This class will offer a focused study of the literature of the 1930s, a decade marked by economic crisis, environmental catastrophe, rising nationalisms, and activist energies—in short, a decade not too dissimilar from our own. Of course the great fact of 1930s was the Great Depression, and we’ll discuss how the collapse of the stock market provoked diverse responses from writers, ranging from novels and plays directly calling for social action to works that seem to retreat from the political present altogether. But in addition to being a time when the strategies of literary modernism were being measured against the political demands of the day, this was also a golden era of Hollywood cinema, radio dramas, and hardboiled detective fiction, each of which we’ll discuss in turn.
Readings will likely include fiction by Raymond Chandler, John Dos Passos, Zora Neale Hurston, Tillie Olsen, John Steinbeck, Nathaneal West, and Richard Wright; a play by Clifford Odets; the film It Happened One Night; and a radio drama.
Assignments: You should expect to read on average around 150 pages per week. You will also be expected to pursue your own interests (as developed in the course) to produce a 12-15 page research paper at the end of the semester. There will be several short assignments designed to prepare you for the research paper.