English | Literatures in English, 1900-Present
E304 | 6783 | Jim Beaty

Jim Beaty

6783 - 9:30a-10:45a TR (30 students) 3 cr. A&H.

TOPIC:  “Call and Response in 20th Century Literature”

Survey course in literature often  make different texts “speak” to
each other, creating interesting discussions and debates within a
specific tradition or time period.  Some texts actually try to “talk
back” to their influential predecessors, however.  In particular,
some books coming from culturally marginal positions directly
address earlier, more culturally dominant works in order to
question, qualify, or even attack the perspectives of the original
works.  This class will trace examples of this cross-cultural
dialogue.  We will consider, among other examples: How Jean Toomer’s
Cane tries to apply Sherwood Anderson’s reflections in Winesburg,
Ohio on the psychological make-up of a small town to the African
American community in the 1920s;  How Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall
Apart attempts to explode the representation of Africa in Joseph
Conrad’s Heart of Darkness;  And how Oscar Zeta Acosta tries in
Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo to reclaim the representation of
Acosta himself as a character who appears in Hunter S. Thompson’s
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.  In doing so, we will look at pairs
of texts as competing perspectives on a given issue/theme, but we
will focus more on seeing what emerges “in between” pairs of texts—
what unique, “third perspective” we can create by bringing the two
into conversation.  In the process, we will consider these kinds of
questions: What insights and blind spots does each cultural
perspective engender?  How can “talking back” supplement, refine, or
even explode the earlier book’s ways of thinking?  How is our sense
of literary and cultural history limited by looking from only one
perspective or the other?  How can bringing oppositional
perspectives together to create a cross-cultural dialog expand and
enrich our understanding of those histories?  To answer these
questions, we will focus mostly on pairs of literary novels that (to
varying degrees) directly address each other from differential
cultural positions, supplemented by some poetry and possibly
examples from popular culture.