An intensive introduction to American literature and society in the Depression decade. Readings will include canonical and non-canonical texts; among them The Big Money, The Grapes of Wrath, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Their Eyes Were Watching God, The Good Earth, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Absalom, Absalom!, Native Son, and the anthology Proletarian Literature in the United States.
The questions we shall discuss will include: the meaning of ideology and the relation of economic circumstance to aesthetic values; the social and political responsibility of the writer; the role of women in society and culture; the debate over race; the distinctions and the continuity between popular and elite culture; the gains and losses that are entailed in organizing literary study by politically defined periods (e.g."the thirties").
Requirements. (1) Attendance at every class is required, and active participation in class discussion is expected. (2) Each student will prepare a position paper (four or five sentences) in response to each assigned reading. This statement should identify a particular theme, conflict, or issue that could form the basis for discussion. (3) Working in pairs, each student will present one or two reports on some key historical and literary text [see reserve list]. (4) Each student will report on one of the major magazines published in the 1930s. (5) Each student will complete a research essay (fifteen or so pages), due in early December. (6) These essays will also form the basis for oral reports. (7) Quizzes may occur at any time. (8) There will be a final exam.