English 40-3 - Fall, 2022

Introductory Topics in Literature


Class Information

Instructor: Cahalan, Ofir Lee
CRN: 31962
Time: MWF 9:00-9:50
Location: 1132 Bainer
GE Areas: Writing Experience


Many of the qualities that make sports enjoyable to watch or participate in are the same qualities that make sports literature and films popular. Sports come with built-in narrative arcs, have predetermined ends in climactic championships, and feature plucky underdogs or legendary dynasties, all of which make sports attractive vehicles for storytelling. And while these narratives can be exciting and enjoyable, they also provide opportunities for engaging with critical questions about what sports reveal about society and ourselves. Optimistically, sports build community, contribute to athletes social and emotional development, and provide economic and academic opportunities for marginalized populations. Viewed more critically, sports serve the economic interests of a powerful elite, exacerbate society's structured inequalities, dehumanize and endanger the athletes who participate in them, and encourage nationalist or tribalist animosities. Sports are also battle grounds for culture wars where political and social agendas mapped onto athletes' bodies can eclipse the sport itself, forcing us to confront how sports include and exclude certain bodies and identities.

To investigate how sports intersect with these issues, we will read a variety of texts in which sports feature prominently. In this class, we will examine the cultural role of sports, including the values we assign to sports, the ethical implications of participating in sports, and how sports serve as a vehicle for political and social critique.


In Class Participation/Attendance
Close Reading Essay
Final Research Paper
Weekly Writing Activities
Online Discussion Posts


Selection Day, Aravind Adiga
The Sweetheart, Angelina Mirabella
Citizen, Claudia Rankine
Things Invisible to See, Nancy Willard
Once a Runner, John L. Parker Jr.
Beartown, Frederick Backman
The Boys in the Boat, Daniel James Brown