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Topics in American Literature

ENGL 286.601
MW 5-6:15

In this course we will explore a series of anarchic types and social visions in twentieth-century American literature. Some have argued that the unfettered individualism of the anarchist ultimately affirms rather than contests AmericaÕs most cherished ideals of freedom. On the other hand, since when is freedom AmericaÕs privileged domain? Indeed, many of the writers we will discuss perceived the invocation of American ideals as a pretext to domestic oppression and international domination; consequently, they sought alternative ways of life that dissolved the societal restrictions and boundaries imposed on and between people. Through our classroom discussions and our written work we will closely examine the ways in which the anarchist destroys and/or reproduces the codes and conventions they criticize. We will discuss the cultural sources from which they derived their subversive and creative energies --sources which range from Bebop jazz to Zen Buddhism-- as well as the events and ideas that inspired the anarchistÕs quest for absolute freedom. Authors will include Emma Goldman, Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, and Richard Wright.