English R1B

Reading & Composition: Waking the Ghosts of Tom/ás Joad

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
7 Fall 2015 Cruz, Frank Eugene
TTh 2-3:30 225 Wheeler

Book List

Rivera, Tomás: . . . y no se lo tragó la tierra/ . . . And the Earth Did Not Devour Him; Steinbeck, John: The Grapes of Wrath: Text and Criticism: Revised Edition

Other Readings and Media

DVDs:  The Grapes of Wrath; Harvest of Shame; House/Divided 

CDs:  Dust Bowl Ballads; The Ghost of Tom Joad; Renegades

Reader/bCourse Site:  Course reader and/or bCourse site will include excerpts from Carey McWilliams's Factories in the Field; Américo Paredes's George Washington Gómez; Ernesto Galarza's Spiders in the House and Workers in the Fields; Stephen J. Pitti's The Devil in Silicon Valley; David Kennedy's Freedom From Fear; Michael Denning's The Cultural Front; Randy Shaw's Beyond the Fields; Mike Davis's Ecology of Fear; and photographs by Dorothea Lange, Horace Bristol, and Matt Black. More information on the first day of class.


(Note the new instructor, topic, book list, and course description for this class.)

In this course we will think about what cultural historian Michael Denning has called the "lowercase grapes of wrath narrative," which emerged during the Great Deparesson. In John Steinbeck's 1939 novel, this was a story about economic collapse and environmental catastrophe. It was a story about home and homelessness: foreclosures, evictions, and forced migration. It told a story of poverty, suffering, and exploitation and at the same time, a story of hope, perseverance, and social change through activism.

In what ways did this story haunt the American cultural imagination in the second half of the twentieth century? In what ways might it still haunt us today in light of a number of uncanny returns: another crash on Wall Street, another "Great" economic crisis, a new season of environmental apocalypse, and another round of bankers with foreclosure notices in hand? If the twenty-first century reboot of hard times in the Golden State has shifted the setting from California's Central Valley to the postmodern nowhere of Silicon Valley, and if the desperate masses now queue up for hours not at soup kitchens but instead at Apple Stores, is the "grapes of wrath" narrative still relevant? Does the U.S. popular imagination look elsewhere, or to other narratives, to resolve our current crises, to think through what has happened, and to imagine what will happen next?

As we explore these questions, we will develop your skills as a writer, reader, researcher, and critical thinker. Three papers are required. All three will combine analysis of primary texts with research from secondary sources. The first paper is a 3-page diagnostic essay. The second paper will be 5-6 pages; the final paper will be 10 pages; and both of these longer essays will undergo revision. In-class writing, workshops, and discussion are required.

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