English | Literatures in English 1900-Present
E304 | 7215 | Scott Herring

Scott Herring

4:00p-5:15p TR (30 students) 3 cr. A&H.

TOPIC:  “Slumming Literatures”

This course swerves primarily through about six decades of American
literary cultures to track “slumming” literatures and the cultural
phenomena that inform them.  By “slumming,” I refer to vice
reformers chronicling “how the other half lives,” whites reporting
when Harlem was in vogue and U.S. expatriates exploring
the “underworlds” of the Parisian Left Bank.  Scholars have recently
analyzed these ventures as sensational forms of urban colonialism.
They argue that the act of slumming and its complementary narratives
helped to define socio-economic, racial, and sexual differences
during the first half of the twentieth-century.  With guidance from
a few historians and cultural critics, we certainly won’t deny these
claims.  But we will also focus on how the so-called “other half”
deployed the literary conventions of “slumming” to resist such
static labeling then and now, now and then, and to manipulate the
gaze of voyeurs/readers searching for vices and marveling at
vogues.  Readings will include: Stephen Crane, Maggie: A Girl from
the Streets; several excerpts from the “mysteries of the city”
genre; a unit on the Down Low; James Weldon Johnson, The
Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man; the sensational journal sketches
of Djuna Barnes;  Mike Gold, Jews Without Money; Claude McKay, Home
to Harlem; Edna St. Vincent Millay, A Few Figs from Thistles;
Susanna Moore, In the Cut; Eugene O’Neill, The Hairy Ape; Jacob
Riis, How the Other Half Lives; Mae West, The Drag; Richard Wright,
12 Million Black Voices; and two films, Freaks and Adventures in