Dr. Randi Tanglen, PhD

English Professor at Austin College

Director of the Robert and Joyce Johnson Center for Faculty Development and Excellence in Teaching

To Kill a Mockingbird: An American Classic On Trial

Course Description:

This class is for any student who loves, hates, or has not read Harper Lee’s classic 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird and would like to analyze its themes and controversies in depth. The goal of the course is to investigate what the novel can tell us about racism and social justice in its own day and ours. We will start by reading the novel and watching the 1962 film in order to examine the subtle, yet significant, differences between the two. Then, along with studying the life and writing of Harper Lee, we will discuss recent claims that the inspiration for the heroic Atticus Finch, Harper Lee’s father, was a white supremacist. We will also address how African American authors have responded to Lee’s novel and read other great works thematically connected to To Kill A Mockingbird. Harper Lee’s novel continues to be banned from classrooms and libraries around the nation for its depiction of violence and racism. In this class, we will put the book on trial to see if this criticism is valid or if the novel is a classic that truly stands the test of time.

Reading List:

Hillary Jordan. Mudbound, 2009

Harper Lee. To Kill a Mockingbird, 1960

Toni Morrison. The Bluest Eye, 1970