ENGL 3600 Readings in American Literature(s)


Catalog Description

Pre- or co-requisite: ENGL 2900. Readings in representative works of American literature, reflecting the formal and thematic variety that has defined this literature, and including the contributions of minor authors and movements.

Course Description

ENGL 3600 Readings in American Literature(s) is one of the core courses in the English undergraduate degree program. The core Readings courses provide majors with awareness of the concepts, histories, and theories central to the study of literature and language, and thus serve as “gateway” courses to 4000-level electives.   This course features close study of representative works of American literature, with the aim of familiarizing students with the authors and the movements that traditionally have defined this literature, as well as with the contributions of minor authors and movements.

Through selected readings students will explore the generic conventions typical of this literature’s most recognized forms—the novel, the tale, the critical essay, and works of drama and poetry—and may also address other American literary forms including but not limited to the captivity narrative, the sermon, political oration, and the song lyric.  The course may also consider the thematic preoccupations of American literature – democracy and pluralism, class mobility, articulation of identity, the legacy of Puritanism, and so forth – while also exploring how practitioners of American literature have differentiated this tradition from those of Europe, deployed literature as a vehicle for social and political critique, and registered the varieties of American experience.

The course may feature a civic learning component.

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • demonstrate familiarity with major authors and key genres and conventions of American literature
  • grasp continuities and discontinuities in the American tradition
  • demonstrate an awareness of the connection between texts and their historical and cultural contexts
  • demonstrate general skills in literary analysis and critical thinking
  • read critically and closely, and effectively participate in discussions about literary works

Course Outline

Course content might be organized in a number of ways. Listed below are two possible methods of organizing an American literature readings course.

Version one:  The Forms of American Literature

Weeks 1-3: Generic Foundations:  The Jeremiad, the Captivity Narrative
Weeks 4-6: American Poetry:  Bradstreet, Emerson, Whitman, Dickinson, Williams, Ashbery, Baraka, the Beats
Weeks 7-9: Sketches and Tales; Irving, Hawthorne, Poe, Twain, Cather, Hemingway, Updike                 
Weeks 10-15: The American Novel:  Brown, Melville, Dreiser, James, Ellison, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Walker, Morrison, Silko, Wallace, Pynchon

Version two:  Texts and Spatial Contexts

Weeks 1-3: Plymouth Plantation and Environs:  Bradford, Mather, Bradstreet
Weeks 4-7: The Frontier:  Cooper, Twain, Cather, Zitkala-Sa, Alexie
Weeks 8-11: The Hearth:  Chopin, Gilman, Warner, Glaspell, Plath 
Weeks 11-13: The City:  Drieser, Wharton, Chandler, Riis
Weeks 13-15: The Border:  Silko, Diaz, Yamashita

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