Rewriting American Classics
This course will examine the way of number of classic American novels, by authors ranging from Poe to Faulkner, have been vividly rewritten by contemporary novelists. What happens when a novelist seizes the characters, plots, and themes of an earlier, foundational novel and transposes that material into his or her own literary property? How do such revisions ask us to see and understand US history and invite us to imagine its contemporary dilemmas and its future possibilities? We will use these pairings to examine the relationship between history and fiction and the nature of literary transmission. Our readings will likely include Poe’s Narrative of Gordon Arthur Pym together with Mat Johnson’s Pym; Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter together with Kathy Ackerman’s Blood and Guts in High School; Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin along with Ishmael Reed’s Flight Into Canada; Whitman’s poetrytogether with Michael Cunningham’s Specimen Days; and Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying with Suzan-Lori Parks’s Getting Mother’s Body. Assignments will consist of two short papers and a longer research paper.