Jonathan E Murr
Examination of significant writers and literary developments within twentieth-century American culture and society. Addresses issues surrounding the formation of an American literary canon. Stresses themes and methods for advanced literary interpretation within American Studies.
Beyond National Belonging
“American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.” - James Baldwin
In 2005, when images of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina saturated the world's popular media, it seemed to many observers that the supposedly “exceptional” nature of the US—and its promises of freedom, democratic inclusion, equality, mobility and prosperity—had been revealed to be decisively false. Looking back from the “time of Katrina,” this course will turn to Twentieth-Century US American literatures and cultures that have helped to produce and powerfully challenge claims about the nation and its “exceptional” nature—its supposed break from the rest of the world in its path of progress. In interrogating together US nationalism and forms of belonging produced in and against the nation, we will develop a working knowledge and vocabulary for the study of American literary cultures in relation to other cultural and political contexts. We will focus particularly on the ways that race, class, gender and sexuality have shaped and continue to shape the basic life chances and sense of belonging of those living as citizens, subjects or captives of the US—and the ways that cultural texts and “cultural workers” have imagined and helped to enact other possibilities and futures.
Course materials will include literary and critical work by thinkers such as James Baldwin, Etienne Balibar, Toni Morrison, Benedict Anderson, Avery Gordon, Américo Paredes, Mos Def, Karen Tei Yamashita, Steve Martinot, Suheir Hammad, Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, Audre Lorde, Langston Hughes, Dave Eggers, Sandra Cisneros, Paul Beatty, Allen Ginsberg, Fred Moten, Guillermo Gomez-Pena, Lisa Lowe, and Leslie Marmon Silko. Evaluation will be based on active, daily participation, group interaction, reading quizzes and written weekly Study Assignments, two examinations, and one self-recorded (audio and/or video), creative “philosophical tantrum.”
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