English R1B

America in the Thirties

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
18 Spring 2010 Pugh, Megan
Pugh, Megan
TTh 3:30-5:00 225 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Tillie Olsen, Yonnondio; Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God; Nathanael West, Day of the Locust; a course reader including work by James Agee, Hart Crane, Pietro di Dinato, Woody Guthrie, Langston Hughes, Toshio Mori, and William Saroyan.


                                           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, labor, and politics, and between race, gender, and nation—themes you will explore in an eight to ten page research paper analyzing a cultural document of your choice. You will also complete two shorter essays, and we’ll spend much of our time discussing how to improve your research and composition skills.

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