EN209: Radical Decade
U.S. Literature of the 1960s

Professor Glynis Carr
Spring Semester 1999
Office: 207C Vaughan Literature Building
Office Hours: M,W,F 11-12:00. And by appointment.
Phone: 570-3118 (Office) 523-7486 (Home, not after 7 PM)
570-1553 (Myrna Treston, Secretary)

Required Texts (Available at campus bookstore):

Allen Ginsberg, Howl
Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun
Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Cat's Cradle
Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X
Isabel Miller, Patience and Sarah
John (Fire) Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes, Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions
Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye
Xeroxed materials (on reserve in the Bertrand Library)
Optional: Terry Anderson, The Sixties

Links to Related Sites and Suggestions for Further Reading. Under Construction.

Course Description:

This course is a survey of U.S. literature associated with the "countercultures" of the 1960s. I define the 60s decade rather expansively, including the Beat poets of the 1950s and feminist work of the early 1970s. The authors are variously white, black, hispanic, asian-american, and native american; they are middle-class and working class; they are male and female, gay, lesbian, and heterosexual. Though these authors critiqued society in vastly different ways, they shared a stance of radical opposition to the dominant culture and an urgent desire for social change. Throughout the course, we will pay special attention to literary representations of identity and the political issues that fueled the progressive movements of the 60s, especially those concerned with race, class, gender, and the environment. Our primary purpose is to understand the cultural legacy of these radical artists.

The required readings consist primarily of novels and poetry, but drama, shorter fiction, autobiography, essays and political writings are also included. Many of the readings have become classics and exert a continuing influence on U.S. culture since the 60s.

The theoretical approach taken in lectures will be materialist and engage issues of feminism and multiculturalism. You will learn what it means to apply a race-class-gender analysis to literary texts as you attempt to understand the readings as products of particular social moments. As much as possible, lectures will focus on the social uses of texts in particular reading communities, and the role of art in radical social movements.

Summary of Course Objectives:
  • To read widely in U.S. literature associated with the 1960s countercultures.
  • To learn the intellectual, historical, and biographical backgrounds necessary to understand the literature of the period.
  • To understand the genres, forms, conventions, and other special uses of language in literature of the 1960s.
  • To understand the influence of race, class, and gender on literary production and interpretation.
  • To evaluate the decade's literary and cultural legacy to the 1990s.
  • To practice the skills of critical reading, research, expository writing, and intelligent discussion.

  • Format:

    The class format will be a combination of lecture and discussion. Typically, I will lecture on Mondays and we will discuss on Wednesdays and Fridays. We will view one or two documentary films and (possibly) a film adaptation of one of the literary works. We will not discuss every reading assignment in class, nor will lectures recapitulate the readings. In other words, reading and class attendance do not substitute for one another. Students are expected to come to class having done the reading and prepared to contribute to discussion.

    Assignments and Evaluation:

    Attendance and participation in class discussions will count toward students' final grades.

    Weekly journals are an important assignment for this class. Each Monday (except where noted otherwise), students will turn in 1-3 pages expressing their ideas, responses, comments, and questions about the week's assigned readings and topics for discussion. Journals are informal and need not be typed (unless I can't read your handwriting). The assignment is designed to let me know that you are keeping up with the readings and developing your ideas about the course in an on-going manner. It also allows one-to-one communication between us. I will occasionally pose specific questions for students to address and I will sometimes read from student work to the class, so be sure to indicate to me in case you want your work used anonymously. I will return journals within a week, having checked them and commented briefly. SAVE YOUR WORK: at the end of the semester, students will resubmit journals in a well-organized packet for a letter grade.

    Students will write a short research paper (5-10 pp.) on topics of their own choosing. The paper should reflect students' original ideas about one or more of the works studied, as well as library research. In order to facilitate research, a session has been scheduled in the library to introduce students to some of the major tools for the study of contemporary U.S. literature. Research papers should be typed and include a properly formated (MLA style) bibliography of all primary and secondary sources cited.

    To prepare to write this paper, students will engage two short exercises (a more detailed handout about which will be distributed in class).
    1. The first exercise is for you to produce a "Working Bibliography" of literary criticism about some aspect of 60s literature. Your bibliography can focus on a particular text or texts, a theme, a contextual issue, or some formal aspect of the literature. The bibliography should include both primary and secondary sources. The purpose of this exercise is to sharpen your library skills.
    2. "Critics in Conflict," the second exercise, consists of reading the sources you identified in #1 above until you find at least two critics who disagree about some issue. You will then analyze the disagreement and explain the position you take in the dispute. The purpose of this exercise is to develop your analytical skills by considering how literary critics construct their arguments and provide evidence for the claims they make about what literature means.

    Last but not least, there will be a comprehensive final exam that includes both short answer and essay questions. A study guide for the exam will be distributed on the last day of class (there will be no surprises or "trick" questions).

    The final grade will be distributed as follows: Attendance and participation, 10%; Journals 25%; Working bibliography, 10%; Critics in Conflict, 10%; Research paper, 25%; Final exam 20%.

    Class Policies:

    Schedule of Readings and Activities:

    N.B. Weekly journals are due on Mondays, except where noted otherwise.

    Week 1: Jan. 13-15
    Introduction to the Course

    Week 2: Jan. 18-20-22
    Lecture: The Beats
    Read: Allen Ginsberg, Howl. Poetry and prose by Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso, Diana DiPrima, Bob Dylan, Gary Snyder, and others of your choice. (On Reserve in Bertrand Library)
    Optional: Anderson, "Introduction: Cold War America, 1945-1960"

    Week 3: Jan. 25-27-29
    Lecture: Insiders/Outsiders
    Read: Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun.
    Optional: Anderson, Ch. 1: "Years of Hope and Idealism, 1960-1963"

    Week 4: Feb. 1-3-5
    Lecture: Imagining Social Structure
    Read: Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

    Week 5: Feb. 8-10-12
    Lecture: White middle-class femininity, and its discontents
    Read: Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
    Optional: Anderson, Ch. 2: "Pinnacle of Liberalism, 1964-1965"

    Week 6: Feb. 15-17-19
    Lecture: Postmodernism
    Read: Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle
    Due: Working Bibliography

    Week 7: Feb. 22-24-26
    Lecture: ". . . end the racial nightmare . . ."
    Read: James Baldwin, "My Dungeon Shook." Also essays TBA for "Critics in Conflict" assignment. Optional: Anderson, Ch. 3: "Days of Decision, 1965-1967"

    Week 8: March 1-3-5
    Lecture: Black Autobiography and Rhetorical Traditions
    Read: Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X

    Week 9: March 8-10-12

    Week 10: March 15-17-19
    Lecture: The Black Arts Movement
    Read: Amiri Baraka, selections from Black Fire, Roots, and other movement journals.
    Optional: Anderson, Ch. 4: "1968"

    Week 11: March 22-24-26
    Lecture: Lesbian Writing Comes Out
    Read: Isabel Miller, Patience and Sarah
    Due Fri. 3-26: Critics in Conflict essay
    Optional: Anderson, Ch. 5: "From Counterculture to Sixties Culture"

    Week 12: March 29-31-April 2
    Lecture: Native Americans: Pleas and Prophecies
    Read: John (Fire) Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes, Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions
    Optional: Anderson, Ch. 6: "Days of Discord, 1969-70"

    Week 13: April 5-7-9
    Lecture: "the smashing"
    Read: Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye
    Optional: Anderson, Ch. 7: "The Crescendo, and Demise of the Sixties, 1970-1973"

    Week 14: April 12-14
    Lecture: Chicano Literature and "La Causa"
    Read: Luis Valdez, The Militant.
    Optional: Anderson, "Legacies: The Decade of Tumult and Change"

    Weeks 14-15: April 16-19-21-23
    Lecture: Feminist Poetry
    Read: Selections from Sonia Sanchez, Denise Levertov, Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, Judy Grahn, Lucille Cliffton, and Marge Piercy.
    Due Fri. 4-23: OPTIONAL Rough Draft of Research Paper

    Week 16: April 26
    Course Evaluation; Distribution of Study Guide for Final Exam

    Final exam -- date and time to be specified by the registrar's office.
    Due at Final Exam: Research Paper

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