About

This course offers a survey of American literature from 1860 to the present. We begin with considerations of what it means to write about American experience. What kinds of narratives and whose narratives does literature archive/store/convey/enable? After that we will work chronologically, exploring a post-civil war America, a nation rebuilding itself brick-by-brick as well as emotionally, text-by-text. How did writers address a nation in this situation? Then, progressing through the nineteenth-century we will read fiction, essays, and poems that explore regional identities, local speech patterns, the vernacular, and the developing modes of literary naturalism and realism. Through these texts we will chart patterns of national fragmentation and local unification on the subjects of the emergence of the independent educated woman, post-slavery America, the division between the industrial north and agrarian south, technological and industrial development, and the plight of the urban poor. We will also investigate the relationship between language and landscape and the construction of narrative structure and poetic voice. Then, turning to twentieth and twenty-first century American literature, we will study the development of new literary forms that respond to metropolitan life and new ideas about gender, sexuality, and race. During the semester we will read a variety of genres such as short fiction, drama, the essay, travel narrative, and poetry. Students will learn how to analyze literary texts in cultural context and develop close-reading skills. By the end of the semester students will be able to talk and write critically about major developments in American literature. Assignments include essays, blog reading responses, a collaborative digital project, a midterm, and a final exam.

Required Texts
Nella Larsen, Passing. Penguin Classics, 2003                                     ISBN-13: 978-0142437278

Alice Notley, Descent of Alette. Penguin, 1996                                      ISBN-13: 978-0140587647

Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being. Penguin, 2013                         ISBN-13:9780143124870

Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric. Greywolf Press, 2014     ISBN: 978-1-55597-690-3

 

Learning Outcomes
Students will learn how to analyze American literary texts in cultural context and develop close-reading and distant-reading/quantitative skills.

Students will be able to identify authors and texts from a wide range of historical periods and major literary movements.

Students will gain methods and vocabulary for engaging literary texts in terms of their production, reception, and dissemination. This includes their digital and physical materiality.