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American Literature and Painting

ENGL 386.401
fulfills requirements:
Sector 5: 19th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major


The course will offer a selective but intensive introduction to American literature and American painting in the decades between the Civil War and World War II. The authors to be studied will include Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, Edith Wharton, T.S. Eliot, Henry James, W.E.B. Du Bois, Ernest Hemingway, and several major poets of the Harlem Renaissance among others. The painters will include Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, the “Ash Can School” of the early 20th century, Georgia O’Keefe, the artists of the Harlem Renaissance, and Edward Hopper.  

The paintings we examine are not intended merely as illustrations for the texts we read. The texts, in turn, are not intended merely as extended captions for the paintings. Instead, the comparative, interdisciplinary nature of the course will enable us to investigate the variety of ways in which artists and writers responded to some of the key events and debates of the period 1840-1940.

We will visit at least two museums, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, both of which house some of the finest collections of American painting in the country. Requirements will consist of critical and creative short papers, class discussion of the literary and visual material, quizzes, and a final exam.