American Lit Since Mid 20C

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, Vietnam, postmodernism, civil rights
movements, human rights struggles, feminism, globalization, neocolonialism, and
9/11 and its aftermath.  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

ASSIGNMENTS: Two midterms and a final. Short writing
assignments and frequent quizzes. Attendance is mandatory; missed classes will
negatively impact your grade.

(tentative listing, to be ordered through Revolution Bookstore):

Alani Apio, Kamau

Dave Eggers, Zeitoun

Chang-rae Lee, Native Speaker

Toni Morrison, Beloved

Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony

Lois-Ann Yamanaka, Saturday Night at the Pahala Theatre

Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Additional readings will include
literature by authors such as Sherman Alexie, Gloria Anzaldúa, James Baldwin, Junot
Diaz, Allen Ginsberg, June Jordan, Maxine Hong Kingston, Cherríe Moraga, Tim
O’Brien, Jamaica Osorio, Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, Haunani-Kay Trask, and
Richard Wright.