Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Edith Wharton & Willa Cather

ENGL 284.401
instructor(s):
TR 12-1:30

A comparative study of two major American writers of the 1900-1945 period.  Despite contrasting backgrounds and divergent personal lives, Wharton--a wealthy, expatriated New Yorker--and Cather--a midwestern journalist and former teacher--pursued several shared projects, among them critiquing the artist's role in American culture; exploring the effects of expatriation and alienation; envisioning alternatives to contemporary society; and exposing the relationships between gender, power, and class.  Ten or twelve readings will be chosen from first short story collections (The Greater Inclination, The Troll Garden), early novels experimenting with the conventions of realism (Ethan Frome, The Custom of the Country; Alexander's Bridge, My Antonia), Pulitzer-Prize winning novels of the World War I years (The Age of Innocence, One of Ours), later works registering the impact of modernism (Old New York, Hudson River Bracketed; My Mortal Enemy, Death Comes for the Archbishop), controversial final novels (The Buccaneers; Sapphira and the Slave Girl), auxiliary critical sources (Wharton's essays in The Writing of Fiction, the collection Willa Cather on Writing), and possibly selections by influential compatriots such as Henry James and Gertrude Stein. Requirements include participation in seminar-style class meetings, several short papers, several screenings, and a concluding project, ideal for fulfilling the Senior Writing Requirement.