Why, if America is the land of practicality and realism, does so much of our important literature violate the tenets of realism in favor of the extravagant, magical, allegorical, and bizarre? Anti-realistic books are not confined to the so-called modernist period of stylistic and structural experimentation; they have been part of out literature at least since the 18th century. Nor were they written exclusively by writers of fantasy and sci-fi; even Mark Twain, often touted as one of the founders of American literary realism, frequently wrote books that challenge the value of common sense "realism" as Americans usually define it. In this course, we will read a number of strange books from the list below in order to investigate this paradox between American pragmatism and the American practice of literary un-realism.
Brown, Edgar Huntly
Melville, Moby Dick
Twain, Connecticut Yankee
Stein, Tender Buttons or The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
Chappel, I am One of You Forever
Kingsolver, Animal Dreams
Ellison, Invisible Man
West, Day of the Locust
Welty, Curtain of Green
Morrison, Song of Solomon
Momaday, The Way to Rainy Mountain
Faulkner, As I Lay Dying
Nichols, Milagro Beanfield War
Flannery O'Connor, selected stories
Kingston, Woman Warrior
Acker, Great Expectations
Baum, The Wizard of Oz
Poe, The Narrative of A. Gordon Pym
Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance
Course requirements will include timely reading of the ten or so books that I ultimately choose from this list, numerous short essays and in-class presentations, and a term paper of ten to twenty-five pages in length.
Note: This course is designed for General Honors students, but may be taken by others with permission of the instructor.