This course is an introduction to some of our major American novelists, from James Fenimore Cooper to William Faulkner. In US history it has often been novelists (more than philosophers, politicians, or preachers) who have explored the puzzles of national life in the most vital and interesting ways. Who “belongs” to the North American continent--the people of European descent or the native inhabitants? What does American freedom mean in a slave society? If gaining wealth is desirable, what of the new desires and the discontent that can accompany becoming wealthy? These are some of the questions that give American novels their underlying power and fascination. We also will read short stories and novels together with films, visual material and other web resources. This approach will let is see the way fiction can powerfully illuminate American culture. The fiction we read may possibly include: Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans; Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin; stories by Melville and Hawthorne; Frederick Douglass’s short work The Heroic Slave; Wharton, The House of Mirth; and either Faulkner, Light in August or Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby. Requirements will include two writing assignments, a web-based research assignment, and a take-home essay exam.