Spring 2024

The People's Tongue

Listed in: European Studies, as EUST-314


Ilan Stavans (Section 01)


Listed as EUST-314 and COLQ-

How has the English language become American? Do native speakers own the language? Is there an authority that legislates over it? What are the mechanisms whereby words, grammar, and syntax become accepted or rejected? The course will be an in-depth exploration of the origins and development of language in a national and global context. Students will interrogate--orally and through creative writing assignments--their own usage and those of their ancestors, contemporaries, and successors. We will analyze the role dictionaries play, the politics of language, the influence of popular culture, and especially music, TV, and poetry. Immigrant languages, sign language, translation, slam poetry, Netflix series, children's books, and podcasts will also be analyzed. Authors featured include Noah Webster, Alexis de Tocqueville, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, Sojourner Truth, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, H.L. Mencken, Lucille Ball, Richard Pryor, Dr. Seuss, James Baldwin, Louise Erdrich, Billie Holiday, Henry Roth, Amy Tan, David Foster Wallace, Barack Obama, Kendrick Lamar, and Donald J. Trump. The course will include a Point/Counterpoint component, meaning that it will look at language from the perspective of the ideological divide fracturing America today. There will be a thematically-connected lecture series through which luminaries of all kinds--national and international politicians, major artists, activists, newscasters, opinion makers, and so on--will come to campus and to our class.

Limit: 30 students. Spring Semester. Professor Stavans

Pending faculty approval.

EUST 314 - LEC

Section 01
Tu 11:30 AM - 12:50 PM WEBS 217
Th 11:30 AM - 12:50 PM WEBS 217


2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Spring 2024