Spring 2013 - Graduate Course Descriptions

Cohen, Milton
Discipline and Number
HUSL 6309 Section 001
M Time 1:00 PM - 3:45 PM
Course Title
American Political Thirties

Description of Course:

The politically turbulent 1930s--encompassing the Great Depression, the New Deal, the rise of Nazism and its seeming adversary, communism, and finally the coming of World War II--affected American writers deeply, turning most of them away from the modernist experiments of the 1920s and towards a new political involvement with the Left.

This course will study various types and degrees of this political commitment in literature, from the panoramic social novel (Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath), leftist plays of Clifford Odets, political poetry of Muriel Rukeyeser and others, to fusions of politics and race (Wright's Native Son) and politics and modernism (Dos Passos's 1919). We'll also look at how older modernists like Eliot, Hemingway, Stevens, Frost, Cummings, and Williams reacted to the new political environment.

Finally, we'll consider new literary genres this decade generated: the proletarian novel (Jack Conroy's The Disinherited), documentary reportage, government-sponsored arts projects (FSA photographs, the Federal Theatre and Writers Projects), and collaborations of writers and photographers. Malcolm Cowley's memoir provides a personal overview of the period.

Required Texts:

Required Texts:
Malcolm Cowley, The Dream of the Golden Mountains: Remembering the 1930s
Clifford Odets, "Waiting for Lefty" and Other Plays
Jack Conroy, The Disinherited
John Dos Passos, 1919
John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
Richard Wright, Native Son (unabridged edition)
Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls
packet of readings (available only at Off-Campus Books)

Recommended text:
Milton A. Cohen, Beleaguered Poets and Leftist Critics: Stevens, Frost, Cummings and Williams in the 1930s (U. of Alabama Press, 2010)

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

Students will give an oral report (ca. 45 minutes) and write a research paper (ca. 15 pp.). Class participation is obviously important.

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