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Topics in Literature and Society: The World of Work

ENGL 105.601
Wednesdays 6-9:00 pm
fulfills requirements:
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Sector IV: Interdisciplinary Humanities and Social Sciences of the College's General Education Curriculum


Studying and writing about work is a relatively new enterprise, one that has produced an explosion of data, theory, manifesto, critique, fiction, memoir and dream. Readings will include fiction, poems, films, memoirs, essays, photographs and ethnographies. We’ll also read a few key texts in the sociology of work, including E.P. Thompson’s examination of time and work, and Frederick Taylor’s studies of motion and management. Central texts will be Matthew Crawford’s normal">Shop Class as Soulcraft, and Mike Rose’snormal"> The Mind at Work: Valuing the Intelligence of the American Worker.

We’ll look at work as labor and, sometimes, burden, reading accounts of war, factory labor, food service and undertaking. (Yes, the work with bodies.) We’ll also read a volume of short stories, poems, and Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.

Next, we’ll look at work as a source of energy and joy. We’ll read some classic essays by women exploring the nature of work in art and science, and some recent work on the creative life, from choreographers and poets to woodworkers, all of whom find deep satisfaction in their very hard work.

Writing assignments will include methods and genres from both the humanities and social sciences. You’ll write short pieces in response to the readings, a reflective piece on your own work history, an oral history of a worker and a questionnaire.


Fulfills:  Interdisciplnary Humanities and Social Science Requirement