The course will examine a range of aesthetic and cultural issues informing United States literature of the later nineteenth century. We will give some attention to lyric poetry and nonfiction essays, and will study the major movements of realist and naturalist fiction in a context of the historical conditions they help to negotiate: polarities of race and wealth, the intensity of urban centers and the continental reach achieved by new railways and waterways, an inventiveness presided over equally by Thomas Edison and P. T. Barnum. Why was the age that produced realism experienced by so many as a time of dizzying unreality? Readings will probably include works by Emily Dickinson, Henry James, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Charles Chesnutt, Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, Abraham Cahan, and Kate Chopin. Requirements for the course: a midterm exam, a final exam, and two short papers.