English 100

Junior Seminar: Post-War American Literature and the Problem of Evil

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
8 Spring 2009 Serpell, C. Namwali
Serpell, Namwali
TTh 12:30-2 + Film Screenings T 6-9 P.M. in 106 Wheeler Note new location: 130 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Thompson, J.: The Killer Inside Me; Heller, J.: Catch 22;  Capote, T.: In Cold Blood; Goines, D.: Black Gangster; Spiegelman, A.: Maus; Milgram, S.: Obedience to Authority; Bugliosi, V. and Gentry, C.: Helter Skelter; Herr, M.: Dispatches; Simon, D.: Homicide; Ellis, B.: American Psycho; Shepard, J.: Project X; DeLillo, D.: Falling Man.

 Film List: Hitchcock, A.: Psycho; Penn, A.: Bonnie and Clyde; Polanski, R.: Rosemary’s Baby; Kubrick, S.: Full Metal Jacket; Lehman, M.: Heathers; Demme, J.: The Silence of the Lambs; Hughes, A. and Hughes A.: Menace II Society; Morris, The Fog of War; Miller, B.: Capote; Cronenberg, D.: A History of Violence; Gibney, A.: The Human Behavior Experiments; Greengrass, P.: United 93; Cohen, J. and Cohen, E.: No Country For Old Men.


"Is evil something you do or something you are?” asks Patrick Bateman, the narrator of Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho. This course investigates how American writers have considered this question in the aftermath of World War II, a war that dramatically staged mankind’s capacity for evil. To limit the seemingly endless range of evils that we might explore, we will focus primarily on murder (serial killing; gang violence; school massacres; war; homicide; terrorism). We will juxtapose nonfiction texts, films, graphic novels, television shows, autobiographies, music, and novels. The aim is to analyze various paradigms, structures, and ideas about the nature of evil as they emerge out of representations of killing in the United States of the last half century or so. The relationship between aesthetics and ethics will also be key: as Nabokov’s Humbert Humbert says, “You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.” Average 250 pages reading and one film screening per week. Two papers (5-8 pages and 12-15 pages).

The seminar requirement for the English major may be satisfied by any ONE of the following:  English 100, 150, 150AC, or H195A-B.

Be sure to read the paragraph on page 1 of this Announcement of Classes regarding enrollment in English 100!

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