Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

The Arts and Popular Culture: Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground

ENGL 117.301
instructor(s):
R 1:30-4:30

This course will focus on the songs of Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground as a source of creative inspiration. The course will, in part, take its shape based on the interests of the students who enroll in it: while Lou/VU obsessives—you know who you are—are, of course, welcome, if you are new to this music and these lives, curious about how these iconic musicians might inspire your own creative output, your curiosity, adventurousness and willingness to take a deep dive into this work are all that is required. We will listen to and discuss Lou Reed and Velvet Underground songs, watch films and performances, explore their influence across the arts, and meet critics and artists who have engaged their work in meaningful ways. For those reasons, the course will be more impressionistic than strictly schematic—that is, we will follow various threads in their work as they emerge in our discussions and as our fascination suggests. The goal is for us to achieve an understanding of this work and these artists that is as visceral as it is intellectual. The class will do some analytic and critical writing, but students who are so inclined will be encouraged to pursue their own creative work—which is to say that, in consultation with the instructor, fiction, songs, poems, plays, paintings or videos inspired by Lou Reed and/or the Velvet Underground will be acceptable projects to complete the course's requirements. You will be allowed a good deal of freedom in charting your own independent course, in other words, as appropriate to our subject and the gift their work has given to us all.