ENG 4934 Capstone for the Major


Proletariat Fiction, Academic Definition, and Literary Recovery

Class Overview

For roughly a century, the pulp magazine reigned supreme as the reading material of the working class. Until the mid-20th century, magazines in general were the arbiters of American taste, social conscience, and national identity. Yet the magazine is often overlooked as an important venue for fiction, even in literary studies where our subject is all too often “dematerialized” in canonizing anthologies. One reason for this is that magazines are undeniably commercial objects, which is counter to the idea that Art, if it is any good, is above the concerns of the marketplace.

           The rising technology of industrialization – printing, transportation, mechanical reproduction – created the magazine. And it is also technology, initially television and now the internet, that is causing the slow death of the entire form until, like newspapers, magazines are in danger of disappearing. Even now, it may be unimaginable to conceive of how influential the periodical was to American culture, just as it is impossible to gauge how instrumental it was in constructing our literary history, for we have already lost ephemeral albeit integral aspects of 20th century literary production. One form of periodical literature has almost slipped into obscurity despite the fact that it was the source of fiction for millions of Americans for roughly fifty years. This form is the rough paper all-fiction magazine known as “The Pulp.”

           The wood-pulp magazine has been ignored by literary history, disallowed from the academic archive due to both its very ubiquity and its ephemeral nature. This neglect stems from the history and cultural position of English studies. It is a history of literary prejudice based upon issues of class and commerciality. This class, in part, hopes to recover that history.


Capstone and Class Project Overview

Often, the study of literature is so theoretical and rarified that the literary text seems to exist in a vacuum, and the application of the critical skills innate to English Studies – those skills that you have worked so hard to learn – seem to have little real-world applications. The goal of the capstone is to offer an experience wherein you pragmatically apply what you have learned as an English Major to a project that has dimensions beyond the classroom. The capstone is meant to be a) a culmination of your major; b) an introduction of skills that bridge the academic, public, and private spheres; and c) a means for you to start thinking about post-graduate life.

Therefore, the project for this class involves researching and writing for (at least) two possible public venues outside of (but linked to) academia: online publication and public exhibition in a museum space. Online publication potentially includes two venues: The Virtual Newsstand Website and Pulpmags.org; the writing for public exhibition will be for an exhibition that will take place in the fall of 2013 at the UWF art gallery. Therefore, this class is in keeping with the current trend in higher education for “digital humanities,” an anomalous label for web-based interdisciplinary collaborations that, to be reductive, explore and substantiate the “human” in the electronic world and bridge technology and traditional English Studies. It is also interdisciplinary since we’ll be working with the art department on design themes for public art spaces.

In general, this class project is interdisciplinary: it touches upon a myriad of possible applications for English Majors: Journalism, Education, Textual Studies, Cultural Theory, Library Science, Creative Writing, Business and Project Management. It will therefore be important for you to identify your own interests and goals for your degree so that we can delegate duties.

Dr. David M. Earle

Dept. of English

University of West Florida