Module Identifier EN36620  
Academic Year 2000/2001  
Co-ordinator Dr Martin Padget  
Semester Intended For Use In Future Years  
Next year offered N/A  
Next semester offered N/A  
Course delivery Seminar   20 Hours 10 x 2 hour seminar workshops  
Assessment Continuous assessment   2 x 2,500 word essays   100%  
  Resit assessment   Resubmit any failed elements and/or make good any missing elements.   100%  

Brief description
Reading begins with excerpts from several narratives published before the US-Mexican War of 1846-48 and a handful of stories reflecting life in and about the mines during the Gold Rush.

Alongside these texts, lectures will provide an overview of California history before and during the Spanish colonial period (1769-1821), the years of Mexcian independence (1821-1848), warfare between Mexico and the US, and the incorporation of California into the Union as a state in 1850.

The module continues with Helen Hunt Jackson's Ramona (1884), a romantic novel designed to highlight the suffering of California Indians and stir public opinion into providing for their welfare.

Moving from southern California to the urban north, the module then takes up Frank Norris's McTeague (1899), a Naturalist novel set in San Francisco but whose stunning finale takes place in the austere surroundings of Death Valley.

Mary Austin's The Land of Little Rain (1903) provides a very different view of the desert from that found in McTeague; Austin's naturalist eye is complemented by her lyrical voice as she provides an intimate portrait of the geography, flora, fauna and human characters in the arid lands east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

The module then moves on three decades to examine The Grapes of Wrath (1939), John Steinbeck's epic account of the Okie migration to California during the Great Depression.

The following two seminars look at two versions of Los Angeles noir: Roman Polanski's movie Chinatown (1974), based on Robert Towne's intricate screenplay, and Chester Himes' If He Hollers Let Him Go (1945), a novel that depicts a city deeply divided along lines of ethnicity and class.

The last-but-one seminar considers Play It as It Lays (1970), Joan Didion's spare and haunting novel which narrates a young woman's alienation and emotional breakdown in Los Angeles and western Nevada.

The course concludes by looking at how Helena Maria Viramontes, in her novel Under the Feet of Jesus (1995), dramatizes the lives of contemporary migrant labourers drawn from Mexico to toil in the rich agricultural lands of California. This is a powerful story of a girl's maturity into womanhood in particularly difficult social and economic circumstances.

Taken as a whole, the module investigates the role literature has played in dramatising and defining a sense of community and place in California over the past 150 or so years.

Module objectives / Learning outcomes
To examine a wide variety of representations of Western American landscapes and cultures in nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature and culture focussed on California
To relate how issues of ethnicity, gender and cultural identity have increasingly come to the fore in Western American literature, particularly among so-called minority writers.

On completion of the module students should be better able to:
demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of a range of issues relating to the form and content of the writing
articulate this knowledge and understanding accurately and coherently in speech and writing

Reading Lists
** Recommended Text
Helen Hunt Jackson. Ramona.
Frank Norris. McTeague.
Mary Austin. The Land of Little Rain.
John Steinbeck. The Grapes of Wrath.
Chester Himes. (1945) If He Hollers Let Him Go.
Joan Didion. (1970) Play It As It Lays.
Helena Maria Viramontes. (1995) Under the Feet of Jesus.