Download English 251U Syllabus here.

English 251U
Sports Fiction
Professor Teresa Kennedy
Combs 301
Office Hours, M-F 11-12; MWF 2-3

The purpose of this course is to explore how the culture of sports figures develops during the twentieth century, especially in American cultural contexts. Reading several texts that embrace the cult of the athlete across multiple contexts, an understanding of how both individual and team sports represent certain kinds of specific anxieties that are reified onto the role of the athlete in society. Themes such as individuality, corruption, hubris and tragic failure, as well as economic concerns inform how we engage in our appreciation of the value of sports in literature and film. I hope that we can enjoy lively discussion during the class. The texts that I am requiring are designed to provide a historical and generic range, but your experiences and reading will also be important.

Please remember that the honor code obtains for all work completed in this class. Also, should you need any assistance with respect to a disability, please let me know so that we can work together to make the necessary accommodation.

Course Objectives:

  1. Students should examine literary production through historical, theoretical, analytical, and/or aesthetic frameworks, including .  specific knowledge of and appreciation for the concerns, methods, and/or contributions of literature.  In order to do so, students should be acquainted with basic terminology, be able to recognize common textual forms, and be familiar with a relevant range of writers and/or movements (as individually appropriate).  They further should be able to recognize the role of the reader, of the surrounding culture, and of the language of the text itself in the production of the meanings of a text.
  1. Students should be able to analyze, respond to, and critically assess literary texts. Students in these courses should practice literary analysis in both oral and written forms.  Students should have practice playing the role of critic, reading for insight into literary texts, and reflecting on the assumptions and values of their own methods and conclusions.  They should be able to engage in critical thinking, to formulate clear ideas and compelling arguments, to analyze and evaluate evidence, and to research thoroughly and with integrity (as individually appropriate).
  1. Students should be able to feel comfortable interpreting literary texts, practice close reading, and learn to articulate and evaluate multiple ideas and diverse opinions about what they read.
  1. Students should appreciate the nuance of language and metaphor and the connection between cultural documents and their own understanding of themselves.

Course requirements:

Collaborative Assignments (25%):
Students will work in small groups to develop a theory of how sports literature intersects with our larger culture. Working with the instructional technology department, we will create a wiki of sports information. Groups will be organized according to student interests. The following list of topics is not exhaustive, and students should feel free to add to it; more than one group can work on the same topic from different angles:

Women in Sports (pre and post Title IX)
Other ideas?

Attendance and Participation (10%)
Short Essay: 3 2-3 page essays are required (35%)
Mid term and Final (15% each)

Required texts:
These texts are in the bookstore, but feel free to order them from Amazon.
Bird, Larry, and Earvin Johnson. When the Game Was Ours (Mariner Reprint) 2007.
Friedlander, Brett and Robert Reising. Chasing Moonlight (New York: Blair Publishing) 2009.
Lewis, Mark. The Blind Side (New York: Norton) 2008.
Malamud, Bernard. The Natural (New York: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux) 2006.
Wodehouse. P.G. Fore (New York: Create Space) 2008.

Tentative Class Outline:
Week of August 29: What is Sports Culture? Historical Overview and Contexts
Reading: Malamud, The Natural.
Week of September 5: Beginnings: Pulp vs Literary Fiction
Reading: Malamud, The Natural.
Week of September 12: Corruption and Redemption
Reading: Chasing Moonlight
Film Context: Field of Dreams, The Natural
Week of September 19: Baseball and Social Comedy: Da Bums
Reading: Research Yogi Berra; Baseball Comedy
Week of September 26: Why the Gipper? Football in College and Professional Contexts
Reading: Lewis, The Blind Side
Film Context: Knute Rockne; The Blind Side;
Research: Jim Thorpe
Week of October 3: Football in Popular Contexts
Film Context: Rudy, The Longest Yard, Remember the Titans
Week of October 10: Dames in Sports: Katharine Hepburn or a Joke?
Week of October 17: Title IX and Images of Women in Sports (FALL BREAK)
Research:  What sports are women allowed to play? Why tennis and golf?
Film Context: A League of Their Own.
Week of October 24: Figure Skating and Women (NO CLASS ON THURSDAY)
Research: Janet Lynn, Peggy Fleming, Sonja Henie, Katarina Witt, Kristie Yamaguchi
Week of October 31: Trans-gendered Athletes
TUESDAY: Dean Cedric Rucker will present on this issue

NO class Thursday;
Research and work on your group projects.
Week of November 7th: Basketball Conflicts
Paper 2 is due on Thursday
Reading: Bird and Johnson
Video: Bird and Johnson
Week of November 14th: Race, Basketball, and the Idea of a Hero
Research History of NBA.
Week of November 21st: Sexual Assault and the Idea of the Sports Hero
Thanksgiving Break starts November 22.
Week of November 28th: Cultural Elitism & Golf
Reading: Wodehouse, Fore.
Paper 3 is due on Thursday
Week of December 5th: The Aura of Golf
Film Contexts: Tin Cup; Bagger Vance; Greatest Game Ever Played.
Final Exam, TBA

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