AMS 271 Playing U.S.A Sports Literature

If there is something we learned since the pandemic started in the U.S. is that people need sports. For a large segment of the population that crosses all sorts of identities, sports are important, even vital. Why is that the case? And what does that tell us about the U.S. society? Perhaps, it is because play, as Johan Huizinga suggests, has "a significant function" (= there is some sense to it) and gives meaning to action. Consequently, play provides us with a tool to explore fundamental structures of both western civilization and American society and, in the guise of sports, to examine the American character, its myths, symbols, values and beliefs, achievements and failures. To achieve this goal, we will look at literary and cultural representations of several sports and work our way through them theoretically, historically and thematically. We will read novels about baseball, love, and the magic, (Malamud's The Natural) and football, violence and war (Don DeLillo's Endzone). We will watch movies and documentaries about soccer and WWII (John Houston's Victory), boxing, race, whiteness, masculinity and femininity (Rocky, Creed, A Million Dollar Baby). We will use a variety of essays by the likes of Norman Mailer, Joyce Carol Oates, and Robert Scoop Jackson to talk about the meanings of the historic Alì vs. Foreman 1975 fight in Manila, Colin Kaepernick's stand against police brutality, and the media's (mis)treatment of Serena Williams and Lebron (do I have to say his last name?) For your final assignment, you will work on a representation of sports in another country's culture, both western and non-western, and critically analyze the major differences with their American counterparts.

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