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Fin de Siecle: American Culture at the Turning Point

ENGL 583.601
instructor(s):
W 6:30-9:10

As we near the end of the 20th century, we might find ourselves, like Edward Bellamy, "Looking Backward" to the end of the 19th century. How did American writers, artists, and social thinkers respond to the profound variety of turn-of-the-century cultural changes? What new forms of expression did they fashion to contain and contest their reactions and reflections? Among the figures and topics that will engage our attention: historian and critic Henry Adams; social settlement founder Jane Addams; photographer Jacob Rus; designer of the Arts and Crafts movement William Morris; women writers Sarah Orne Jewett and Charlotte Perkins Gilman; naturalistic writer Theodore Dreiser. We will also examine the cultural significance of the Chicago World's Fair, millenialism and the social gospel movement, African-American writers such as Francis E.W. Harper and W.E.B. DuBois, and an array of muckrakers, utopianists, neurasthenics, aesthetes, architects, poets, and engineers. Readings, informal seminar presentations, possible guest speakers, individual projects designed around one's field of interest.