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Intro to American Lit.

ENGL 200.910
instructor(s):
TR 4:30-7:40

We will read a sampling of canonical and newly-emerging texts of American literature, including fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and drama. The class will be a mix of short lectures and classroom discussions that will practice the skill of close reading, as well as try to uncover the relationship between literary forms and social reality (present and past). We will consider non-literary forms of representation such as photography, painting, film, and architecture. Our purpose will be to survey what Walt Whitman calls the "vast seething mass of materials " available in the diverse culture of the United States over the span of about a hundred years--materials that, for Whitman, "build for good the great Ideal Nationality of the future, the Nation of the Body and the Soul." Through our collective analyses of a variety of texts and images, we'll try to understand just what that "ideal nationality" and "nation of the body and soul" implies about national and personal identities, social inclusion and exclusion, and the place of literary expression in a culture of fragmentation and consent, without losing sight of the artistic achievement of each distinct text. Authors and artists may include only some of the following: Thomas Jefferson, Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, Herman Melville, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, W. E. B. Du Bois, Charles W. Chesnutt, Kate Chopin, Thomas Wilmer Dewing, John Singer Sargent, Edith Wharton, Abraham Cahan, Jacob Riis, Frances Benjamin Johnston, Theodore Dreiser, Eugene O'Neill, William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor. Students are required to write three 5-7 page essays and prepare several short oral reports. There is a comprehensive final examination for the course.