This course investigates the utopian and dystopia visions of California after 1940 that give the state its unique mix of “sunshine and noir.” We will introduce ourselves to California fiction and film while trying to understand the cultural and psychological sources of the state’s strange interactions of vision and violence, transformation and conflict, regression and leadership, disaster and pleasure. Topics covered will include the Great Depression, the growth of the suburbs, the building of the University of California, racial and cultural diversity (the Department of Motor Vehicles offers the driver’s license exam in 31 languages), sexual revolt and political protest, Hollywood and celebrity, Silicon Valley, and California’s immediate future. While exploring these topics, we will ask and answer the following questions: What led to California’s amazing rise as both reality and symbol of abundance and fulfillment? Is that all over now—has California fallen as quickly as it rose? Can we imagine the forces of a major California recovery? Finally, what will the Next California look like?
Requirements: final exam, a section-based group project, and a final paper or personal memoir.