Spring 2012 Course: Baseball and American Culture

What I really wanted to say about the quote from Field of Dreams: “utter bullshit.”

In any case, I am tremendously excited about this course and tremendously nervous about it. I have been having a  conversation about baseball with myself for about the last 15 years, one that has matured and developed in complexity over that time. the problem: I rarely talk about baseball out loud except in the most conventional ways, namely with relatives as a fan. I never ever bust out with my ideas about anti-intellectualism in sportswriting or the ways in which race remains an important, invisible, and deplorable aspect of our national conversation on sports. So now I get to talk about these things for a whole semester! Out loud! Let’s hope they still make sense when their words in the air rather than in my brain.

ENGL 3246: Topics in Popular Culture

Baseball and American Culture


People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.


Such is the story that we tell, or once told, ourselves about baseball. But it’s just that: a story. Of course, baseball is intimately involved in American culture, but that involvement is historical rather than natural or transcendental. This class is not “about” baseball. Rather, it is about the stories we tell about baseball, about the myth of baseball: how that myth comes to be and the consequences of that myth.


Our work for the course will be divided into three unequal parts. We will first consider Roland Barthes great work of cultural criticism, Mythologies, so that we may develop a framework in which to understand America’s cultural concerns with baseball. From there we will consider certain novels about the interaction of baseball with American culture and life as well as contemporary discussions about baseball (focused on steroids, statistics, and race). We will supplement these three aspects of the class—myth theory, literature, contemporary sportswriting—with essays about the history of baseball and the themes it presents in the American culture of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.


Evaluation will be based on class presentations, blog posts, and two or three short to medium length essays.


Partial reading list

Roland Barthes: Mythologies

Leonard Cassuto and Stephen Partridge, eds: The Cambridge Companion to Baseball

Robert Coover: The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop.

Don DeLillo: Underworld

Kenneth Goldsmith: Sports

Michael Lewis: Moneyball

Phillip Roth: The Great American Novel




2 Responses to “Spring 2012 Course: Baseball and American Culture”

  1. […] evening redness « Spring 2012 Course: Baseball and American Culture […]

  2. Kirstyn Leuner Says:

    FYI, maybe helpful: Mortimer Adler introduces his book _How to Read a Book_ with baseball analogies in the first chapter on active reading.

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