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EN2321 Dark Reform: Scandal and Satire in American Culture

Summer Reading List 2017-18

Course tutor: Dr Emilia Borowska
Course author: Prof. Tim Armstrong   

This course aims to provide an introduction to American literature via the tradition which David Reynolds labels ‘dark reform’; a satirical and often populist mode which seems out the abuses which lie beneath the optimistic surface of American life, often via grotesque, scatological, sexualized and carnivalesque imagery.  It explores the contention that because of America’s ‘exceptionalist’ historiography, allied with its notions of national consensus and fear of class conflict, political critique has often had to find indirect expression. Topics which will be discussed include: race and class in America; the critique of ‘big business’; conspiracy theories and the Jeremiad; the carnivalesque; issues of genre; and relations between writer and audience.

Students will be expected to gain a basic grounding in and critically evaluate elements of American historiography and political thought; as well as an understanding of satiric discourse. As well as studying a range of literature (mainly prose but with some poetry and drama), students will examine visual material and film, and will develop their skills in making connections between genres within a cultural field.

Teaching and Attendance  

The course is taught by a weekly lecture and one-hour seminar, with approximately eight hours private study and preparation a week.  A small part of the lecture hour may be given over to student presentations: these will form part of the non-assessed coursework load, and will involve teams of 2-3 students reporting on their investigation of a topic negotiated with the course leader.

Required Reading  

The material for each week’s seminar, which may comprise a film or other kinds of visual material as well as prose fiction, is detailed in the Course Description below. Some suggestions for additional reading are also offered: although the main task is the primary reading, secondary material will be needed for presentations and essays. You are also encouraged to think about and draw in related materials of any kind: Catch 22, Lenny Bruce, Beavis n’ Butthead; The Simpsons; the Onion etc.

Course Work and Assessment  

The course will be examined a terminal essay, submitted in term 2 via Turnitin (see Moodle page) as well as in printed form (details of timing provided on Matrix and Moodle). There is also a non-assessed essay of up to 1500 words (see Matrix for timing, and pp.7-8 below for topics). The usual penalties apply to late work. 

Students may, in addition, be required to make a presentation at some point.  The non-assessed essay will be returned to you with comments within 2-4 weeks.

Feedback  

If there are any issues you need to discuss during the course, please see me in feedback and consultation hours (emilia.borowska@rhul.ac.uk).  At the end of the course, the usual anonymous questionnaire will be distributed to collect your feedback on the course.

 

Books you will need to buy   

The list is quite long, I am afraid:  inevitably the case with modern, in-copyright fiction.  They can be ordered at Amazon and local bookshops.  Some can be found second-hand in the bookshops or via ABEbooks.co.uk, Amazon, or other online retailers.  All films will be available for loan from the Dept. DVD collection:

  • Upton Sinclair, The Jungle (numerous editions)
  • George Schuyler, Black No More [1931] (X Press, 1998)
  • Jacqueline Susann, Valley of the Dolls (Virago, 2003)
  • E. L. Doctorow, The Book of Daniel (Penguin Modern Classics, 2006)
  • Ishmael Reed, Mumbo Jumbo (Simon & Schuster, 1996)
  • Michael Herr, Dispatches (Picador) NB: a handout will be provided of sections of this text – buy the book if you are particularly interested.
  • Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (Picador)
  • Kathy Acker, Essential Acker: The Selected Writings of Kathy Acker(Grove Press, 2002)
  • George Saunders, Pastoralia (short stories, Bloomsbury, 2000)

Course Description

Week 2

Slavery: Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, selections; Whitman, Leaves of Grass; Charles Chestnutt, ‘Dave’s Neckliss’ (all handouts on Moodle).

  • Recommended background reading:  David Reynolds, Beneath the American Renaissance


Week 3

Radicalism, Muckraking and the meatworks: Upton Sinclair, The Jungle (avoid the ‘restored’ edition if possible)

  • Recommended background reading:  Cecelia Tichi, Exposés and Excess: Muckraking in America, 1900–2000 (2004) 071 TIC


Week 4

Satire in the Harlem Renaissance: George Schuyler, Black No More [1931]  (X Press, 1998) and Langston Hughes, poems (handouts).

  • Recommended background reading:  Darryl Dickson-Carr, African American Satire: The Sacredly Profane Novel (2001)


Week 5         

Sex, drugs and postwar prosperity:  Jacqueline Susann, Valley of the Dolls (Virago, 2003).

  • Recommended background reading:  Philip D. Beidler, Scriptures for a Generation: What We Were Reading in the 60’s (1994)


Week 6         

The Cold War:  E. L. Doctorow, The Book of Daniel (Penguin Modern Classics, 2006);  Stanley Kubrick, dir, Dr Strangelove (film).

  • Recommended background reading:  Frederick Jameson, Postmodernism


Week 7         

Reading Week


Week 8         

Race, conspiracy and counter-cultures: Ishmael Reed, Mumbo Jumbo (Simon & Schuster, 1996); Warren Beatty, dir., Bulworth (film).

  • Recommended background reading:  Timothy Brennan, Secular Devotion: Afro-Latin Music and Imperial Jazz (2008) [Moodle]; Dickson-Carr, African American Satire: The Sacredly Profane Novel (2001); Sharon A. Jesse, ‘Laughter and Identity in Ishmael Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo’, MELUS 21:4 (1996).


Week 9

Vietnam:  Michael Herr, selections from Dispatches (Picador, h/o); and Francis Coppola, dir., Apocalypse Now (film).

  • Recommended background reading:  Mark Taylor, The Vietnam War in History, Literature and Film (2003)


Week 10

Conspiracy:  Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (Picador); Ru Mills internet sites (see http://www.rumormillnews.com) -  see particularly the material on Princess Diana and ‘The Factions’.

  • Recommended background reading:  Leo Bersani, Leo, ‘Pynchon, Paranoia, and Literature’, Representations 25 (Winter 1989): 99-118


Week 11

Pop, Punk and Porn: Kathy Acker, Essential Acker: The Selected Writings of Kathy Acker (Grove Press, 2002) . We will focus on the selections from ‘Rip off Red, Girl Detective’; ‘Hello I am Erica Jong’; ‘Don Quixote’; and ‘Empire of the Senseless’.

WARNING: Acker’s writings include materials that could be described as pornographic and violent, within the conventions of rather abstract and rhetorical literary pornography that descends from De Sade, Bataille, and Burroughs.  If for any reason you feel you prefer not to read this material, please let me know and you will be excused from class.

  • Background reading:  Nicola Pitchford, Tactical Readings: Feminist Postmodernism in the Novels of Kathy Acker & Angela Carter (2002)


Week 12      

Underclasses:  George Saunders, Pastoralia (short stories, Bloomsbury, 2000) and Michael Moore, dir., Roger and Me (film)

  • Background reading:  current American political satire; Moore’s website; David P. Rando, ‘George Saunders and the Postmodern Working Class’, Contemporary Literature 53:3 (2012), 437-460. 

Secondary Reading

You will, especially for more recent texts, need to refer to articles in printed sources and Jstor.

  • Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, trans. Helene Iswolsky (1968). 844 RAB/B .
  • Milton J. Bates, The Wars We Took to Vietnam: Cultural Conflict and Storytelling (1996) 815.9358 BAT
  • Philip D Beidler, Scriptures for a Generation: What We Were Reading in the 60’s (1994) 815.016 BEI
  • Leo Bersani, ‘Pynchon, Paranoia, and Literature’, Representations 25 (Winter 1989): 99-118 Jstor
  • Malcolm Bradbury and Sigmund Ro (eds), Contemporary American Fiction (1987) 815.3 CON
  • Timothy Brennan, Secular Devotion: Afro-Latin Music and Imperial Jazz (2008).
  • Dana Carluccio, ‘The Evolutionary Invention of Race: W E B DuBois’s “Conservation” of Race and George Schuyler’s Black No More’, Twentieth-Century Literature 55:4 (2009), 510-546.
  • Evelyn Cobley, ‘Narrating the facts of War: New Journalism in Herr’s Dispatches and Documentary Realism in First World war Novels’, Journal of Narrative Technique 16 (1986): 97-116.
  • David R. Colburn, and George E. Pozzetta, Reform and reformers in the progressive era (1983) 320.973
  • David P. Rando, ‘George Saunders and the Postmodern Working Class’, Contemporary Literature 53:3 (2012), 437-460.
  • Darryl Dickson-Carr, African American Satire: The Sacredly Profane Novel (2001) 815.3 DIC
  • J. Michael Duvall. ‘Processes of Elimination: Progressive-Era Hygienic Ideology,Waste, and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. American Studies 43 (2002), 29-56. Jstor.
  • M D Fletcher, Contemporary Political Satire:  Narrative Strategies in the Post-Modern Context (1987) 809.7 FLE
  • Dustin Griffin, Satire: A Critical Reintroduction (1974)
  • Andrew Hammond, ed., Cold War Literature: Writing the Global Conflict (2005) 809.9358 COL
  • Jason Haslam, ‘The Open-sesame of a Pork-Coloured Skin: Whiteness and Privileges in Black No More’, Modern Fiction Studies 32:1 (2000): 15-30.  Jstor and link on Moodle
  • Margot A. Henriksen,. Dr. Strangelove’s America: society and culture in the atomic age (1997)
  • Richard Hofstader, ‘The Paranoid Style in American Politics’, in The Paranoid Style in American Politics and Other Essays (1966).
  • Craig Howes, ‘Rhetorics of Attack: Bakhtin and the Aesthetics of Satire’, Genre 18 (1986): 215-43.  Jstor
  • Linda Hutcheon,  A Theory of Parody: The Teachings of Twentieth-Century Art Forms (1985)  700.904 HUT
  • Frederick Jameson, Postmodernism: The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1996)  301.2 JAM
  • Philip K. Jason, Acts and Shadows: The Vietnam War in American Literary Culture (2000) 815.9358 JAS
  • Laura Kipnis, Bound and Gagged: Pornography and the Politics of Fantasy in America. (1996)
  • Peter Knight, Conspiracy Culture - American Paranoia from the Kennedy Assassination to the X-Files (2000)  301.20973 KNI
  • Peter Knight, ed. Conspiracy Nation: The Politics of Paranoia in Postwar America (2002) 301.20973 KNI
  • Jane Kuenz, ‘American Racial Discourse 1900-1930: Schuyler’s Black No More’, Novel: A Forum on Fiction 30:2 (1997): 170-92 [Jstor]
  • Robert A. Lee, Designs of Blackness: Mappings in the Literature & Culture of Afro-America (1998)  815.9896 LEE
  • Paul E. L. Levine, E. L. Doctorow (1985)
  • Brian McNair, Mediated Sex: Pornography and Postmodern Culture (1996)  364.174 MAC
  • Patricia Mellencamp, High Anxiety: Catastrophe, Scandal, Age and Comedy (1992)
  • Marilyn Maxwell, Male Race, Female Fury: Gender and Violence in Contemporary American Fiction (2000)
  • R. N. Mookerjee, Art for Social Justice: The Major Novels of Upton Sinclair (1988)  [Senate House]
  • Naomi Morgenstern, ‘The primal scene in the public domain: E. L. Doctorow's The Book of Daniel,’ Studies in the Novel,  March, 2003.  Jstor
  • James A. Morone, Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in American History (2003) 301.417973 MOR
  • Frank Palmeri, Satire in Narrative Petronius, Swift, Gibbon, Melville, and Pynchon (1990) 809.7 PAL
  • Nicola Pitchford, Tactical Readings: Feminist Postmodernism in the Novels of Kathy Acker and Angela Carter  (2002) 809.399287 PIT
  • Sarah Pogell, ‘”The Verisimilitude Inspector”: George Saunders as the New Baudrillard?’, Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction 52:4 (2011): 460-478. Link on Moodle.
  • Richard Poirier, A World Elsewhere (1966)    810.33 POI
  • John M. Reilley, ‘The Black Anti-Utopia’, Black American Literature Forum 12:3 (1978). [Jstor]
  • David Reynolds, Beneath the American Renaissance: The Subversive Imagination in the Age of Emerson and Melville (1989)  813.9 REY  [source of term ‘dark reform’]
  • Louis D. Rubin, Jr, ed., The Comic Imagination in American Literature (1973) 398.20973 RUB
  • Richard Ruland and Malcolm Bradbury (eds), From Puritanism to Postmodernism: A History of American Literature (1987) [810.9 RUL]
  • William & Judith Serrin, eds., Muckraking! The Journalism That Changed America (2002).
  • Mark Taylor, The Vietnam War in History, Literature and Film(2003) 959.7043373 TAY
  • Cecelia Tichi, Exposés and Excess: Muckraking in America, 1900–2000 (2004) 071 TIC
  • Louise Wade, ‘The Problem with Classroom Use of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle,’ American Studies 32 (Fall 1991), 79-101.  Jstor
  • Mel Watkins, On the Real Side:  Laughing, Lying and Signifying: The Underground Tradition of African-American Humor that Transformed American Culture, from Slavery to Richard Pryor (1994)  398.20973 WAT
  • Duncan Webster, Looka Yonder: The Imaginary America of Popular Culture (1988) 309.17309 WEB
  • Steven Weisenburger, Fables of Subversion:  Satire and the American Novel, 1930-1980 (1995) 815.3 WEI
  • James Harvey Young, Pure Food : Securing the Federal Food and Drugs Act of 1906 (1989) 344.73042 YOU

 

Conspiracy Websites (week 9)

These are numerous and easily found.  They often copy and reference each other.  Examples:
http://www.meta-religion.com/Secret_societies/conspiracy_links.htm    Good links page

http://www.rumormillnews.com   Ru Mills

See Moodle and Course Booklet for more information

 

  
 
 
 
 

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