RARA-AVIS: Re: University Courses

From: Michael Sharp ( msharp@binghamton.edu)
Date: 17 Apr 2001

I'm teaching American Crime Fiction in the fall. Course selection for students began yesterday, I think, and the class filled *instantly*. Let me say, in terms of designing the course: it's easy to pick out cool shit I like, harder to design a syllabus that has a particular rationale. I've written and scrapped like 10 versions of the damned thing. I'm thinking of subtitling it "Punching America in the Mouth." -- it's all about disillusionment and the deflating of America's most cherished dreams/fantasies: The government cares about your well-being, the police exist to protect you, America's a melting pot, if I work hard I'll get ahead, the suburbs are safe and clean, money = happiness, small town sheriffs are not sadists, etc. Tentatively, we're reading the big guys
(Hammett, Chandler, Cain, Thompson, Himes) along w/ some lost, or at least MIA, stuff (E.S. Holding's _The Blank Wall_, Dorothy Hughes' _Ride the Pink Horse_, Clarence Cooper's .... well, anything, but probably _The Scene_). We'll also listen to some Johnny Cash and somewhere in there will be a whole section on America's love affair w/ the serial killer (featuring Hitchcock's
_Psycho_, Thompson's _Killer Inisde Me_, Westlake's _The Ax_, and the film of _American Psycho_)

I'm teaching a grad course on same subject next Spring, but that course will almost certainly be on black (that is, African-American) crime fiction, esp its relationship to American History/Politics. The course will feature black writers, obviously, though I'm thinking of putting Pelecanos's _Right as Rain_ in there (haven't read it yet) just to throw a curve. That should force people to reconsider what the "Black" in "Black Crime Fiction" means
(you're not black, are you George? Because that would fuck up my little plan)

I have a question/challenge: if you (that is, any of you) were designing a course introducing undergrads to American crime fiction, what would it look like? A semester is only 14 weeks long.

If I crib your ideas ... well then I crib them. Welcome to America.

Michael D. Sharp

# To unsubscribe from the regular list, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to
# majordomo@icomm.ca.  This will not work for the digest version.
# The web pages for the list are at http://www.miskatonic.org/rara-avis/ .

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 17 Apr 2001 EDT