Fall 2022 Undergraduate English Courses

358:360 Later Twentieth Century Literature

01  CAC   TTH4   07911  MILLER, R.   SC-103

What was life like on the East Coast in the decade leading up to the Civil Rights Movement? The two writers we will read this semester, Flannery O’Connor and James Baldwin, rose to prominence during this time: both wrote novels where the central characters struggle with faith; both wrote about life in a nation where racism was assumed to be a constant. But their frames of reference were radically different: O’Connor writes about misfits in the South, grifters, and criminals; Baldwin writes about Harlem, pressures to conform, and the determination to break free. By reading these two remarkable writers together, the one looking South, the other looking North (and then abroad), we will have a chance to consider their accomplishments at the level of the sentence, the paragraph, the story, and the depiction and understanding of conflict.

Our discussions will lead us to the history of race relations in the US leading up to the 1960s, the practices and beliefs of Catholics and Baptists at this time, prevailing definitions of deviance and sexual norms, the representation of difference, and the potential for novels, short stories, and essays to contribute to or forestall political change.

We’ll discuss these six works:

Flannery O’Connor

Wise Blood (1952)

The Violent Bear It Away (1960)

Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965) (Collection of Short Stories)

James Baldwin

Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953)

Another Country (1962)

The Fire Next Time (1963) (Two extended essays.)

Every class begins with ten minutes of writing. There will be two short papers specifically focused on providing historical context for our reading. And there will be a final project on reading Baldwin and O’Connor together.