Alternative Voices in American Literature

ENGL 135, Fall 2010

Is an “Alternative Voice” something one is born with or is it acquired through life experience? Is it chosen or is it imposed by others? What are such voices alternatives to? This semester we will investigate these questions by reading literary works that illustrate experiences of marginalization from mainstream American culture. We will consider the divergent ways in which experiences of alienation are expressed by writers from diverse backgrounds. Our reading will trace social movements, subcultures, and youth culture from the early twentieth century to the present, situating these historical shifts within a transnational context. We will chart the generational evolution of American values, customs, and norms. Our examination of human difference propels us to consider the role of dissent in articulating alternative narratives.

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
Gwendolyn Brooks, Selected Poems
Ann Charters (ed.), The Portable Beat Reader
Zora Neale Hurston (ed. Alice Walker), I Love Myself When I am Laughing…
Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Claude McKay, Home to Harlem
Harryette Mullen, Recyclopedia
Gil Scott-Heron, Now and Then: The Poetry of Gil Scott-Heron