Topics in Literature: High Art: Drugs and Drug Wars in Modern Literature

Course Number: ENGL 165DL
Prerequisites: Check on GOLD
Advisory Enrollment Information: May be repeated for credit providing letter designations are different.
General Education Areas Fulfilled: Check on GOLD
Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 165AA-ZZ
Quarter: Summer B 2011
Day(s): MTWR
Time: 5:00 PM - 6:05 PM
Location: GIRV 1115

May be repeated for credit to a maximum of 28 units provided letter designations are different.

What is a drug? Can only certain chemicals be intoxicating? Is money a drug? Is sex? What about love? Why do we obsessively link narcotics with heavy stuff like transcendence, crime, death, and cool? This course proposes that while intoxicating chemicals are everywhere, the physical act of ingesting them is less interesting than the imaginative associations, discourses, metaphors, aesthetic categories, and human histories they generate. Although we’ll start with some European writers, we will focus on writing from the modern United States, the largest consumer of drugs on earth and the site of an intense “Drug War.” Our organizing motif will be the contributions drugs make to how we think about transcendence and mortality, but we’ll also consider the role they play in the American experience of imagination (especially the creative kind), chic, class, ecstasy and illness, racial differences, lust, gender, geopolitics, and the function of police and government. In short, we’ll act as literary critics and cultural ethnographers.

Reading will include fiction (Jean Rhys, Good Morning, Midnight; Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; Denis Johnson, Jesus’ Son; and Martin Amis, Money), drama (Long Day’s Journey Into Night), poetry (chunks of John Berryman’s The Dream Songs as well as lyrics by Robert Lowell, Wendy Cope, Rimbaud, Tennyson, and Coleridge), and autobiography (selections from Confessions of an English Opium-Eater and Ann Marlowe’s how to stop time). Also included will be Sigmund Freud, Aldous Huxley, Billie Holiday, and other non-fiction writers, as well as visual media (such as Picasso and The Wire) and music (hip-hop and older country).

Once this course is full, you can sign up to the wait list at:

English Department Crash Policy