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LIT 39 — The Literature of the 1960s Counterculture: Inside Stanford's Special Collections

Quarter: Fall
Day(s): Mondays
Course Format: On campus
Duration: 8 weeks
Date(s): Sep 26—Nov 14
Time: 5:00—7:00 pm
Drop Deadline: Oct 9
Unit(s): 1 Units
Tuition: $410
Limit: 20
On campus
5:00—7:00 pm
Sep 26—Nov 14
8 weeks
Drop By
Oct 9
1 Units
This course uses the rich resources available in Stanford’s Special Collections to explore the literature and culture of the revolutionary sixties era. Together, we will look at examples of 1960s literature that shaped American countercultures by loudly challenging social, aesthetic, and political conventions. Covering the Beats, civil rights, the antiwar movement, psychedelic drugs, Black Power, women’s movements, and gay liberation, we will see how the radical politics of the 1960s fueled boundary-pushing innovations in literature; and how American poetry, fiction, and essays gave powerful voice to revolution. We will begin each week’s discussion in Special Collections, where students will examine unique archival sources (Allen Ginsberg’s first draft of Howl, Haight-Ashbury newspapers, underground comics, letters, photographs, psychedelic rock posters, and more). We will then continue with a seminar-style discussion of key literary and cultural texts that imagined new forms of consciousness and a new society. By connecting these texts to material artifacts from the era, students will develop a deeper understanding of how literature produced and responded to a revolutionary culture. Texts used in the course will include James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, and Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle.

Adena Spingarn, Visiting Scholar in English, Stanford

Adena Spingarn specializes in American literature and culture. She received a PhD in English from Harvard, where she received the Howard Mumford Jones Prize, and she was an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at Stanford. Her first book, on the transformation of the Uncle Tom figure in American culture, is forthcoming.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (ISBN 978-0679744726)
(Required) Rita Mae Brown, Rubyfruit Jungle (ISBN 978-1101965122)
(Required) Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem (ISBN 978-0374531386)
(Required) Allen Ginsberg, Howl and Other Poems (ISBN 978-0872860179)
(Required) Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (ISBN 978-0312427597)