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Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

ENGL 3991: The Voices of Protest and Rebellion in Contemporary American Literature

Students read selections from the contemporary literature of protest and rebellion (after 1960)—works designed to confront various forms of oppression and injustice in American society, and to ultimately challenge the American ‘state of mind.’ Students also explore the voices of protest and rebellion within themselves and engage these books and stories as the social, political, and cultural provocations they are. Students are asked to read the literature through the lens of their own lives and experiences, and ultimately for their own personal, political and creative ends.

Learning outcomes

  • Describe the wider tradition of literary protest in America, from its formation in the mid-19th century until today;
  • Explain the provocative and rebellious function of literature on the public stage;
  • Characterize the ways in which literary protest changes in the post-war era (i.e., after 1950) and the shifting cultural, social, and political conditions prompting that change;
  • Identify the pivotal role of the reader in literary studies;
  • Develop and apply a strategy of ‘Active Reading’ to works of literature;
  • Make practical use of works of literature in personal, political, and creative ways;
  • Develop and deepen one’s own ‘voice’ (i.e., one’s own thoughts and ideas) on issues of protest and rebellion.

Course topics

This course is organized into two parts:

  • Part 1: The Investigations
  • Part 2: The Uses of Literature

Required text and materials

The following materials are required for this course:

  1. Burroughs, William S. Nova Express. Edited by Oliver Harris, revised edition. Raincoast, 2014. (Originally published, 1964.)
    Type: Novel. ISBN: 9780802122087
  2. Abbey, Edward. Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness. Penguin Random House, 1968.
    Type: Novel. ISBN: 9780345326492
  3. DeLillo, Don. Mao II. New York: Penguin Random House, 1992.
    Type: Novel. ISBN: 9780140152746
  4. Palahniuk, Chuck. Fight Club. Norton, 1996.
    Type: Novel. ISBN: 978-0-393-35594-9
  5. Alexie, Sherman. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. Ingram, 2013.
    Type: Novel. ISBN: 9780802121998

Students will need to source the following text on their own:

  1. Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. Raincoast, 1982.
    Type: Novel. ISBN: 9780156031820


To successfully complete this course, you must achieve a passing grade of 50% or higher on the overall course and 50% or higher on the mandatory Final Project. The following table illustrates how your final grade will be determined for this course.

Assignment 1: Literary Maps, Submission 1 20%
Assignment 2: Literary Maps, Submission 2 20%
Assignment 3: Personal Uses of Books 15%
Assignment 4: Political Uses of Books 20%
Final Project: Assignment 5 : Creative Uses of Books (mandatory) 25%
Total 100%

Open Learning Faculty Member Information

An Open Learning Faculty Member is available to assist students. Students will receive the necessary contact information at the start of the course.

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