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The American Short Story: The Literature of Community

ENGL 103.001
instructor(s):
TR 1:30-3

Note: This course is reserved for VAN PELT COLLEGE HOUSE residents only. The course fulfills the ARTS & LETTERS sector of the General Requirement.

By reading and intensely discussing a great variety of 20th-century American short stories, we will concentrate on themes and forms of community.  Problems of community can be discerned in these readings through various questions, all of which we will pose: Can poverty be understood by those not in poverty? What is the nature of the social Other? Is gender difference chosen or inevitable? Is consensus better than dissensus?  Is it possible, consciously, to do the right thing? What are the democratic economies of race?  Readings will include stories by Stephen Crane, Tom Kromer (a Depression-era hobo who wrote a novel), the feminist Grace Paley, Saul Bellow, James Alan MacPherson, Leigh Allison Wilson, Richard Wright, Louis Auchincloss, John Cheever, and others. Two films will be screened (on the Penn Video Network's Movie Channel): _Twelve Angry Men_ and _Do the Right Thing_. We will make active use of the course listserv (electronic mailing list), and will attempt our own experiments with new forms of intellectual community, blurring perhaps some of the distinctions between class and not-class.  A series of short "position papers" will be due (submitted by e-mail); no mid-term exam. The Teaching Assistant will be Cathleen Riddley, doctoral student in Sociology and Administrative Fellow of Van Pelt College House.