An L.A. course is in development and is scheduled to launch in academic year 2019 / 2020.
The class will offer students a unique opportunity to dive deep into USC’s vibrant and extraordinary home city.
It will be an immersive class - meaning that we’ll travel beyond the classroom. Every Saturday for 10 weeks, we’ll meet for a seminar in the morning, and then, in the afternoon, we’ll head out in a minivan and ‘bookpack’ a different facet of Los Angeles.
Over the semester, we’ll read a variety of classic and contemporary L.A. novels - from Raymond Chandler to Joan Didion - and we’ll explore these fictional worlds both conceptually and on the ground. We’ll walk the same streets as the characters in the stories, we’ll dig into context and history - and we’ll reflect on the intersection between literary landscapes, and the contemporary culture of L.A..
Filled with humor and insight, Nathanael West’s savage satire of Hollywood wannabes builds to an angry and apocalyptic climax. It’s the ultimate L.A. novel.
The first in a series of novels featuring private eye ‘Easy’ Rawlins. Walter Mosley’s stories describe the trajectory of L.A.’s African-American experience from the Great Migration to the Watts Riots of 1965.
Joan Didion’s story of a washed-up B-movie actress is a sparse and dreamlike portrait of L.A. in the late ’60s. The story moves from the modernist chic of the Hollywood Hills to the desert wastelands of Nevada.
Two couples in Topanga Canyon - one White, one Mexican - move from misunderstanding to overt conflict. T.C. Boyle’s brilliant mid-90s novel illustrates L.A.’s racial and environmental fragility.
It’s always raining in Chandler’s L.A., a moody counterpoint to the cheap glamour and surface glitz of the city. This is the first Philip Marlowe mystery - a masterpiece of hardboiled fiction.
Evelyn Waugh’s 1946 satirical novel skewers the culture of LA to great comic effect. It’s set in a Los Angeles funeral home, modeled on Forest Lawn in Glendale - a location that transcends irony.
The classic Hollywood novel, describing the inexorable rise of the ruthlessly narcissistic studio executive Sammy Glick. Budd Schulberg went on to win an Oscar for his screenplay for ‘On the Waterfront’.
Rarely read these days, few books have had more impact on Southern California than Helen Hunt Jackson’s late 19th century romantic bestseller ‘Ramona’. The novel forged an exotic myth of Mexican California which tempted settlers west and fueled the L.A. land boom.
L.A. in the ‘20s was a city on the make, talked up by frauds and hustlers selling a slice of the dream. Don Ryan’s 1927 novel ‘Angel’s Flight’ was the first to satirize L.A.’s ‘booster’ culture.