This course explores the literatures and cultures of the post WWII US, focusing in particular on the works of the so-called Beat Generation. Questions we will explore in the course include: How do these authors contest notions of the 50’s and 60’s as constituting an idyllic time in US history? How do their works speak to underlying tensions of race, class, and ethnicity that will erupt into the national consciousness with the Civil Rights Movement that linger to this day? In what ways to their works create alternative narratives of the US and US national identity as these writers through their travels trace and retrace fundamental narratives of national belonging such as Manifest Destiny?
Texts covered in this class will include Jack Kerouac’s classic On the Road (1957), as well as selections from The Portable Beat Reader (1952).