Scott Saul

I enjoy writing for both academic and popular audiences. My latest book, BECOMING RICHARD PRYOR (HarperCollins, 2014), offers the first deeply researched account of the great performer's life. More information about me and the book can be found at

BECOMING RICHARD PRYOR also has a digital companion at a fully curated, multi-media website that opens up the biographer's workshop and gives everyone access to the materials I've uncovered — over 200 documents — from Pryor's first two decades in Peoria, Illinois.

My interests run to the great cultural watershed that was modernism in the arts -- whether it took the form of William Carlos Williams's poetry, Charlie Chaplin's films, or Duke Ellington's music -- and to the starburst of creative activity that has followed up to the present. I'm especially interested in the connections between 20th- and 21st-century artistic movements and 20th- and 21st-century social movements — or, on the individual level, how particular artists are catalyzed by the history they are living through.

I generally teach courses in 20th- and 21st-century American literature and cultural history, ranging from "The Culture of the Cold War" and "The Seventies" to "Fictions of Los Angeles," "American Avant-Gardes" and "Race and Performance in the 20th-century U.S." I have also taught a seminar on the history of Berkeley and the East Bay in the 1960s and 1970s, whose class project was the creation of "The Berkeley Revolution," a digital history website that hosts over 600 curated primary sources from the time. I enjoy pulling my students together in collaborative writing projects: recent projects include The Godfather: Anatomy of a Film (an outgrowth of my lecture course on the 1970s) and Unlocking Key & Peele (an outgrowth of my lecture course on the age of Obama). 

I also have taught an undergraduate workshop in creative nonfiction. Some excellent student writing from the course can be found at


Labs and Projects