

This course offers both a survey of major poets and poetic movements in the United States since World War II and close engagement with the work of a handful of contemporary poets. In the first half of the term, we shall chart the course of American poetry since 1945 so as to establish a common foundation and a sense of the evolving critical, aesthetic, and political concerns of the times. We shall read poems by Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg, John Ashbery, Lyn Hejinian, and many others. In the second half of the course, we shall dedicate each week to a book by a living poet. The goal here is to foster a deeper immersion in the work of that poet and a greater appreciation for the craft of composing a sequence of poems. All of these contemporary poets will make virtual visits to our class, which will allow students the opportunity to hear them read and to engage them in discussion. Throughout the term, class meetings will focus on honing different ways of reading poems and writing about them.

 

American Fiction since 1945

English 174B / Prof. Youn

In this course, we will explore a wide range of literary narratives—mainly the novel, but also short story and graphic novel—from 1945 to the present. The main focus of the course is tracing the formal and thematic developments of the novel in the period, paying particular attention to the innovations in the novel’s form to respond to and engage with the social upheavals and transformations in the United States. In the process, students will be able to identify and discuss the themes, concerns, and formal strategies of post-1945 American novels, and situate them within its socio-cultural and historical contexts. Topics of discussion include gender, race, immigrant narrative, technology, environmental issues, and consumerism among others.

Contemporary American Fiction (What’s Happening Now?)

English 174C / 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 Jeffrey Eugenides, Percival Everett, Junot Diaz, and Jennifer Egan.

The Evolution of Anti-racism in Nonfiction Prose and Documentary Film

American Nonfictional Prose
English 175 / Prof. Solomon

 This course will highlight the significant contribution made by writers, visual artists, and filmmakers to the on-going project of anti-racism in U.S. culture. We will trace the development of anti-racist arguments from the late 19th century to the present, examining important essays, speeches, manifestos, exposés, graphic novels, and documentary films that were produced with the explicit intent of challenging the status quo, redefinining notions of community, and – ultimately – bringing about a more perfect union.

American Sex

Interdisciplinary Studies of American Culture
English 177.1 / Prof. Looby

American Sex will be an interdisciplinary exploration of a series of significant episodes in the long and complicated history of American sex. From the secret diary of a Puritan minister, Michael Wigglesworth (1652-57), in which he recorded his sexual transgressions, to the scandalous “bad book affair” in Jonathan Edwards’s congregation (1744), to Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton’s famous sex scandal (1790s), and on through the nineteenth century, what counted as “sex” constantly changed and what we call “sexuality” gradually emerged. To trace these changes and this emergence we will also study novels and stories by Charles Brockden Brown, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Julia Ward Howe, Sarah Orne Jewett, Margaret Sweat, Walt Whitman and Theodore Winthrop. In addition we will study notorious neoclassical marble sculptures by Hiram Powers (The Greek Slave, 1843), Harriet Hosmer (Zenobia in Chains, 1859), and Benjamin Paul Akers (The Dead Pearl Diver, 1858), as well as a scandalous painting by Thomas Eakins (Swimming, 1885). In each case, we will ask: how did these texts and art works understand and represent the acts, identities, and pleasures that today are collected under the rubric of “sexuality”? American Sex will combine rich primary materials with active reflection on interdisciplinary research methods.

 

Not open for credit to students who took English 177 with Prof. Looby in Spring 2018.

Viral Lit

Topics in Literature, circa 1850 to Present
English 179.2 / Prof. Schmidt

What happens when a song lyric gets stuck in your head? Or when a catchy phrase circulates far beyond its original context? In this course, we will examine how literary authors think about these types of questions in relationship to individual and collective memory. To do so, we will read key representations and examples of textual virality from different genres and different moments in American literary history since 1850. We will explore fiction by Mark Twain, William Saroyan, Ishmael Reed, and Kristen Roupenian; selections from poets such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, T. S. Eliot, Gwendolyn Brooks, Christian Bök, Juliana Spahr, Patricia Lockwood, Lillian-Yvonne Bertram, and Rupi Kaur; and theoretical essays by Roman Jakobson, Theodor Adorno, Michel Serres, and Sianne Ngai.

 

Senior/Capstone Seminars

Graphic Medicine

Topics in Interdisciplinary Studies
English 181B / Prof. Silva

Graphic medicine is a relatively new field that sits at the intersection of art, literature, and healthcare. Analyzing features such as layout, visual imagery, character, and temporality (among others), we will ask how the medium of the graphic novel makes new forms of storytelling accessible to patients and caregivers, and how these in turn shape our understanding of the relation between health and narrative. Please note that the texts for this course include accounts of physical and mental illness, and death.

Experiments with Nonfiction

Topics in 20th and 21st-Century Literature
English 182F / Prof. Schmidt

The central goal of this seminar will be to explore the distinction between literature and nonfiction in post-2000 writing from both directions. To do so, we will read very recent texts categorized as fiction or poetry that expressly incorporate documents and other signifiers of journalism, history, or research as well as a handful of argumentative essays that incorporate materials and approaches frequently associated with imaginative literature. The backbone of the course will be a collective project: an attempt to isolate, name, and analyze specific techniques that contemporary writers use to reflect on the boundaries between the literary and the nonfictional. Students will also complete regular short writing assignments and a substantial final project, which may take the form of either an academic paper or an experimental essay. Over the quarter, we will read authors such as Anne Carson, John D’Agata, Eve Ewing, Saidiya Hartman, Valeria Luiselli, Claudia Rankine, Elizabeth Schambelan, Ali Smith, and others.

 

Enrollment in this seminar will be restricted to American Literature and Culture majors during first pass, and will open up to English majors during second pass.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Topics in 19th Century American Literature
English 183B.1 / Prof. Colacurcio

With some interest in the biography, we will attempt to trace Hawthorne’s developing career: from the obscurity of Salem in the 1820’s and early 30’s, when he wrote, anonymously, some the most brilliant historical tales in the language; through the more sociable “Concord Period” (1842-45), when his attention turned to the liberal and transcendental reforms of his own agitated age; to that so-called “Major Phase” in which he wrote his three American Romances in just under three years. Emphasis at first on response to historical (Puritan) sources, then on the attempt to tell the history of his own time.No final exam. Course assumes perfect, punctual attendance, careful preparation, two in-class presentations on an assigned topic, and a critical/analytical paper of 12-15 pages–which must enter into significant conversation with published criticism.

Enrollment in this seminar will be restricted to American Literature and Culture majors during first pass, and will open up to English majors during second pass.

Literature of the Beat Generation

Topics in 20th and 21st Century American Literature
English 183C.1 / Prof. Dickey

This course will explore the Beat phenomenon in its historical and cultural moment and will locate Beat literature in the tradition of American Romantic writing. We will concentrate on works by William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac, paying some attention to other figures like Neal Cassady, Gregory Corso, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, whose lives and works in some way confront and contest the pedestrian values of 1950s America (and after). We will also investigate the aesthetic principles that the Beats appropriated from diverse modernist and contemporary sources – Dada and Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Bebop – in order to ratify their own contrivances of spontaneity. And finally, we will consider predecessors (e.g. James Fenimore Cooper, Walt Whitman, Henry Miller) and inheritors (e.g., Ken Kesey, Sam Shepard, Hunter S. Thompson) whose works illuminate the achievement, or fried shoes, of the Beats.

 

Enrollment in this seminar will be restricted to American Literature and Culture majors during first pass, and will open up to English majors during second pass.

Rhyme + Reason: Lyrical Traditions and Political Activism in Hip Hop Culture, 1970s – present

Topics in 20th and 21st Century American Literature
English 183C.2 / Prof. Solomon

In its brief 50 year existence, Rap music has grown from an idiosyncratic expression of postmodern art that was practiced by just a handful of MCs in New York into a global phenomenon; currently, it is both the most dynamic driver of contemporary poetic expression in almost every language tradition around the world and the dominant genre within the commercial music industry. Scholars in the Humanities really only began paying attention to Hip Hop culture in a serious way about 15 years ago, but there is now a growing body of insightful work being produced, with academic journals dedicated to the study, and increasing interest in “Hip Hop Studies” coalescing across a number of traditional academic disciplines.

In this seminar, we’ll draw from the recent body of scholarly and critical work to inform our examination of a number of significant albums produced from 1970 to the present, focusing particular attention on the lyrical movements that influenced the art and the traditions of social activism in Hip Hop culture that the music often serves to highlight.

Enrollment in this seminar will be restricted to American Literature and Culture majors during first pass, and will open up to English majors during second pass.

Our So-Called Present: Studies in Very Recent Contemporary U.S. Fiction

Capstone Seminar
English 184.2 / Prof. Huehls

How do we turn our experiences in the present into a conception of the present? This course will read U.S. fiction written in the past five years, with half of the texts chosen by the students, in an attempt to answer that question.

 

Enrollment in this seminar will be restricted to American Literature and Culture majors during first pass, and will open up to English majors during second pass.

“Mediocrity Rules”: The Nonexceptional in Contemporary Asian American Literature

Topics in Asian American Literature
English M191C / Prof. S.K. Lee

In the New York Times, author Viet Thanh Nguyen writes that what Asian Americans need is “an economy of narrative plenitude,” where a film like Crazy Rich Asians (2018) is not a singular, exceptional, good, or bad representation of Asian Americans, but instead one among many that are “mediocre.” For Nguyen, mediocrity is sign of abundance and a “measure of equality.” But what if we stay with the mediocre as decidedly not a measure of equality, normalization, inclusion, assimilation, and success? What if rather than proof of plenitude, we understood mediocrity as a strategic mode of withdrawal, disaffection, inscrutability, refusal, and failure? How can we orient ourselves differently to narratives and representations of mediocrity and the unexceptional? In this course, students will read contemporary Asian American literature by authors such as Anelise Chen, Yiyun Li, and Ling Ma alongside scholarship in Asian American studies, feminist theory, and queer theory to critically consider the Asian American uses of the mediocre and the nonexceptional.

Enrollment in this seminar will be restricted to American Literature and Culture majors during first pass, and will open up to English majors during second pass.

Defining Asian American Reality through Literature

Topics in Asian-American Literature
English M191C.2 / Prof. Ling

This seminar approaches Asian American history, identity, and social experience through the artistic lens of Asian American literature. The range of writings to examine in the class— the novel, short story, speculative fiction, novella, play, and literary manifesto—spans almost the entire twentieth century (from 1909 to 1996). Of the issues to explore are immigration, racialization, intercultural or generational dynamic, the paradox of assimilation, war-related trauma, and gendered concerns. Our discussions will focus on making sense of texts in contexts, with an emphasis on how literary portrayal of the evolving conditions facing Asian Americans is shaped by the interplay between writers’ aspirations for a more equitable society, the less-than-ideal creative environments available to them, and their resourceful negotiations with these circumstantial constraints. This seminar is not restricted in the size of its enrollment. Graded work is based on the following: 1) attendance (5%); 2) an in-class oral presentation (15%); 3) a midterm paper of 4 double-spaced pages (30%); and 4) a course paper of 10 double-space pages (50%).

 

Enrollment in this seminar will be restricted to American Literature and Culture majors during first pass, and will open up to English majors during second pass.