Penn Offering a James Franco-Inspired Class Next Spring

Next spring, students at Penn will be able to take a course inspired by the literary recommendations of actor James Franco. Taught by English Department professor Jean-Christophe Cloutier, the description for “Recommended By James Franco (Mostly)” explains the class as a “springboard for surveying representative texts from the 20th and 21st centuries, with an emphasis on the more recent works.”

According to the The Daily Pennsylvanian, Cloutier created the class after hearing Franco’s name pop up in discussions with students about literature. Plus, Cloutier kind of digs what the Pineapple Express star is doing on a cultural front.

“He is a poet; he is a novelist; he is a short story writer; he directs and adapts canonized literary works. I don’t see any other celebrity of his popularity status doing the same thing,” Cloutier told The Daily Pennsylvanian. “He has made a big part of his celebrity culture to celebrate and embrace the literary world. Because he also writes reviews of novels as they come out, he has a kind of … an ongoing critical conversation with contemporary authors, especially with the contemporary American tradition.”

The class will include readings of American authors like Faulkner, Steinbeck, Cormac McCarthy and Gary Shteyngart, and some non-white writers not recommended by Franco, like Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. Assignments will include everything from writing a story on Snapchat to reviewing of one of the assigned texts in Franco’s style, which, Cloutier notes, incorporates personal and professional anecdotes.

“Hopefully what we are going to get are very unique ways of thinking, interpreting, reflecting on these works of literature and art,” Cloutier said. “In a way I’m kind of using him [James Franco] as a foil but also as a very proactive one. … in order to interrogate really important questions about who gets to have visibility today and who gets to have their stories adapted and told and what kinds of stories are we interested in seeing and reading about, and he has helped popularize that.”

Read more about the course on The Daily Pennsylvanian.