This course explores the literature of Ken Kesey, viewed in the context of American literary precursors, two significant novels, and subsequent writings by and about the author. To “frame” our study in this most compressed—four week!—course, our understanding will be aided by Richard Poirier’s classic, A World Elsewhere: The Place of Style in American Literature, as we read carefully Kesey’s two essential novels, the popular and very successful One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the complex narrative telling, Sometimes A Great Notion, for many the most accomplished work of Northwestern reality yet written (and, on the timely note: it recently enjoyed the 50th anniversary of its publication!). The final week will be devoted to studies of the times Kesey helped define: Tom Wolfe’s justly famous Electric Kool-Aid Acid text (not required reading this year), and the recent Spit in the Ocean #7: All About Kesey. (We will also acknowledge two studies suggestive of the vision of reality supporting the course at the metaphysical level: Gary Saul Morson’s Narrative and Freedom and Giles Gunn’s The Interpretation of Otherness: Literature, Religion and the American Imagination.)
Empire, Race, and/or Ethnicity courses focus on ways that race matters in literature, media, and culture. Recent courses have examined such matters as native American literature and film; nineteenth-century writings by slavers and enslaved people in the U.S. and British colonies; fiction and filmmaking in post-apartheid South Africa; Latinx science fiction and environmental justice, and the novels of Toni Morrison.
English Minor courses offer students centuries of cultural experience and representation in poetry, prose, drama, film, TV, new media, and folk artifacts. The English minor can focus and extend the values of a liberal arts education, while also providing extensive training in writing, speaking, and critical thinking.