HC444H/421H - Los Angeles and the Dreamlife of American Capitalism

Professor: Casey Shoop

4.00 credits

CRN 12305: Monday & Wednesday, 4:00-5:50pm @ PETR 103

Graduation Requirement:  This class will fulfill an Arts and Letters Colloquium and the HC 444H: US: Difference, Inequality, and Agency (US) cultural literacy requirement.  If a student already has completed an Arts and Letters Colloquium, this course will fulfill both of the following requirements: an Elective Colloquium and the US: Difference, Inequality, and Agency (US) cultural literacy requirement.

In Los Angeles, as Joan Didion once observed, “the mind is troubled by some buried but ineradicable suspicion that things had better work here, because here, beneath that immense bleached sky, is where we run out of continent.” At the proverbial “end” of America’s manifest destiny to grow westward, Los Angeles has long been overdetermined in the historical imagination: it is at once utopia and dystopia, the place where dreams go to be realized or forfeit. This course will explore the literary and filmic representation of Los Angeles as the place in which America is compelled to confront its self-image at last, for better or worse. Regarded as the city of the future for much of the 20th-century, Los Angeles has given writers, artists and filmmakers the preeminent site in which to register the often stark contrasts between California dreaming and the social inequalities produced by American capitalism and consumer culture, a crucible in which long standing racial inequality and conflict will burn with critical luminosity, and a garden in the desert in which the environmental limits of urban growth will be forced to reckon with a recalcitrant nature. Alongside our attention to these issues of class, race and ecology in Los Angeles, the social imagination of the city will also yield crucial questions about Hollywood and its genres, suburbanization and the future of the American city, immigration and the southern border, multiculturalism, and the global city, and so much more. Possible authors include Nathanael West, Raymond Chandler, John Fante, Walter Moseley, Paul Beatty, Joan Didion, Yxta Maya Murray, Luis Rodriguez, Karen Tei Yamashita, Octavia Butler, Eve Babitz, Christopher Isherwood, Richard Rodriguez, Anna Deavere Smith, and many others. Possible films may include Sullivan’s Travels, The Big Sleep, Chinatown, Short Cuts, Falling Down, L.A. Confidential, The Big Lebowski, Menace II Society, O.J. Made in America, L.A. Plays Itself, Mildred Pierce, Blade Runner, Quinceanera, Crash, Mulholland Drive, and many others.