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ENGLISH 154D: American Disaster (AMSTUD 154D, SOC 154A)

How do we make sense of catastrophe? Who gets to write or make art about floods, fires, or environmental collapse? How do disaster and its depiction make visible or exacerbate existing social and economic inequalities? Beginning with the Jamestown colony and continuing to the present, this course explores the long history of disaster on the North American continent, and how it has been described by witnesses, writers, and artists. From the 1793 Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic to Hurricane Katrina, the Dust Bowl to contemporary explorations of climate change, this seminar will put in conversation a wide range of primary and secondary materials. Possible texts include writings by Mike Davis, Katherine Anne Porter, Rebecca Solnit, Jesmyn Ward, and Richard Wright; films Wildlife (2018), First Reformed (2017), When the Levees Broke (2006), and Free Willy II (1995); and art by Dorothea Lange, Winslow Homer, and Richard Misrach. For the final paper, students will write a critical essay on a disaster novel, film, or other work or object of their choice, or develop their own creative piece or oral history.
Terms: Spr | Units: 5 | UG Reqs: WAY-A-II
Instructors: Bolten, R. (PI)
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