BOOKPACKERS USA is a 15-week ‘on campus’ class exploring the varied regional cultures of America through the portal of classic and contemporary fiction.
The course encourages empathy. Fiction offers us landscapes peopled with characters who think differently to us; reading novels region by region, we come to understand the different mindsets that make up the American whole. In a time of profound division, this emphasis on empathy has never been more relevant or important.
The class meets for a total of 45 hours over the course of the Fall Semester.
The course begins in USC’s home city. We look at Southern California’s founding myths, and ask why this Golden Land boasts such a dark literary heritage.
Yankee New England is ‘white and uptight’ - or so says Maine novelist Elizabeth Strout. Is she right? We dig into some classic and contemporary New England novels to find out.
Appalachian culture is under the spotlight in Donald Trump’s America. We’ll beat a trail through backwoods fiction in search of empathy and understanding.
The South wrestles with the weight of its history. Truman Capote’s brilliant first novel captures the contradictions of this fascinating and troubling region.
Song of Solomon traces the African American trajectory backwards, from 20th c. Michigan to 19th c. Virginia. It's a novel with profound contemporary relevance in this racially divided nation.
We explore the distinctive character of heartland America through Willa Cather’s classic ‘novel of the soil’.
Leslie Marmon Silko chronicles Native American life in the desert Southwest. Her punchy and poetic work looks back to a traumatic past, and forward to the future.
Staying in the South West, we explore the work of Chicano author Sandra Cisneros, who celebrates the traditional and folkloric whilst acknowledging an ongoing struggle for a slice of the American Dream.
E. Annie Proulx’s short stories explore contemporary lives in the Great West, a much mythologized land where the tough conditions have pitted rugged individuals against the power of capital and corporations.
New York fiction is a world to itself. We focuses on two attributes of the city - as a place of financial hubris, and as the epicenter of the American ‘melting pot’.