This honors seminar is designed as an introduction to this year’s investigation of the relationship between literature and politics. The literature and theory that we’ll read in tandem are counterhistories in two senses of the work. First and fundamentally, they debunk common (i.e. positivist) conceptions of history as a disinterested record of “the past as it really was;” they define history as a narrative which imposes a particular meaning on indeterminant events; they affiliate history with literature; and they affirm that historical narratives are inevitably political. Second, the seminar’s counterhistories render visible the violence that such ostensible goods as progress, freedom, family, and community conceal. Critical works by such writers as Benjamin, Butler, Foucault, and Williams supplement late 20th and early 21st century American fiction. Required texts are likely to include a course packet and the following novels: Le’s The Gangster We Are All Looking For, Wideman’s Two Cities; Chua’s Gold by the Inch; and Yamashita’s Tropic of Orange. Students are expected to produce 8 short critical responses to assigned readings and a final 10 page critical essay.