EG 48 5715

Spring 2007

Instructor: Gerry O'Connor


English Department

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Course Rationale

Sports Literature is emphatically not about child's play or diversion; it is a ground on which one meets personally, and learns values about work, family, politics, and the culture that is America.

Sports illuminate and transform a society. Sports change lives, affect politics, fuel our economy, and shape our culture. The American Dream is personified in our champions, in the records they set and the barriers they break. The dynamic interaction of athletes, fans, and the media produces inexplicable loyalties, lasting legends, and revered heroes. The greatest champions stand for more than the records they break. They stand for the barriers they shatter—physical, social, psychological, racial, cultural—and change the way we think about our world.

EG48 - Sports Literature will consist of an examination of sport from several perspectives through interaction with literature presented by essayists, sports columnists, the media, novelists, playwrights and movie directors. Although sport is often the subject of technical inquiry, it is equally important to understand the relationship of sport and society. Considering sport as a significant social phenomenon, it becomes possible to conceive of a philosophy, sociology and literature of sport. To a lesser degree, the politics and psychology of sport is reflected through the literature.

Functionalist theorists argue that sports create and sustain feelings of good will and solidarity among members of a community or nation. Conflict theorists believe that sports, like other social orders, are based on exploitation and coercion, particularly with regard to gender, race, ethnicity, and social class. These contrasting theories form a unifying frame through which the relation of sport to all the various disciplines may be viewed.

 Readings in the course are selected to be pleasurable and thought provoking, covering a range of modern fiction, non-fiction, poetry, biographies, and commentaries. Writing in the course is designed to be both descriptive and critical in an attempt to provide the student with the opportunity to express personal reactions with confidence and clarity. Through the use of sports literature and other media forms, the primary objective is to develop a greater sensitivity to the world of sport and the philosophical and sociological relationship between that world and contemporary society.

This course will be useful to those interested in American literature, philosophy, cultural studies, sports journalism, physical education, and other subjects. It will involve asynchronous discussion using the SLN portal, diligent reading and writing, and a healthy dose of creativity.