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Rewriting American Classics

ENGL 253.301
instructor(s):
TR 9-10:30
fulfills requirements:
Sector 5: 19th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Pre-1900 Seminar Requirement of the Standard Major

 

This course will examine the way of number of classic American literary works, by authors ranging from Poe to Faulkner, have been vividly rewritten by contemporary writers and filmmakers. What happens when a novelist seizes the characters, plots, and themes of an earlier, foundational novel and transposes that material into his or her own literary property? How do such revisions ask us to see and understand US history and invite us to imagine its contemporary dilemmas and its future possibilities?  We will use these pairings to examine the relationship between history and fiction and the nature of literary transmission. Our readings may include Poe’s Narrative of Gordon Arthur Pym together with Mat Johnson’s Pym; Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter together with Kathy Ackerman’s Blood and Guts in High School; Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin along with Ishmael Reed’s Flight Into Canada; Whitman’s Leaves of Grass together with Michael Cunningham’s Specimen Days; and Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying with Suzan-Lori Parks’s Getting Mother’s Body. Assignments will consist of two short papers and a longer research paper. Students will have the option of producing a creative project as one of the writing assignments.