English R1A

Reading and Composition: Millennial Narratives

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
3 Fall 2022 Lackey, Ryan
MWF 11-12 SOCS180

Book List

Adjei-Brenyah, Nana Kwame: Friday Black; Rooney, Sally: Normal People

Other Readings and Media

Besides the books, we'll look with especial care at three particular millennial texts:

—a film: Frances Ha (Greta Gerwig/Noah Baumbach, 2013)

—a videogame: A Short Hike (Adam Robinson-Yu, 2019)

—an Internet text: 17776 (Jon Bois, 2017)

I'll make the film and Internet text easily available. The game has been published on essentially every platform, and it usually costs less than a used paperback. For those who cannot or do not want to play it, there exists a playthrough without commentary online for which I'll provide a link.

We'll also look at examples of journalism, cultural criticism, and texts from other aesthetic forms. I'll encourage everyone to bring examples of millennial narratives we'll use to build our own archive.


“how long can a culture persist without the new? What happens if the young are no longer capable of producing surprises?”
    —Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism

“The air we breathe is toxic, the water we drink is full of microplastics, and our food is contaminated by cancerous Teflon chemicals. Our quality of life is in decline, and along with it, the quality of aesthetic experience available to us. ”
    —Sally Rooney, Beautiful World, Where Are You?


Does "millennial" mean anything anymore? Has its significance been so thoroughly flattened by Our Cultural Discourse that it points not to a wobbily defined generation but to everything, and also to nothing? For our purposes, we'll consider "millennial" not as a demographic but as an aesthetic, a sensibility—a vibe. By looking closely at narratives that have been called, or seem somehow as, millennial—a novel, a collection of stories, a film, a videogame, and an Internet text (plus other, smaller things)—we'll ask a set of questions: what does it mean and feel like to be young (whatever that means) right now? How does the millennial aesthetic interact with identity categories like gender, race, sexuality, and age? How have contemporary narratives changed their form to respond to changes in American culture? How do these narratives address material problems (precarious capitalism, climate crises, structural identity inequities) alongside social, emotional, and spiritual anxieties (loneliness, alienation, anhedonia)?

Because this is an R1A course, our goals prioritize the development of your writing practice, in the sense of a creative, vocational, spiritual, or otherwise serious and expressive practice. Good writing does not occur when a prefabricated form has been mastered, when a set of repeatable moves have been memorized. Good writing, solid essays, strong voice, creative argumentation—all these come about through experimentation, failure, collaboration, a willingness to feel and stumble around inside the process of writing. In this course, you will always write for a reason, for a certain audience. You won’t just pretend to do writing that other people will see—you will literally do it.

In this course, we will be working critics. We will think and write together about recent texts and contemporary life.

Back to Semester List