English R1B

Reading & Composition: Representing California

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
10 Spring 2014 Lee, Richard Z
MWF 2-3 225 Wheeler

Book List

Chandler, Raymond: The Big Sleep; Didion, Joan: The White Album: Essays; Norris, Frank: McTeague: A Story of San Francisco; Pynchon, Thomas: The Crying of Lot 49; West, Nathanael: Miss Lonelyhearts & The Day of the Locust

Other Readings and Media

Don Siegel (dir.), Invasion of the Body Snatchers; Roman Polanski (dir.), Chinatown; Paul Thomas Anderson (dir.), There Will Be Blood


“California is a place in which a boom mentality and a sense of loss meet in uneasy suspension; in which the mind is troubled by some buried but ineradicable suspicion that things had better work here, because here, beneath that immense bleached sky, is where we run out of continent.”

Since at least the middle of the nineteenth century, California has occupied a uniquely privileged place in the American imagination.  It has been aesthetically mythologized and critically theorized, as the quote from Joan Didion above suggests, as a space in which the utopian promises of the “American Dream” can be realized as in no other, and, at the same time, where the most sinister aspects of the “indigenous American berserk” are given perilously free rein.  Throughout the semester, we’ll read a series of novels, stories, nonfiction essays, and films in order to gain a keener sense of how and why California has so often been represented as the thrilling yet unnerving testing ground of the modern American experience.  We’ll also pay some attention to the place of the University of California within this broader discourse.

Through frequent composition, vigorous class discussion, and one-on-one conferences, this course will further develop students’ understanding of the discipline and pleasures of collegiate writing.  Students will ultimately compose a total of at least thirty-two pages of written analysis across several essays, including a longer research assignment due at the end of the semester.

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