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

Winter 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.

Preparation for the Major

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. Decker

This course utilizes an interdisciplinary approach to examine U.S. culture writ large, specifically “America” itself, as an imagined and often-contested national 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 panoply of artistic sources in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In doing so, we will continually probe how various American identities and, in particular, experiences of the “American dream,” are rendered in art and popular culture across a variety of mediums, electronic as well as print. Poetry and novels by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Langston Hughes, James M. Cain, Adrienne Rich, Sandra Cisneros. Autobiography and essays by Frederick Jackson Turner, W.E.B. DuBois, Malcolm X, Joan Didion, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Richard Rodriguez. Movies and TV include Citizen KaneThe GodfatherThe Last Black Man In San FranciscoFather Knows BestThe Mary Tyler Moore ShowUgly BettyBlack-ish, and Fresh Off the Boat. Music from jazz and Motown to Broadway and rap.

 

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.

Indigenous Speculative Literatures

Topics in American Cultures
English 87 / Prof. Mo’e’hahne

Reading contemporary Indigenous genre fiction, including horror, fantasy, and sci-fi, this seminar considers how Native writers use speculation to craft alternative possibilities for Indigenous life while also challenging settler imperialism. We will ask, how do speculative forms of storytelling allow Indigenous authors to represent and imagine beyond colonial apocalypses in North America? How do speculative narratives project Indigenous lives forward in time? How do feminist and queer modes of speculation work to dismantle heteropatriarchy? And, in what ways does speculative storytelling draw on Indigenous cosmologies and traditional ecological knowledges?

 

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

Writing in the English Major: Transfer Students

English 110T / Prof. Stephan

Open only to American Lit and English major transfer students who entered in Fall 2020. Improvement and refinement of writing about literature and culture. Focus on writing as process, rewriting, and nuanced argument; minimum 15 to 20 pages of writing required. Not open for credit to students who have completed English 110A.

 

TO ENROLL, PLEASE CONTACT THE ENGLISH UNDERGRADUATE ADVISING OFFICE VIA MYUCLA MESSAGECENTER.

 

This course qualifies 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 (www.westwind.ucla.edu). If you are interested in joining the Westwind staff, please familiarize yourself with the journal and plan to attend the first Winter quarter meeting.

UCLAPoem

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

This course is for students in UCLAPoem ((www.instagram.com/uclapoem/). Weekly discussion of poetry; planning and organizing of poetry events and activities. If you’re interested in poetry (or just curious about it), plan to attend the first Winter quarter meeting.

Academic Conference Workshop

Undergraduate Practicum in English
English M192.3 / Prof. Weaver

What makes a presentation effective? And what does it mean to attend an academic conference in literary studies? Answering these questions, this course will guide you through the process of turning a literary-critical essay into an engaging talk. From revision strategies to delivery tips, you will be prepared to present at UCLA’s 9th Annual Academic Conference for English Students (ACES), the Honors Research Showcase, and similar events. Note: Students must have an essay with a thesis statement to adapt, likely from a previous English course.

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

Indigenous Literatures of North America

Studies in Native American and Indigenous Literatures
English 106 / Prof. Mo’e’hahne

In this course, we will be introduced to the Indigenous literatures of North America by reading fiction, poetry, and critical theory. We will consider how authors imagine Indigenous lifeworlds, affective and embodied experiences, and genders and sexualities in ways that index and transcend settler-imperial violence. We will examine how Indigenous literatures craft decolonial forms of memory, public history, intergenerational connection, and spatiality. We will ask, how do Indigenous literatures represent vital sites of ecological, feminist, queer, and political theorizing with the power to enact a decolonial present and future?

Exiles, Migrants, and Refugees

Studies in Postcolonial Literatures
English 131 / Prof. Goyal

The refugee is the iconic figure of the contemporary era, posing questions about human rights, the meaning of citizenship, and the role of borders and walls today. This course focuses on twenty-first century cultural representations of the refugee in a range of media (including short stories, novels, poetry, documentary film, music videos, and journalism) to understand the cultural, aesthetic, and affective dimensions of displaced subjectivity. Reading work by such writers as Amitav Ghosh, Valeria Luiselli, Teju Cole, Octavia Butler, and Mohsin Hamid, we will explore the concept of the refugee ‘crisis,’ the potential of comparison across distinct geographies, and artistic visions of justice and redress. Does forced migration generate new forms of cultural memory? How does focusing on art and culture rethink the language of conflict and war? How might we reframe contemporary discussions of a migration crisis through longer histories of asylum and sanctuary?

Colonial Beginnings of American Literature*

English 166A / Prof. Silva

This course is a survey of colonial American literatures and cultures. Although most of the texts on the syllabus were written in colonies that would eventually become part of the United States, the course itself is not meant to be a literary history of the US. Instead, we will consider these materials in the full diversity of local, regional, and Atlantic contexts that framed the colonial experiences they describe for a range of peoples and nations. It is a fundamental precept of the course that this diversity defined the New World, and that scholars cannot hope to understand the literary history of the Americas in any meaningful way without learning to look for, to recognize, and to read beyond the narrow band of voices that have previously defined the national canon. Our investigations will test the conceptual limits of categories like indigeneity, exploration, captivity, enlightenment, and slavery as we trace their roles in shaping the modern vocabulary and grammar of community and nation in the Americas.

 

*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, 1832 to 1865

English 166C / Prof. Colacurcio

Historical survey of American literatures from Jacksonian era to end of Civil War, including emergent tradition of American Romanticism, augmented and challenged by genres of popular protest urging application of democratic ideals to questions of race, gender, and social equality.

American Literature, 1865 to 1900

English 170A / Prof. Dimuro

This course focuses primarily upon narrative fiction of various kinds, including the short story, novella, and the novel written in the volatile years between the Era of Reconstruction and the onset of modern urban civilization at the turn of the twentieth century. Authors to be considered may include Mark Twain, William Dean Howells, Sarah Orne Jewett, Stephen Crane, Henry James, Charles W. Chesnutt, Kate Chopin, and Theodore Dreiser among others. Topics of discussion include narrative techniques, the question of race and gender, the relationship between historical and fictional narrative, the economic dimension of human value, and the continuities and disruptions of literary traditions. Requirements include two or three papers and a comprehensive final examination.

IDENTITIES – Places, Communities, and Environments

 

Asian American Literature: 50 Years of Contrapuntal Voices

Contemporary Asian American Literary Issues and Criticism
English M102B / Prof. Cheung

This course focuses on the depiction of national and transnational interracial encounters: coalition and antagonism, gay and straight liaison, loyalty and espionage. Besides seeing literature as mirroring society, we will think critically about how literature can depict racial relations in a much more nuanced way than in history and social sciences, how it can offer a unique access to sociological questions and unsettle chauvinism, binary notions of race, and heteronormativity.

African American Literature from Harlem Renaissance to 1960s

English M104B / Prof. Yarborough

Survey of African American literature from World War I through the 1950s, including poetry, fiction, and essays by such authors as Alain Locke, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Nella Larsen, Gwendolyn Brooks, Claude McKay, and Jean Toomer. The class will focus first on the unprecedented outpouring of artistic production during the Harlem (or New Negro) Renaissance of the 1920s and 30s. Next it will examine the diverse literary voices that emerged in the 1940s and 50s, many of whom were influenced by the radical left politics of the time. The class will consider the historical and cultural contexts of the works as well as strategies for engaging formal aspects of the assigned materials. Requirements include a term paper and a final exam.

Folk Traditions in African American Literature and Culture

Topics in African American Literature and Culture
English M104E / Prof. Mullen

In this course, we will study folklore and literature, considering the influence of folk traditions on literature and culture of African Americans. Folklore includes traditional beliefs, customs, stories, songs, jokes, and other expressions transmitted orally within a community. Folklore influences the literary writing of authors including Charles Chesnutt, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Etheridge Knight, Ishmael Reed, Ntozake Shange, Kevin Young, Janice Harrington, Douglas Kearney, and Camille Dungy, among others.

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

English M105C / Prof. Perez-Torres

Survey of Chicana/Chicano literature since 1970s, with particular emphasis on how queer and feminist activism as well as Central and South American migration have shaped 21st-century chicanidad. Oral, written, and graphic fiction, poetry, and drama by writers including John Rechy, Gloria Anzaldúa, Los Bros Hernández, Ana Castillo, and Dagoberto Gilb guide exploration of queer and feminist studies, Reagan generation, immigration debates, and emerging Latina/Latino majority.

Indigenous Literatures of North America

Studies in Native American and Indigenous Literatures
English 106 / Prof. Mo’e’hahne

In this course, we will be introduced to the Indigenous literatures of North America by reading fiction, poetry, and critical theory. We will consider how authors imagine Indigenous lifeworlds, affective and embodied experiences, and genders and sexualities in ways that index and transcend settler-imperial violence. We will examine how Indigenous literatures craft decolonial forms of memory, public history, intergenerational connection, and spatiality. We will ask, how do Indigenous literatures represent vital sites of ecological, feminist, queer, and political theorizing with the power to enact a decolonial present and future?

Interracial Encounters in Asian American Fiction

Interracial Encounters
English 108 / Prof. Cheung

This course offers a capsule of Asian American literary history (through selected readings) from its emergence in the 1970s to the present, capturing the changing phases of claiming America, claiming diaspora, claiming the hyphen, and claiming vagrancy. It examines the growing ethnic diversity and formal complexity in Asian American writing.  Attempts to recover ethnic history are accompanied by ambivalence about static notions of race or ethnicity, especially in light of the transnational affiliations of many new immigrants.  Complicating the earlier impulse among Asian American writers to “claim America” or reclaim an Asian heritage is a sense of hybridity or diaspora. Issues explored include what constitutes family and whether home is a haven or a repressive environment; whether one should hold on to ethnic heritage, fully “assimilate,” or forge a global citizenship; obstacles that emerge on account of gender, class, sexual orientation, or religion; tactical uses of points of view such as unreliable narrators or narrators whose gender or ethnic backgrounds differ from the authors’; interracial dynamics and the formation of interethnic or transnational communities.

 

Not open to students who took English 108 with Prof. Cheung in Fall 2018.

Representations of Social Justice in US Literature and Culture

Topics in Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
English 109 / Prof. Solomon

We’ll examine a range of culturally significant 20th-21st century novels, dramatic plays, and films that reveal the strategies and techniques artists employed to challenge or promote social justice in the U.S.   In our discussions, we will attend to the new possibilities for artistic expression that emerge as a result of developments in the arts (e.g. social realism, modernism, post-modernism), as a result of activist movements (e.g. feminism, the civil rights movement), and in reaction to “world-historical events” (e.g. WWII, the assassination of Robert Kennedy).  Ultimately, the focus of our inquiry will circle back to our own involvement and investment in the important questions raised in the texts examined, as we challenge ourselves to recognize the historical and cultural influences upon our understanding of social justice in the US today.

California Literature

Literature of California and the 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 commercial 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. The class will be taught ONLINE LA (Live). There will be several short writing assignments and no in-class exams. Regular attendance and participation in discussion are mandatory.

 

Technology and Racial Difference in the Age of Colonialism

Transatlantic Literatures and Cultures
English 133 / 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, Jan Van der Straet, Richard Ligon, Mary Rowlandson, 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?

Zora Neale Hurston: Storyteller, Folklorist, Anthropologist

Individual Authors
English 139.2 / Prof. Stefans

This course examines all of the major works by Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960), best known for her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), a staple of African American literature courses since Alice Walker revived Hurston’s reputation in 1975. Hurston was also a groundbreaking anthropologist and folklorist influenced by linguist Lorenzo Dow Turner at Howard University and, later, under the tutelage of Franz Boas at Columbia University. She researched folklore in her native Florida and culture and religion in Jamaica and Haiti, notably concerning voodoo, resulting in two major works, Mules and Men (1935) and Tell My Horse (1938). During the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s, Hurston was friends with many of the major figures, including Langston Hughes, Alain Locke and Wallace Thurman, and she wasn’t shy of her criticism of the most established, notably W.E.B. DuBois. Later novels, such as Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939) — an Afrocentric retelling of the Moses story — and Seraph on the Suwanee (1948) were epic in scope. Raucously funny, keenly attuned to the stories and sounds of the South, spiritually and philosophically uncompromising, and the product of a restless traveler, Hurston’s writing leaps off the page and never leaves a reader indifferent to her art and thought. This course requires short but well-written weekly assignments and a final paper that can be a development from one of the weekly writings. 

Contemporary American Poetry: Useful Poetry

English 173C / Prof. Wilson

Reading and discussion of diverse established and emerging American poets, including United Sates Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, former Poet Laureates Juan Felipe Herrera and Louise Glück (2020 Nobel Prize recipient), and UCLA alumni Nathan McClain and Diana Khoi Nguyen. Emphasis on how poems by living American poets help us go on, even (and especially) in dark and trying times.

Critical Approaches to Race and Visuality in American Culture

Interdisciplinary Studies of American Culture
English 177.1 / Prof. McMillan

This course utilizes an trans-disciplinary approach to examine U.S. culture writ large, especially “America” itself, as an imagined and often-contested idea, a trenchant source of belonging and exclusion, through the lens of visuality and race. We will examine the manifestation of these ideals across a variety of contemporary textual, media-based, and embodied forms—including visual culture, but also other sources such as film, performance art, photography, sports, music videos, fashion blogs, dance, and everyday life.  This class will center on introducing students to canonical and contemporary writings considering the intersection of visuality and race. We will explore how to apply literary methods of “close reading”–as well as frameworks from queer theory, Black studies, and feminist theory, etc.–to the study of culture itself.

The American Political Novel

Interdisciplinary Studies of American Culture
English 177.2 / Prof. Yarborough

This course will focus on the diverse ways in which fiction writers in the United States have engaged pressing political issues in their work. Our readings will range from the latter half of the nineteenth century through the 1970s and we will treat such topics as slavery and its aftermath, the status of women, the rise of domestic fascism, the post-World War II Red Scare, and the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 60s. We will pay particular attention not just to the historical contexts of the novels but also to the rhetorical strategies employed by the writers in their attempts to shape reader attitudes even as they themselves often remain conflicted and wary of simple answers to complex political questions. Authors to be covered include Charles W. Chesnutt, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Sinclair Lewis, Alice Walker, and E. L. Doctorow.

Requirements: term paper, final examination

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

Interdisciplinary Studies of American Culture
English 177.3 / 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 indigenous people. Meanwhile, as we will also investigate, through it all Twain is laughing: how can readers 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.

MEDIA – Aesthetics, Genres, and Technologies

 

Novel Observers

Performance, Media, and Cultural Theory
English 127 / Prof. Jin

The literary critic Kenneth Burke once described literature as “equipment for living,” which is to say, as providing strategies for navigating the multitudinous and varied social situations encountered in modern life.  This course will focus on exploring one such strategy through a systems-theoretical framework: namely, the observation of observation.  As the sociologist Niklas Luhmann put it, second-order observation is uniquely both less and more than first-order observation.  Less, because it observes only observers and nothing else, but more because it sees not only what its subject sees, but how it sees and potentially what it does not see.  In novels by Dorothy West, Colson Whitehead, Lisa Halliday, Raymond Chandler, Hilary Leichter, and others, we will consider how the reflexive logics of second-order observation inform, enact, and dovetail with the performative logics of cultural and social identity.  Other theorists we will engage with will include Judith Butler, J.L. Austin, Erving Goffman, Sarah Ahmed, Jennifer C. Nash, and Dorinne Kondo.  Assignments may include weekly questions, a shorter 4-5 page “close reading” paper, and a longer 10-12 page research paper.

Graphic Novels and Comics Poetica

Topics in Genre Studies, Interdisciplinary Studies, and Critical Theory
English 129.2 / Prof. Snelson

This course explores expanded forms of comics—from traditional graphic novels to the most recent experiments in text and image. Alongside a study of foundational works in comics and graphic novels, we’ll also survey recent publications in manga, memes, webcomics, light novels, and other experiments in graphic forms. What distinguishes comics from a range of emerging formats and genres online? How do the “sequential arts” continue to develop in dynamic digital environments? In each instance, this course attends to issues of representation in comics, including questions of race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability in new modes of graphic storytelling. Students will also experiment with making their own critical comics and visual poetry. The course will explore alternative social platforms, including Discord, Mozilla Hubs, and a range of online tools fo collaboration. Throughout, we will read many comics and related forms, including the work of Seosamh & Anka, Alison Bechdel, Tamryn Bennet, Jamal Campbell, Eleanor Davis, Blue Delliquanti, Brandon Graham, Kenneth Koch, Marjorie Liu, Scott McCloud, Annie Mok, Porpentine, Dan Salvato, Marjane Satrapi, Hito Steyerl, Egypt Urnash, and Brian K. Vaughan, among others—up to and including those we discover together in the course of our study.

Zora Neale Hurston: Storyteller, Folklorist, Anthropologist

Individual Authors
English 139.2 / Prof. Stefans

This course examines all of the major works by Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960), best known for her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), a staple of African American literature courses since Alice Walker revived Hurston’s reputation in 1975. Hurston was also a groundbreaking anthropologist and folklorist influenced by linguist Lorenzo Dow Turner at Howard University and, later, under the tutelage of Franz Boas at Columbia University. She researched folklore in her native Florida and culture and religion in Jamaica and Haiti, notably concerning voodoo, resulting in two major works, Mules and Men (1935) and Tell My Horse (1938). During the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s, Hurston was friends with many of the major figures, including Langston Hughes, Alain Locke and Wallace Thurman, and she wasn’t shy of her criticism of the most established, notably W.E.B. DuBois. Later novels, such as Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939) — an Afrocentric retelling of the Moses story — and Seraph on the Suwanee (1948) were epic in scope. Raucously funny, keenly attuned to the stories and sounds of the South, spiritually and philosophically uncompromising, and the product of a restless traveler, Hurston’s writing leaps off the page and never leaves a reader indifferent to her art and thought. This course requires short but well-written weekly assignments and a final paper that can be a development from one of the weekly writings. 

American Literature, 1865 to 1900

English 170A / Prof. Dimuro

This course focuses primarily upon narrative fiction of various kinds, including the short story, novella, and the novel written in the volatile years between the Era of Reconstruction and the onset of modern urban civilization at the turn of the twentieth century. Authors to be considered may include Mark Twain, William Dean Howells, Sarah Orne Jewett, Stephen Crane, Henry James, Charles W. Chesnutt, Kate Chopin, and Theodore Dreiser among others. Topics of discussion include narrative techniques, the question of race and gender, the relationship between historical and fictional narrative, the economic dimension of human value, and the continuities and disruptions of literary traditions. Requirements include two or three papers and a comprehensive final examination.

Contemporary American Poetry: Useful Poetry

English 173C / Prof. Wilson

Reading and discussion of diverse established and emerging American poets, including United Sates Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, former Poet Laureates Juan Felipe Herrera and Louise Glück (2020 Nobel Prize recipient), and UCLA alumni Nathan McClain and Diana Khoi Nguyen. Emphasis on how poems by living American poets help us go on, even (and especially) in dark and trying times.

Critical Approaches to Race and Visuality in American Culture

Interdisciplinary Studies of American Culture
English 177.1 / Prof. McMillan

This course utilizes an trans-disciplinary approach to examine U.S. culture writ large, especially “America” itself, as an imagined and often-contested idea, a trenchant source of belonging and exclusion, through the lens of visuality and race. We will examine the manifestation of these ideals across a variety of contemporary textual, media-based, and embodied forms—including visual culture, but also other sources such as film, performance art, photography, sports, music videos, fashion blogs, dance, and everyday life.  This class will center on introducing students to canonical and contemporary writings considering the intersection of visuality and race. We will explore how to apply literary methods of “close reading”–as well as frameworks from queer theory, Black studies, and feminist theory, etc.–to the study of culture itself.

The American Political Novel

Interdisciplinary Studies of American Culture
English 177.2 / Prof. Yarborough

This course will focus on the diverse ways in which fiction writers in the United States have engaged pressing political issues in their work. Our readings will range from the latter half of the nineteenth century through the 1970s and we will treat such topics as slavery and its aftermath, the status of women, the rise of domestic fascism, the post-World War II Red Scare, and the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 60s. We will pay particular attention not just to the historical contexts of the novels but also to the rhetorical strategies employed by the writers in their attempts to shape reader attitudes even as they themselves often remain conflicted and wary of simple answers to complex political questions. Authors to be covered include Charles W. Chesnutt, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Sinclair Lewis, Alice Walker, and E. L. Doctorow.

Requirements: term paper, final examination

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

Interdisciplinary Studies of American Culture
English 177.3 / 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 indigenous people. Meanwhile, as we will also investigate, through it all Twain is laughing: how can readers 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.

Narratives of Predation

Topics in Literature, circa 1850 to present
English 179.1/ Prof. Simpson

In this course, we’ll consider the uncomfortable matter of how we are to read narratives of predation. We’ll consider Mary Gaitskill’s novella This is Pleasure, Nabokov’s Lolita, the documentary film Capturing the Friedmans, Plato’s “Phaedrus” and the podcast “Believed.”

 

Senior/Capstone Seminars

 

Experiments with Nonfiction

Topics in 20th and 21st-Century Literature
English 182F.4 / Prof. Schmidt

The central goal of this seminar will be to explore the distinction between literature and nonfiction in post-1945 writing from both directions. To do so, we will read texts categorized as poetry and fiction that expressly incorporate documents and other signifiers of journalism, history, or research as well as a handful of essays that incorporate materials and approaches frequently associated with the literary as such. The backbone of the course will be a collective project: an attempt to isolate, name, and analyze specific techniques writers use to blur the literature/journalism or fiction/nonfiction distinction. Students will complete regular short writing assignments as well as a longer final project, which may be either an academic essay examining one of the authors we have read or an experimental essay using techniques we have described.

Over the quarter, we will read a few examples of literary criticism to situate our central questions, but our focus will be “primary” texts by at least a handful the following authors: Joe Brainard, Gwendolyn Brooks, Teju Cole, John D’Agata, Joan Didion, Eve Ewing, Otto Friedrich, Diana Hamilton, Kiese Laymon, Tao Lin, Valeria Luiselli, Maggie Nelson, Claudia Rankine, Srikanth Reddy, Muriel Rukeyser, Elaine Scarry, Elizabeth Schambelan, Ali Smith, Juliana Spahr, William Carlos Williams.

 

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.

Knowing New World Rebellion

Topics in Colonial American Literature
English 183A.2 / Prof. Mazzaferro

This seminar explores the competing forms of political knowledge that emerged during the colonization of North America and the Caribbean. We’ll track the era’s major transformations—namely, the process of settlement and the rise of slavery—and the violent rebellions and revolutions that followed. Focusing on three key modes of knowing (reasoning, observing, and imagining), we’ll consider how European ideas were adapted to New World circumstances. What literary strategies did elite writers use to represent the outbreaks of mutiny, heresy, native warfare, and slave revolt they faced? And how did these depictions relate to enduring assumptions about politics and later accounts of the American, French, and Haitian Revolutions? We’ll read texts by John Smith, John Winthrop, Aphra Behn, J. Crèvecoeur, Tom Paine, and Leonora Sansay alongside works by Francis Bacon, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Edmund Burke. And we’ll conclude with two retrospective attempts to understand New World rebellion: Herman Melville’s Benito Cereno (1855) and a graphic novel about Nat Turner.

 

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.

Philip K. Dick

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

A study of the fiction of Philip K. Dick and a few of the films derived from it. We will try to determine why a writer who was only a middling success in his lifetime became a major cultural force toward the end of the 20th century. Works considered will include The Man in the High Castle, Ubik, VALIS, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale,” Minority Report, Blade Runner, A Scanner Darkly, and Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said.

 

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.

Pornography and the Politics of Sexual Representation

Capstone Seminar
English 184.4 / Prof. Mott

As a capstone seminar, the course proceeds from the assumption that students will pursue an independent research project representing a culmination of their learning at UCLA. We begin with a study of Linda Williams’s Hard Core from the perspective of researchers, reading to discover her process and methods as much as her argument. In the third week, students meet individually with the instructor to plot their research project. For the following five weeks, students post the results of their research to the course website, creating an archive for themselves and their peers. The postings scaffold the final project into “What’s at Stake,” “Critical Approach,” and “Close Reading” entries. At the same time, class functions as a workshop in which students receive suggestions on their works-in-progress. During ninth week, we will conduct a round-robin editing workshop during which students will receive more pointed suggestions on a substantial piece of their project. In the final week, students present their nearly-complete project in a “mini-conference.

 

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.

Narratives of Contagion

Capstone Seminar
English 184.5 / Prof. Silva

The aim of this seminar is to think deeply about the ways that illness and community have shaped the histories and literatures of the United States. Beginning with the early colonial violence that defined European? Indigenous relations for generations to come, we will ask ourselves two sets of questions: first, how have historical epidemics and pandemics set the terms through which writers imagine their communal ideal? Second, what are the strategies of inclusion and exclusion that continue to determine the boundaries of our public health debates? In all cases, we will consider the limits of our knowledge and vocabulary as we inquire into the meaning of health, disease, immunity, susceptibility, and medicine.

 

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.

 

Upper Division American Culture Courses