English R1B

Reading and Composition: Started from the Bottom: Masculinity, the American Dream, and the Myth of Starting Over from Jay Gatsby to Jay Z


Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
13 Spring 2018 Cruz, Frank Eugene
MWF 10-11 122 Wheeler

Book List

Alger, Horatio: Ragged Dick and Struggling Upward; Alger, Horatio: Ragged Dick and Struggling Upward; Faulkner, William: Absalom, Absalom!; Faulkner, William: Absalom, Absalom!; Fitzgerald, F. Scott: The Great Gatsby; Fitzgerald, F. Scott: The Great Gatsby; Jay Z: Decoded; Jay Z: Decoded; Obama, Barack: The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream; Obama, Barack: The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream

Other Readings and Media

Drake: selected songs; Jay Z: selected songs; Mad Men, selected episodes

Description

The texts for this course consider the figure of the "self-made man" and his function in the American cultural imagination. From his representation in American literature to his representation in contemporary popular culture and politics, we will explore the American fascination with the idea of "starting over." On the one hand, we will consider Horatio Alger's impoverished hero's rise to respectability, William Faulkner's violent and mysterious Thomas Sutpen, and F. Scott Fitzgerald's monomaniacal Jay Gatsby. On the other hand, we will analyze Mad Men's Don Draper, Obama's journey from a broken home in Hawai'i to the White House, and Jay Z's trajectory from the Marcy Projects to Forbes' List.

While I am self-consciously framing our work in relation to the problem of "American masculinity," these texts obviously create unique spaces for investigating questions of race, gender, homosociality, war, class, and class mobility. You will have the opportunity to engage these problems, among others, in your written work for this course.

Most importantly, this course will develop your proficiency in expository and argumentative writing and academic research skills. Three papers are required: a diagnostic essay; a midterm essay; and a final research project. In addition to these papers, in-class writing, workshops, participation, presentations, and full attendance are also required to earn a pasing grade. 


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