Tu/W/Th/10:00-12:30 255 Dwinelle Instructor: Keith Budner

Session D:  July 3rd-August 11th.

Who are America’s heroes? Are they caped crusaders and cowboys, or are they of a more ordinary sort – oddball schoolmasters like Ichabod Crane and country lawyers like Atticus Finch? In this class, we’ll explore the question of American (both Northern and Southern) heroism by asking whether, how, and why America looked (or perhaps needed?) to create heroes that were different from the chivalric knights and epic warriors – including the Vikings that reached America – of the Old World(s).

To explore these questions, we’ll consider a wide variety of heroes – from cross-dressing conquistadors to female Korean revolutionaries, wanna-be cowboys to comic book superheroes – as well as their broad range of fans – from Holocaust survivors to a first-generation Dominican American teen. With an eye toward contemporary American popular culture, we’ll also think about why in the last decade we’ve seen the simultaneous rise of the Anti-Hero in cable television (The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Dexter, etc.) along with the return of comic book Superheroes in film (The Dark Knight, The Avengers, etc.).

From a cultural perspective, we’ll ask how heroes reflect and respond to society’s values and anxieties, as shaped by politics, race, and gender. Do heroes operate within society’s bounds of convention and authority (perhaps even reifying social norms and hierarchies) or are they, as they often portray themselves to be, defenders of the downtrodden, perhaps even figures with revolutionary social potential? With such questions in mind, our exploration of heroism will be placed within larger questions of “myth-making” and “mythologies” that seek to ask how America (or the Americas) understands itself, its past, and its future. If a hero can function as a symbol of cultural or national unity, can heroism also tell us about the divisions within American society, be it the divide between indigenous Amerindian populations and later settlers, the north/south split(s), or divisions of class, race and ethnicity?

Our exploration of such topics and questions will lead us to consider both major literary texts and films as well as comics, graphic novels, and television episodes, either in their entirety or excerpted. We will have a course reader with shorter texts and theoretical essays; major texts may be selected from among the following:

Literature –

The Vinland Sagas, The Norse Discovery of America: “Graenlendinga Saga” and “Eirik’s Saga”

Catalina de Erauso: Lieutenant Nun: Memoir of a Basque Transvestite in the New World

Washington Irving:  The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories 

American Indian Myths and Legends (edited by Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz)

Mark Twain:  Pudd’nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins

Teresa Hak Kyung Cha:  Dictée

Michael Chabon:  The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

Junot Diaz:  The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao

Film and Television –

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence

The Searchers

High Noon

To Kill a Mockingbird (plus excerpts from the novel)

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

The Sopranos


Comp Lit N60 003 AC: 美国神话:超级英雄、反派英雄、普通群众

美国的英雄是谁?是十字军、牛仔?还是那些更普通的人——伊卡博德·克兰那样 的奇怪校长还是阿提克斯·芬奇那样的乡村律师?在这节课中,我们将探讨一同美国(北 方和南方)英雄主义,思考美国是否会、如何、为何要(或可能需要?)创造不同于骑士 和史诗战士的英雄形象?

为了探究这些问题,我们将考虑各种各样的英雄:从跨界征服者到韩国女性革命家,从渴望出名的牛仔到漫画超级英雄以及大量英雄粉丝,从大屠杀幸存者到第一代多米尼 加裔美国青少年。着眼当代美国流行文化,我们还将思考为何过去十年中美剧(《黑道家 族》,《绝命毒师》,《嗜血法医》等)中的反派英雄与电影中(《黑暗骑士》,《复仇 者联盟》等)的漫画超级英雄同时回归。

从文化的角度来看,我们也许会问英雄形象如何反映和回应由于政治,种族和性别 所塑造的社会价值观和社会焦虑。英雄形象们是否社会公约与授权内(甚至可能会改变社 会规范和阶层)运作,还是他们常常成为受压迫群体的守护者,又或是具有革新社会潜力 的人物?鉴于这些问题,我们将对被英雄主义的探索放在更广的论题“神话制造”和“神话” 中,试图追问美国(或美洲)该如何理解自己、过去和未来。如果英雄可以作为文化或民 族团结的象征,英雄主义也可以告诉我们美国社会中的分歧,无论是美洲印第安人和后来 定居者之间的分歧,南北分裂,还是阶级、种族和民族差异?