English 190

Research Seminar: Fictions of Los Angeles


Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
3 Spring 2021 Saul, Scott
MW 12-1:30

Book List

Boyle, T. Coraghessen: The Tortilla Curtain; Isherwood, Christopher: A Single Man; West, Nathanael: Day of the Locust; Yamashita, Karen Tei: Tropic of Orange

Other Readings and Media

In addition to the novels listed above, we will be engaging with a wide range of films, music, and other writings. These may include the following:

Films

Meshes of the Afternoon (dir. Maya Deren)

Double Indemnity (dir. Billy Wilder)

In a Lonely Place (dir. Nicholas Ray)

Rebel Without a Cause (dir. Nicholas Ray)

Chinatown (dir. Roman Polanski)

Zoot Suit (dir. Luis Valdez)

The Decline of Western Civilization, Part One (dir. Penelope Spheeris)

Blade Runner (dir. Ridley Scott)

Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 (performed by Anna Deavere Smith, dir. Marc Levin)

Music

Selection of early LA punk (Germs, Weirdos, X)

NWA, Straight Outta Compton

Kendrick Lamar, good kid, M.A.A.D. City

Visual Arts

Betye Saar, mixed-media collages

David Hockney, paintings

Jaime Hernandez, The Death of Speedy (graphic novel)

Other writings

Raymond Chandler, "Red Wind"

Umberto Eco, "The City of Robots"

Joan Didion, "The White Album"

Description

Los Angeles has been described, variously, as a "circus without a tent" (Carey McWilliams), "seventy-two suburbs in search of a city" (Dorothy Parker), "the capital of the Third World" (David Rieff), and "the only place for me that never rains in the sun" (Tupac Shakur). This class will investigate these and other ways that Los Angeles has been understood over the last century—as a city-in-a-garden, a dream factory, a noirish labyrinth, a homeowner's paradise, a zone of libidinal liberation, and a powderkeg of ethnic and racial violence, to name but a few. We will trace the rise of Los Angeles from its origins as a small city, built on a late-19th-century real estate boom sponsored by railroad companies, into the sprawling megacity that has often been taken as a prototype of postmodern urban development; and we will do so primarily by looking at the fiction, film, drama, and music that the city has produced.

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