Assignments for the Rest of the Semester

For Tuesday, remember that you should try to finish “Day of the Locust.” Then for Thursday, you have your final reading of the semester, an article by Kathleen Moran and Michael Rogin about Sullivan’s travels, Hollywood, and the Popular front:

Kathleen Moran and Michael Rogin, “What’s the Matter With Capra?”

Then you will just finish your papers for the following Tuesday. Have a nice weekend!

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Final Paper Options and Reading for 11/29

For your final paper, which is 5-7 pages, due Tuesday December 13, in class you have three options:

1)  Revise and extend one of your response papers. This will probably entail adding one or two more close readings of the same text you chose in order to discuss the relationship between your text and one or more of the big concepts we’ve been discussing this semester.

2) Write your paper about Nathanael West’s novella “The Day of the Locust.” This, again, will be a close reading of several passages from the novella. You will probably want to make an argument about Hollywood and the depression, but you’ll be able to understand this one more once you’ve read the novella and we’ve discussed it in class a bit. If you think you might be interested in this option, read a bit of the novella (or the whole thing) this week to see how you like it and whether you’d actually like to write about it.

3)  In Meridel Le Sueur’s pamphlet Worker Writers she calls for a new kind of writing, written about work, by and for workers. Using Worker Writers as a guide, write a 5-7 page story of your own work experiences; the work experiences of others (if you write about other people, you may want to do interviews); or a story meant to politicize workers or their children (along the lines of Battle in the Barnyard). This must be accompanied by a 1-2 page explanation of how your creative piece answers Le Sueur’s call for a “new literature.”

Your job sometime BEFORE TUESDAY  11/29 is to send me an email explaining which option you are choosing, and if you choose option 1, which text you will analyze and any preliminary ideas you have about your argument. This can be informal and should be 2-3 sentences. You are welcome to ask questions or present me with 2 options if you can’t decide.

Here, also, is the reading for Tuesday:

le sueur worker writers

Helen Kay, “Battle in the Barnyard” Part One

Helen Kay, “Battle in the Barnyard” Part Two

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Response Paper 4 Assignment

Hi everyone,

So your 4th response paper, on The Girl, is due next Tuesday in class. You have three options:

1) Analyze a passage in which one of the characters is interpellated (most likely “girled”) by the dominant social order. How is the character told who she is, and how does she respond by citing the impossible norm imposed on her? Here is the handout, but please email me or ask in class if you want these concepts clarified.


2) Analyze a passage that critiques New Deal liberalism–both the ideology and the state’s attempts to help and educate poor and working class people. Your thesis should make a claim about le Sueur’s specific argument against the New Deal’s liberal ideologies.

3) For your third option, you can sort of combine the first two: use a passage to consider how The Girl combines a critique of gender formation with a critique of capitalism and commodity fetishism. How does Le Sueur describe the gendered nature of desire in patriarchal capitalism? Again, feel free to ask questions or send me your thesis statement if you need help.


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Readings for Next Week (Nov 8 and 10)

This week we will think about the United States’ relationship to Latin America and the Caribbean in the 1930s. For next Tuesday 11/8, we’ll be reading excerpts from Hurston’s folklore-collecting trip to Haiti and thinking a bit about her description of Haitian society and culture in the context of the US occupation of Haiti she describes:

Zora Neale Hurston, Tell My Horse (excerpt)

For Thursday, you’ll be reading a number of short documents about the repatriation of Mexicans and Mexican Americans during the depression:

Repatriation Documents


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Readings for November 1 and 3

For Tuesday November 1, please read:

*Zora Neale Hurston, Mules and Men (excerpt)

For Thursday November 3, please read:

*Richard Wright, “Between Laughter and Tears,” New Masses, (5 October 1937) 22-23.

Wright between laughter

*Richard Wright, “Blueprint for Negro Writing” (1937)

Wright blueprint

*Richard Wright, “Big Boy Leaves Home” (story from Uncle Tom’s Children)

*Zora Neale Hurston, “Stories of Conflict,” Saturday Review of Literature (2 April 1938)

Stories of Conflict

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Third Response Paper Assignment

For Response paper #3, due next Tuesday 11/1, choose a non-written cultural text (song, photograph, scene from a movie, clip from a radio broadcast, etc.) and analyze it using one of these two frameworks:

1. Link it to New Deal liberalism (as articulated straightforwardly by Mr. Deeds and Superman, so don’t pick those, but rather use them to articulate the principles that you are going to situate your text in relation to). Do a close reading, like in your other papers, and through your reading make an argument about how your text reinforces, challenges, explains, critiques and/or does something else with New Deal liberal principles. Please email me if you’re having trouble finding a particular source.

2. Analyze the performances of racial identity (idealized or caricatured blackness and/or whiteness) your text. What do  performances of blackness do in your text? Connect the performance you are analyzing to  modernity and alienation, cultural competency, and/or conceptions of authentic folk culture.

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FSA Photographs

If you decide that you want to write your third response paper about an FSA photograph, you can select any of the following:

Dorothea Lange, Southern Pacific Railroad billboard near Los Angeles, California, 1937

Russell Lee, “A Negro mother teaching her children the numbers and alphabet in her home,” Transylvania, Louisiana, 1939

Walker Evans, “Bud Fields and his family at their home in Alabama,” 1935

Arthur Rothstein, Houston or Erick Kennedy plowing, Gee’s Bend, Alabama, 1937

Dorothea Lange, “Refugee families encamped near Holtville, California,” March 1937.

Ben Shahn, A destitute family, Ozark Mountains area, Arkansas, October 1935

Ben Shahn, Cotton picker in Pulaski County, Arkansas, October 1935

Marion Post Wolcott, Negro Man Entering Movie Theatre by “Colored” Entrance, October 1939

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