English R1B

Reading & Composition: Masculinity, The American Dream, and The Myth of Starting Over from Jay Gatsby to Jay-Z

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Session Course Areas
3 Summer 2018 Cruz, Frank Eugene
MTuTh 12-2 Dwinelle 189 C

Other Readings and Media


Please purchase all texts with an ISBN-13 number next to the title. Search the ISBN on Amazon for the specific edition we will use this semester. You may, however, purchase any edition you like, as long as it is a physical copy.

Horatio Alger, Ragged Dick ISBN-13: 978-0140390339

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby ISBN-13: 978-0743273565

William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!: The Corrected Text ISBN-13: 978-0679732181

Jay-Z, Decoded ISBN-13: 978-0812981155

Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance ISBN-13: 978-1400082773


Required. Please view/listen and analyze in advance of the day that we are discussing the text. Please wait to buy media texts. We will stream and file share when possible.


Matthew Weiner, creator, Mad Men


Baz Luhrmann, dir., The Great Gatsby 


Jay-Z, Selected lyrics & music

Various Artists, The Great Gatsby: Music from Baz Luhrmann’s Film


Bruce Burgett and Glenn Hendler, eds., Keywords for American Cultural Studies
Online: http://keywords.nyupress.org/american-cultural-studies/ (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Raymond Williams, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society ISBN-13: 978-0199393213

Additional required secondary readings will be available online and/or distributed in class.


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 monomaniacal Thomas Sutpen, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s mysterious 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 passing grade.

This course will be taught in Session C, from June 18 to August 9.

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