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Coming of Age in American Literature

ENGL 089.001
instructor(s):
TR 1:30-3
fulfills requirements:
Sector 5: 19th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major

This course examines one of the most classic genres of U.S. literature – the coming-of-age genre – that has spanned protagonists from Benjamin Franklin to Katniss Everdeen. Why is the arrival of adulthood so vexed in American literature and how has it generated so much suspense? Tracking the history of the coming-of-age narrative in social critique, we will examine changing attitudes towards childhood, adolescence, and adult, as well as experiments with the genre to find new expressions of maturity and selfhood. We will pay particular attention to the interactions between age, narrative form and the pressures of sexuality, race, and gender. In addition, we will trace the changing historical role of the coming-of-age narrative across works such as The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Margaret Mead’s anthropological Coming of Age in American Samoa, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchmen, and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home.