English R1A

America in the 1930s

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
14 Fall 2009 Pugh, Megan
Pugh, Megan
TTh 11-12:30 106 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Nathanael West, Day of the Locust; Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God; a course reader including work by James Agee, Mike Gold, Langston Hughes, Alan Lomax, Clifford Odets, Muriel Rukeyser, Carl Sandburg, William Saroyan, and others


By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?
—Woody Guthrie

In the 1930s, as economic crisis brought new attention to the struggles of working men and women, Americans asked how their country had failed and how it could be fixed. What did—or perhaps, what should—America mean? The Great Depression was an era of stark deprivation, but also of committed idealism, as laborers, artists, and activists tried to reshape society. Americans embraced the promises of progress and change, but they also looked back toward folk cultures that they hoped would help unify the country.

This introduction to college writing and argument will be interdisciplinary in method. We’ll read a good deal of literature alongside proletarian manifestos, dance, photography, music, and film. Our course material will help us ask questions about the relations between “high” and “low” culture, between art, work, and politics, and between race, gender, and nation—themes you will explore in your papers. This is a writing-intensive course, so you will complete and revise four essays, and we’ll spend much of our time discussing how to improve your composition skills.

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