Tu/W/Th 01:00-03:30 106 Wheeler Instructor: Juan Caballero

Please note this is a new course description as of 2/12/10

TuWTh 1-3:30
106 Wheeler
CCN 27920
Juan Caballero

While making no claim to proportional representation or thoroughness, this class tries to survey some of California’s literary and artistic output that directly addresses the intense hybridity of California’s history.  Looking at writing in various genres and media, this class will try to make the concept of California as unstable as those of race, ethnicity, and community. Without snubbing the particularity of each text, we will look at what these contesting and at times even revisionist gestures have in common across genres, communities, personas and identities. In addition to high literary fiction and poetry, we will also be looking at how more popular traditions of essayism and wide-readership/”popular” history strive to intervene in California’s self-image, as well as looking at some film, and video art.

What this means for the objectives of class discussion and student work is that the emphasis will not be on constructing a corpus of works that “represent” a real California, but exactly the opposite: the emphasis will be on each artist’s resistance to such a representative function, on each artist’s own California and what strategies they use to posit their history alongside or against a unitary and univocal California. This is a course in Comparative Literature, not History or Sociology: our goal is to compare and combine strategies without losing what’s unique to each, to complicate but never to circumscribe the possibilities of what the name California can mean. Each artist chosen for consideration has been chosen for their individual conception of American Culture and Californian history, as “representatives” neither of historical or demographic groups nor of literary or artistic schools or tendencies. Students are encouraged to select for writing works that engage them personally, but also to take from this class a vocabulary and a toolkit for understanding how even the most personal art practice congeals into and exploits tendencies, schools, genres, traditions, and public discourses, with or without the artist’s intent. It is also hoped that each student will take away an enriched and more open definition of what American and Californian Cultures mean and “look like”.

Central texts (available at Student Store):
• Karen Tei Yamashita, Tropic of Orange 1566890640, Coffee House Press
• Ishmael Reed, Blues City 1400045401, Crown
• Pamela Lu, Pamela: A Novel 1891190040, Atelos (SPT)
• Joan Didion, Where I Was From 0679433325, Knopf
• Richard Rodriguez, Days of Obligation: An Argument with my Mexican Father 0140096221, Penguin
• Mike Davis, City of Quartz 0679738061, Vintage
• David L. Ulin, ed., Another City: Writing from Los Angeles 0872863913, City Lights
Optional texts (the excerpts assigned will be provided in the course reader):
• Gomez-Pena, ed., The New World Border 0872863131, City Lights
• Gray Brechin, Imperial San Francisco 0520229029, UC Press
• Sesshu Foster, Atomik Aztex 0872864405, City Lights
• Back To The Bay: Exploring The Margins Of The San Francisco Bay Region 0965096246, CLUI

Possible Films and Videos include:
• Better Luck Tomorrow, Justin Lin, 2002
• Selections from the BBC Channel 4 adaptation of Tales of the City
• Treasure Island, Scott King, 2001
• Frontierland, Jesse Lerner and Rubén Ortiz-Torres
• Devil in a Blue Dress, Carl Franklin, 1995
• Safe, Todd Haynes, 2005
• L.A. Plays Itself, Thom Anderson, 2003
• Quincea~nera, Gatzer & Westmoreland, 2006

— Week-by-Week breakdown —

Week 1: Introduction to Polemics/Polemical Induction
Screening: Treasure Island
Readings: Reader Selections (Himes, Gomez-Peña, Spicer); Rodriguez; Mike Davis

Week 2: Contested San Francisco
Screening: Chinatown
Readings: Brechin, Rodriguez

Week 3: Barbary Coast writing and Patchwork L.A.
Screenings: Quincieañera** [Optional: Excerpts from Tales of the City] Readings: Selections from Killian, Gluck, Cooper, Bellamy (in Reader); begin Yamashita

Week 4: Suburban sprawl and ennui
Screening: Better Luck Tomorrow [Optional: Safe] Readings: Finish Yamashita, short sel. f/Pamela: A Novel, Gomez-Pena

Week 5: Separate and Unequal [Side-]Cities
Screening: Devil in a Blue Dress [Optional: Frontierland] Readings: Blues City, Selections from Gomez-Pena, ch.9 of Atomik Aztex

Week 6: California is for Crazies
Screening: California Plays Itself
Readings: Where I Was From, elective selections from Another City