English R1A

Reading and Composition: American Satire (from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes to Sorry to Bother You)

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Spring 2020 O'Brien, Garreth
MWF 10-11 35 Evans

Book List

Beatty, Paul: The Sellout; Loos, Anita: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes; Powell, Dawn: Turn, Magic Wheel; Ross, Fran: Oreo; Schuyler, George: Black No More; West, Nathanael: Miss Lonelyhearts & The Day of the Locust

Other Readings and Media

We will watch a number of movies, most likely chosen from the following: Modern Times, The Great Dictator, The Great McGinty, Ace in the Hole, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, Dr. Strangelove, Nashville, Network, and Sorry to Bother You. (This list as well as the list of books is subject to change.)


This course will focus on longform narrative satire (read: novels, movies, and possibly a play or two) produced in the U.S. from the 1920s to just about now. Northrop Frye has defined satire as "militant irony"; a study of this most militant of fictional modes will provide an opportunity to consider the relationship between writing, its time, and its future. What can a (short) history of grotesque visions of the U.S. tell us about the history of the U.S.? At the same time as we consider the contradictions of American society as seen through these works, we will consider the contradictions of a mode that, at its best, can be simultaneously hilarious and devastating. And as you hone your writing skills, we will ask: what gives writing its bite?

The goal of this class is to equip students with techniques for and practice in analytical and argumentative writing. Students will compose a variety of shortish assignments, including responses, reflections, textual/visual analyses, and argumentative essays. Students will revise their work over the course of the semester, which will culminate in a longer essay on a satire or satires of their choice.

(Please note the changes in the instructor and content of this section of English R1A [as of October 17].)

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