The natural, social and political landscape of California has served as the muse for some of America’s greatest writers, working against a backdrop of striking beauty and under threat of earthquake and fire. Joan Didion’s Sacramento is a tense, frontier experiment: “things better work here, because here, beneath the immense bleached sky, is where we run out of continent.” Angie Chau’s immigrant San Francisco is a fantasized place of new beginnings and disappointing realities. Jack Keroac’s Bakersfield is “the land of lonely and exiled and eccentric lovers come to forgather like birds… where everybody somehow looked like broken-down, handsome, decadent movie actors.” Through a diverse collection of readings, frequent class discussions and analytical and creative writing, this course will explore the literature of California and the role that the California dream plays in the American consciousness. Course materials may draw from the work of Joan Didion, Angie Chau, John Steinbeck, Paul Beatty, Toshio Mori, Walter Mosley, Jennifer Egan, Gish Jen and others.