English 250: Intro to American Literature—Fighting Fake Stories with Real Ones
Summer A Term, 2017
Dr. Laurie George
Course Description & Objectives
I grew up in a storytelling culture, a tribal culture, but also an American storytelling culture.
I wanted to write something in a voice that was unique to who I was. And I wanted something that was accessible to the person who works at Dunkin Donuts or who drives a bus, someone who comes home with their feet hurting like my father, someone who's busy and has too many children, like my mother.
The course subtitle comes from a recent advertisement in The New Yorker magazine, and the above quotations by two great American writers. Together, they define a main objective of this course: to introduce you to the diversity and vitality of writers who are bent on telling stories about real people in real America and who expose and counter what they see as destructive, conventional myths of America. Some critics deride these writers’ fictions as mere fantasies, mere lies, despite many of these stories being based on actual, non-fictional historical events—i.e., the stories are not fake news. Why the controversy? We’ll be studying that.
Course readings include fiction from modern and contemporary America, many of the stories first published in The New Yorker, with the quarter-end emphasis on contemporary American fiction and film adaptation of stories—texts include stories by Alexie and Cisneros, as well as James Baldwin, William Faulkner, Ray Bradbury, Joyce Carol Oates and Annie Proulx—we will take a special look at reading/viewing targeted audiences and responses of these fiction-to-film narratives, such as Jackson’s The Lottery, Oates Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been? and Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain.
Requirements include an interest in the subject and investigating it, active, consistent, vocal, and critically-informed discussion in class sessions, as well as a midterm and a final exam.