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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : English Literature

Postgraduate Course: American Carnage: Riot Narratives in the United States (ENLI11253)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummarySpanning from the Great Depression to the era of Black Lives Matter, this course asks us to consider how the riot has been represented in American culture. Our aim is to analyse the problems presented by the textual representation of the riot, which is so often seen as inarticulate and irrational. Drawing on critical theory that seeks to reframe the riot as a considered intervention in the economic sphere, we will analyse the literary strategies of diverse texts that attempt to negotiate these challenges and represent the rioting collective.
Course description Riots are often seen as the political event horizon of collective action, the limit at which political rationality gives way to irrational mob violence. Yet American riots have frequently played a major role in key moments of the past century. Their presence has been felt across the Great Depression, the Civil Rights era and Stonewall to more recent rioting that responds to police violence and economic inequality. Indeed, as Joshua Clover has asserted, ours is an "age of riots".

This course places this problem at the centre of its analysis of American culture. How have different American cultural texts represented the riot? Have discourses of individualism overwritten accounts of the riot that see it as a collective political subject? Or does careful attention to literary form reveal more nuanced registrations of this riotous American multitude? This necessarily turns our attention to the riot's diverse cast of actors that includes workers, students, women, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Latinx and queer subjects, whose rioting responds to various forms of social, political and economic discrimination. It also asks us to consider how the riot has been registered in different forms and genres. As such, the course syllabus ranges across a variety of texts that include film, drama and novels of various stripe (including literary, experimental, satirical, historical, crime, autobiographical, and young adult fictions).

Riots are deeply embedded in the economic sphere and students on this course will learn about the economic factors that structure the riot and their impact upon the riot's literary representation. Our aims are to critically analyse the ways in which different authors have narrated the complexities of these social, political and economic conflicts. Through our reading and discussion, we will critically consider: how do textual forms register the material reality of social inequality? How do different cultural forms give voice popular experience? Can collective movements be narrated or are political narratives limited by a focus on the individual subject? And, ultimately, are cultural texts effective forms of political protest?
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2020/21, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  2
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 196 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %

Assessed by one course essay of 4000 words.
Feedback Students will be provided with detailed written formative feedback on a 1000-word draft essay plan. Both prior to the final submission of written assessment elements and after the release of written feedback, students are encouraged to attend office hours for oral feedback.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Construct arguments that evidence scholarly engagement with up-to-date critical literature and methodologies that address the ways in which narrative texts negotiate the representational challenges of depicting collective subjects.
  2. Use new critical lenses and diverse cross-disciplinary data sets that can analytically bridge the forms of American literature with its economic contexts.
  3. Critically interrogate a range of literary and historical sources to parse biases and offer evidence in support of complex arguments.
  4. Apply close reading skills to a wide range of genres and forms that spans the gamut of American literature, from literary experimental fiction to popular writing for young adults.
  5. Develop independent lines of research from work undertaken individually and as part of a group.
Reading List
The Day of the Locust (1939), Nathanael West (Novel)
The Grapes of Wrath (1939), John Steinbeck (Novel)
Little Scarlet (2004), Walter Mosley (Novel)
Detroit 67 (2013), Dominique Morisseau (Play)
Detroit (2016), dir. by Kathryn Bigelow (Film)
12th and Clairmount (2017), dir. by Brian Kaufman (Film)
The Beautiful Room Is Empty (1988), Edmund White (Novel)
The White Boy Shuffle (1996), Paul Beatty (Novel)
Dear Cyborgs (2017), Eugene Lim (Novel)
The Hate U Give (2017), Angie Thomas (Novel)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills As an outcome of having studied this course, students will develop a range of personal and professional skills commensurate with the range of SCQF Level 11 characteristics including:
Knowledge and understanding: students will have had the opportunity to develop a critical understanding that is thorough in its engagement with up-to-date literatures and theoretical concepts that relate to cultural criticism on the relationship between culture and economics.
Applied Knowledge, Skills and Understanding: in their work for class discussion, presentations and formal assessment tasks,
students will have been able to practice innovative application of these theories and concepts in their construction of arguments about the course material and to situate these arguments in the wider context of American cultural and intellectual history. Students will also be able to demonstrate orally and in writing their ability to respond to and nuance existing critical positions.
Generic Cognitive Skills: in completing assessed essays and class presentations, students will have practiced identifying, designing,
conceptualising and analysing complex problems and issues germane to the discipline. Moreover, students will have had to synthesise diverse data that include historical sources, economic theory and literary criticism to support their critical positions.
Communication: through participating in these tasks students will also have demonstrated the ability to communicate ideas and
information about specialised topics in the discipline to an informed audience of their peers and subject specialists. Students will also both engage with various digital databases to collate information and use digital tools to express that information effectively in support of their argument, both verbally and graphically.
Autonomy and Working with Others: students will also have shown the capacity to work autonomously and in small groups on
designated tasks, develop new thinking with their peers, and take responsibility for the reporting, analysis and defence of these
ideas to a larger group. Autonomous working will also be developed through this course as students will develop research skills that allow them to posit and answer research questions that are conversant with wider scholarly dialogues.
KeywordsAmerican Literature,Contemporary Literature,Literature and Economics,Riots,Critical Theory,Marxism
Course organiserDr Sadek Kessous
Tel: (0131 6)50 3087
Course secretaryMiss Kara McCormack
Tel: (0131 6)50 3030
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