Popular Literature

Eng 381: Celebration and Critique of Everyday Life

Nandini Chandra.                                             Tuesday-Thursday: 10.30-11.45, KUY 406

‘Popular Literature’ is a highly contentious term often confused with commercially popular genres such as romance and suspense. One might be surprised at how much of the canon of English literature began as ‘popular literature’. Shakespeare’s plays, Dickens’ novels, and Lewis Carol’s Alice in Wonderland are now firmly entrenched in the academic web of literary criticism and theory. Since ‘the popular’ is all around us in this way, this course aims to clarify what constitutes ‘the popular’, by examining various aspects of popular literature–cultural nationalisms, the culture industry, the radical roots of popular culture in working class traditions. Belonging to such different articulations, the ‘popular’ requires its own analytic framework, one which addresses the social history no less than the psychology of the desires we call our own, which sustain the market and shape our political unconscious. In other words, this course will help you examine how the critical and celebratory aspects of popular literature/culture often work simultaneously, and how this double function is important in managing our everyday lives and desires.

Student Learning Objectives:
1. You will gain an appreciation of contemporary theories of popular culture and critiques of the everyday.
2. You will learn to historicize the terms “popular”, “culture” and “literature” through dialogue, discussion and feedback on your writings; this involves learning to distinguish between a literary interpretation and a cultural analysis.
3. You will gain experience leading and delivering focused and thought-provoking oral presentations;
4. You will gain experience crafting historically- and theoretically-informed essays and reviews.
5. You will learn to write an argument-based paper.

There will be short response papers, one oral presentation, a critical summary of a concept relevant to the course, an abstract proposal and an argument based analytical paper.

Required Readings and Viewings: one novel (Daphne du Maurier (1938), Rebecca) and one graphic novel (Frank Miller (2005), Sin City: Hell and Back); rest of the readings will be made available on Laulima as pdfs, and the films will be screened in class:
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels (1848), The Communist Manifesto
Charlie Chaplin (1931), City Lights, 87 mins
Will Eisner (1940), The Spirit
Ursula K Le Guin (1974), “The Day Before the Revolution”
Patricio Guzman (1978), The Battle of Chile, Part 3: The Power of the People, 80 mins.
Ken Burns (2001), Jazz, a Film, Part I, 104 mins.
Agnes Varda (2000), The Gleaners and I, 82 mins
Iona Opie (2007), Mother Goose’s Little Treasures
Seith Mann (2006), The Wire: Home Rooms, Season 4, Episode 3, 59 mins.
John Antonelli (2015), Roots of ‘Ulu, 26 mins.
Emily Martin (2017), “35 Harry Potter Erotica Fanfics” (2017), https://bookriot.com/2017/10/18/short-fast-paced-reads/