This course examines the astonishing variety of literary work produced by many different kinds of American writers--some very well known, and others whose talent and importance is just now being recognized--during one of the most tumultuous periods in United States history. The fragile emergence of national unity after the Civil War was threatened by the disastrous social consequences of Reconstruction, by challenges to the idea of American nationality posed by the massive influx of European and Asian immigrants into the country throughout the 1880s and 1890s, and by the final decimation and displacement of Native American tribal communities in the American West. This was also a time of rapid urbanization, the so-called closing of the frontier, the rise of American imperialism, transportation innovations, and the growing political consciousness of American women and ethinic and racial minorities. We will study a selection of canonical works by Mark Twain, William Dean Howells, Frank Norris, Theodore Dreiser, and Kate Chopin in the context of these social and historical transformations. But we will also read work by Abraham Cahan, Hamlin Garland, Charles W. Chesnutt, Owen Wister, Stephen Crane, Sarah Orne Jewett, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, Helen Hunt Jackson, and a variety of local writers and poets. Three papers of 7 pages and a longer final project and/or final exam.