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American Fiction

ENGL 089.001
instructor(s):
TR 4:30-6pm
fulfills requirements:
Sector 5: 19th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major

Note: This course is currently at full enrollment. If you are un-enrolled but plan to attend on the first day of class in hopes of getting in, please know a) that you will only be able to enroll if a currently enrolled student drops the course; and b) that a small amount of reading has already been assigned for the first day of class, so you should email the instructor (micahdel@sas.upenn.edu) to get a copy of that reading if you still plan to attend.

 

This course offers students an introductory survey of American fiction from the early nineteenth century to the present. Beginning with James Fenimore Cooper and Harriet Wilson, we will examine the roles of Romanticism and sentimentality in nineteenth-century fiction and consider frontier settlement, slavery, and abolitionism as historical contexts for this period. Moving to the early twentieth century, we will explore literary representations of the modern city, World War I, and the postbellum South through Harlem Renaissance and modernist works by Zora Neale Hurston, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and others. Issues of Cold War repression and Civil Rights agitation will frame our reading of mid-century fiction by James Baldwin. Finally, we will consider late-twentieth- and early-twenty-first-century America in terms of both immigration and Native American resistance to settler colonialism through fiction by Jennine Capó Crucet, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Louise Erdrich.

 

The discussion of race will be an important theme throughout this class, but it is not our exclusive focus. The course is meant to familiarize students more broadly with distinct periods or movements in American literature and to develop their sense of its recurring themes and topics: “freedom” and “progress”; individualism versus attachment to tradition and society; upward mobility; the settlement of the frontier; immigration, multiculturalism, and assimilation. Assignments (subject to change) include three papers of about five to six pages each.