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.

ASSIGNMENTS: Two midterms (250 points); a final exam including a take-home essay (400 points); quizzes and other in-class activities (50 points); and a class presentation + bibliography (50 points).

TEXTS (tentative listing): Richard Hamasaki and Mei-Li M. Siym, Westlake: Poems by Wayne Kaumualii Westlake; Chang-rae Lee, Native Speaker; Toni Morrison, Beloved; Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric; J.D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye; Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony; Leanne Simpson, Islands of Decolonial Love

Fulfills historical breadth requirement; part of the Pathways for “Literary Histories and Genres” and “Cultural and Literary Geographies.”