ENG 302: American Pulp


Dr. Hefner 3 credits

          The term “pulp” conjures up images of popular trash, the detritus of literary history. However, popular literature has always been a clearinghouse for cultural anxieties and experimentation in literary genres. Though popular writers—often paid by the word—are often caricatured as “fiction factories,” the work they produced offers a complex window into questions about class, race, gender, sexuality, region, nation, and cultural value. While some writers sought to escape the stigma of the popular, others thrived in the popular publishing environment, producing works at a phenomenal rate. This course traces the history of popular and sensational writing in the United States through a number of genres and contexts, from the Revolutionary Era to the McCarthy Era. Along the way, we’ll encounter “seduction novels,” “city mysteries,” dime novels, adventure tales, pulp magazines, and sensational paperbacks from the 1950s. We will investigate the contexts—both literary and historical—of these works and consider the reading communities that consumed them, often in ways wholly antithetical to how we tend to read works of literature in an English classroom. In addition to critical writing, and presentations, students will do extensive work in the Carrier Library’s Special Collections with recently acquired copies of the seminal pulp magazine Black Mask.

This course fulfills the genre requirement for the English major.

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