English R1A

Reading & Composition: Psychedelic Experience in the Literature and Culture of the 1960s and '70s

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Session Course Areas
2 Summer 2020 D'Silva, Eliot
TWTh 2:30-5 D


This course surveys the experimental literature of the late 1960s and early 1970s, situating it in relation to both the psychedelic discourses of the period and the wave of countercultural demands for a new kind of society. We’ll read texts that engage directly with weird visions, hallucinations, messages from aliens and telepathy, considering these experiences not merely as esoteric subcultural practices or escapist gestures but as exuberant attempts to tell stories in a culture where there is no longer a shared rational narrative. If psychedelics have enabled writers to analyze their mental conditions and express them in writing, the course also encourages students to reflect on these writers’ social and political responsibilities for the worlds they construct in both real and visionary realms. 

Over the course of the session, writing, peer-reviewing, and revising short papers will ensure that students learn how to patiently develop arguments that reveal the fruits of careful reading, accumulated analysis, and scholarly research.

Book List:  Philip K. Dick, VALIS; Allen Ginsberg, Howl, Kaddish and Other Poems; William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience; Terrence McKenna, Food of the Gods: A Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolution; Ann Taves, Religious Experience Reconsidered

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