2017-2018 Catalog

ENGL 353 Reading The Global 1930s: Depression-era Literature, Philosophy, and Politics

Frequently, United States politicians, including President Obama, say that the Great Depression of the 1930's is the only economic crisis that surpasses the world's current economic travails. This frequent comparison does not exhaust the significance of the Great Depression for the U.S. or around the world. What makes the 1930's so intriguing is that, all over the world, the economic collapse spawned new, or renewed older, political and artistic movements. Most importantly, in the global 1930's, thinkers and artists all over the world not only rethought their political identities, they also pondered the very meaning of the political for the past, present, and the future, and felt that art and philosophy were central to their investigations. This is important for Humanities scholarship because even if we are currently exiting the "Second Great Depression" in terms of economic productivity, the question remains: what cultural rebuilding remains to be done and how does art contribute to such processes? Writers of the 1930's took up this question in several different forms: through the trope of the document and its archival drive, the unconscious and the search for the Marvelous, the raised fist of labor movements or anti­racist activism. Simply put, what can the First Great Depression of the 1930's teach us about cultural reconstruction in the Second Great Depression of the early 2000's? This course will look at several literary (and related art) movements in, and cutting across, America, the Caribbean, and Europe. Texts will include (but are not limited to) literature from Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, and Muriel Rukeyser; from Surrealist writers in Europe and the Caribbean like Andre Breton, Aime and Suzanne Cesaire; and political readings from figures like Antonia Gramsci. Although this is a literary course, it will also be informative to students in Art, History, Philosophy and Politics.


4 units

Core Requirements Met

  • Global Connections