American Lit Since Mid-20th C

DESCRIPTION: As we read literature written during the past several decades, we will consider ways this literature addresses U.S. (literary) history, and contemporary historical and political contexts. We will explore how the course literature—much of it by writers marginalized by some combination of race, sexuality, class, gender, and region—reflects on, and sometimes seeks actively to revise, dominant narratives about America, democracy, the colonization of native peoples, slavery, plantation labor, immigration, and WWII. As well, we will consider how this literature engages contemporary contexts that include the Cold War and the threat of nuclear war, the 1965 change in immigration law and shifts in U.S. racial demographics, the civil rights movements, human rights struggles, feminism, globalization, neoliberalism, 9/11 and its aftermath, settler colonialism and indigenous resistance, the Black Lives Matter movement, climate catastrophe, and the Trump presidency. As we put the course readings in dialogue with one another and with U.S. and world events, we will interrogate the terms “American” and “literature.” In doing so, we will identify some of the stakes (social and political) that attend formulations in the U.S. of a national literature, and we will think about how the literature that we are reading supports, challenges, overturns, and provides alternatives to such formulations.

REQUIREMENTS AND PROCEDURES: Grades will be determined by the following components: two midterms (125 points each); an in-class final examination with a take-home essay of 7-8 pages (400 points); a class presentation and an annotated bibliography (50 points); in-class activities and quizzes (50 points). The distribution given here is approximate. Missed classes or failure to attend required conferences will impact your grade negatively. Attendance is mandatory; missed classes will negatively impact your grade.


Richard Hamasaki and Mei-Li M. Siym, Westlake: Poems by Wayne Kaumualii; Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony; Toni Morrison, Beloved; Chang-rae Lee, Native Speaker; Leanne Simpson, Islands of Decolonial Love; Claudia Rankine, Citizen

We also will read shorter works by James Baldwin, Junot Diaz, Allen Ginsberg, June Jordan, Maxine Hong Kingston, Jhumpa Lahiri, Adrienne Rich, Haunani-Kay Trask, Kurt Vonnegut, and Richard Wright.