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American Fiction

ENGL 089.001
instructor(s):
TR 4:30-6
fulfills requirements:
Sector 5: 19th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major

This course offers students an introductory survey of American fiction from the founding of the United States to the present. Beginning with James Fenimore Cooper and Harriet Beecher Stowe, we will consider the roles of Romanticism and the culture of sentimentality in nineteenth century fiction as well as frontier settlement, slavery, and abolitionism as historical contexts. We will then turn to the early-twentieth century, exploring literary representations of the modern city and the postbellum South through Harlem Renaissance and Modernist works by Gertrude Stein, William Faulkner, Nella Larsen, and Zora Neale Hurston. Issues of Cold-War conformism and counter-culture will occupy our readings of mid-century fiction by James Baldwin and others. Finally, we will consider American fiction in the late-twentieth and early-twenty-first centuries through short stories and novels by writers of color, including Leslie Marmon Silko, Junot Díaz, and Viet Thanh Nguyen. The discussion of race will be an important theme throughout the class, but it is not our exclusive focus. The course is meant to familiarize students more broadly with distinct periods or movements in American fiction and to help them develop a sense of its recurring themes: “freedom” and “progress”; individualism versus attachment to tradition and society; upward mobility; immigration, multiculturalism, and assimilation. We will also pay close attention to other facets of identity that intersect with race, such as class, gender, sexuality, and religion.