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

Undergraduate Course: American Carnage: Riot Narratives in the United States (ENLI10402)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting 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 political and aesthetic problems presented by the riot, which is often seen as so inarticulate and irrational as to defy representation. 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 a range of texts that attempt to negotiate these challenges and represent rioting collectives. This will involve analysing texts from a range of media (including film, drama and fiction) and genres that include autobiographical, experimental, literary, popular and young adult fictions. By reading fictional accounts of rioting that followed events such as the Rodney King trial and the 1969 police raid on the Stonewall Tavern, the course will also ask us to unpick the roles that class, race and sexuality play in the roots and representations of spontaneous urban uprisings.
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 Students MUST have passed: ( Literary Studies 1A (ENLI08020) AND Literary Studies 1B (ENLI08021) OR English Literature 1 (ENLI08001) AND Scottish Literature 1 (ENLI08016)) AND ( Literary Studies 2A: English Literature in the World, 1380-1788 (ENLI08024) AND Literary Studies 2B: English Literature in the World, post-1789 (ENLI08025) OR Scottish Literature 2A (ENLI08022) AND Scottish Literature 2B (ENLI08023) OR English Literature 2 (ENLI08003) AND Scottish Literature 2 (ENLI08004))
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Construct arguments that evidence new understandings of the ways in which narrative texts negotiate the representational challenges of depicting collective subjects.
  2. Use new critical lenses 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. Present self-directed research findings undertaken both individually and as part of a group and respond to similar research undertaken by colleagues.
Reading List
The Day of the Locust (1939), Nathanael West (Novella)
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 10 characteristics including:
Knowledge and understanding: students will have had the opportunity to demonstrate their critical understanding of a range of literatures and theoretical concepts and to relate their concerns and modes of expression to their cultural, political, social and critical contexts.
Applied Knowledge, Skills and Understanding: in their work for class discussion, presentations and formal assessment tasks,
students will have been able to practice the 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 cultural and intellectual history.
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.
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.
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.
KeywordsAmerican Literature,Contemporary Literature,Literature and Economics,Riots,Critical Theory,Marxism
Course organiserDr Sadek Kessous
Tel: (0131 6)50 3087
Course secretaryMs June Cahongo
Tel: (0131 6)50 3620
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