Odd Jobs and Labors of Love: Literature, Work, and Power

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Spring 2018 quarter

Taught by

English, writing, literature
labor studies/history, industrial relations

Whether we experience it as just a job or as a labor of love, the work we do has a profound effect on every aspect of our lives, including our home lives, our sense of self, and our social status and relationships. Yet we seldom treat the literature about work seriously, let alone think critically about power relationships in a landscape of employment that is turbulent and changing. Fortunately, memoirs, novels, and poems can help us to unveil the many social and personal truths embedded in our work experiences. This is a literature full of tragedy and hilarity, imagination and insight; it's one that can empower us to forge new and more meaningful relationships with this central activity in our lives.

In this program, we’ll approach the topic of work from creative and historical viewpoints, examining the ways in which modern work is changing and the ways it differs across time and culture. Literary and sociological sources will help us to see how work not only shapes our individual identities, but also affects how we’re perceived and valued (or devalued) by others. We’ll have a chance to view our individual, and sometimes isolating, experiences in broader contexts. No job is too humble to be a starting place for such an investigation. Students will pursue their new understandings by means of written responses, research, bibliographic writing, and autobiographical accounts of their own work experiences.

Program Details

Fields of Study

literature sociology

Preparatory For

literature, writing, labor studies, sociology, education, and management


Spring Open

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered


Advertised Schedule

Tu/Th 6-9:30 pm

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning