Spring 2013 - Graduate Course Descriptions

Smith, Erin
Discipline and Number
HUSL 6372 Section 001
W Time 1:00 PM - 3:45 PM
Course Title
American Popular Literature

Description of Course:

American Popular Literature
aka Trash-y Books: A Historical Romp through American Popular Literature from the Puritans to the Present

This course is both a historical survey of American popular literature from the colonial period to the present and an introduction to the interdisciplinary study of reading, literacy, and history of the book. Historians of the book study texts as both sign systems and material artifacts. That is to say that a book's meanings arise not only from the words on the page, but also from the contexts in which it is produced, distributed, and read. Consequently, we will read a variety of popular texts--Puritan Indian captivity narratives, novels of the early Republic, nineteenth-century women's sentimental fiction, dime novels and pulp magazines, turn-of-the-century Westerns, and contemporary romances--along side studies of the institutions that shaped their production and the readers for whom they were important.

These texts offer ways of reconstructing popular world-views. What kind of "equipment for living" did these texts offer women and men, recent immigrants and the native-born, slaves and free, the rich and the working classes? Do ordinary readers uncritically consume these texts, or are they "resisting readers?" What is the relationship between popular texts and the institutions that produce, market, and distribute them? How do changes in levels of education and religious beliefs influence popular literature? How do gender, race, and class shape what texts we read and how we make sense of them?

Required Texts:


Vaughan & Clark, ed., Puritans Among the Indians (1676-1724)
Susanna Rowson, Charlotte Temple (1791)
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852)
Henry Louis Gates, ed., Classic Slave Narratives (1845, 1861)
Horatio Alger, Ragged Dick (1867)
Zane Grey, Riders of the Purple Sage (1912)
Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon (1930)
Tim Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth's Last Days (1996)
Sister Souljah, The Coldest Winter Ever (2005)
Harlequin romance novel

Excerpts from:

Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction
Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life
Roger Chartier, The Order of Books
Cathy Davidson, ed., Reading in America
Cathy Davidson, Revolution and the Word
Michael Denning, Mechanic Accents: Dime Novels and Working-Class Culture in America
David D. Hall, Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment
Janice Radway, Reading the Romance

Essays by Stuart Hall, Fredric Jameson, Tony Bennett, Jane Tompkins, Tania Modleski

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

seminar preparation and participation
class presentation with prepared handout of questions for discussion
book review (5 pages)
conference abstract (500 words) and final conference paper (10-12 pages)

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