Fiction has been a vital instrument in the formulation of a national identity. With its ability to be epic in scale and microscopic in its attention to detail, fiction is the site of what must be regarded as serious cultural work. What this has also meant, however, is that fiction has been (and continues to be) used by American writers as a site of argumentation and persuasion. Here, the idea of an "American experience" has been so heavily acted upon by issues of class, gender, and race that it finally rests in a state of conceptual flux. This course will explore this dialogue by examining American writers's respective attempts to write fiction dealing with slavery, war, family, and rituals and social codes. In the process, we will consider the points of contact that arise out of these phenomena. Authors in the course will include Melville, Hemingway, Morrison, Wharton, Johnson, Herr, and Tyler.