This course explores the intersections of private expressions of loss and public occasions of mourning in recent American literature. Starting with nineteenth-century precedents, our readings centers on responses to World War II, the Vietnam War, and the AIDS epidemic. We will explore the interaction between mourning and historical memory, the ways representations of loss involve wrestling with the past for individuals, communities, and nations. The literature will be framed by theoretical discussions about psychoanalysis, trauma, and nationalism, and will be supplemented by debates about specific public memorials. Reading will include fiction, poetry, memoir, and drama by Bobbie Ann Mason, Tim O'Brien, Leslie Marmon Silko, Joy Kogawa, Toni Morrison, Art Spiegleman, Mark Doty, Tony Kushner, and Anne Michaels.