This survey of American literature from 1865 to our contemporary period addresses a broad range of cultural perspectives and literary texts. The course will cover established traditions and major authors, but it will also show that American literature has many different less well-known voices. As a meeting place of many different cultures, America can be seen as a vast borderland where identity, language, space, power and narrative are constantly contested and freshly negotiated. Questions of cultural belonging, social participation, and political citizenship have been and continue to be in the foreground of this nation. This course examines how writers from various cultural backgrounds address questions of cultural belonging. Who can be an American? Whose culture shall be the official one? Whose history shall be remembered and whose forgotten? In this course, we will study how literature participates in crafting the social and cultural fabric of this nation.
This course is divided into five units: American Imperialism, Turn-of-the-Century Working Class and Origins of the Harlem Renaissance, The Lost Generation to the Greatest Generation, the Homefront During Wartime to Postmodernity, and Into the 21st Century. In addition to two lecture hall sessions a week, you are required to attend a discussion session once a week. In discussion sessions, students explore in more detail the literary texts and craft their own responses.
Studies in 20th and 21st Century US Literature: Monstrosity and Humanity in the Anthropocene
We are currently living in what many refer to as the Anthropocene—the first epoch in human history in which the earth’s ecosystems and geology have been altered significantly by a single species: homosapiens. Monsters, however, have always existed outside the bounds of the human, standing in for cultural anxieties ranging from immigration to scientific advancement. In light of the increasing awareness of the negative effect humanity has on the environment, this course asks how we define “humanity” and what constitutes “monstrosity” in contemporary fiction. We will survey a range of twentieth and twenty-first century texts—literature, film, television, comics—to consider what makes something or someone “monstrous” and how the definition of “human” is shaped in contrast to the figure of the monster. Although monstrosity is associated with inhumanity, this course explores how often monstrosity actually resides within the human. This course includes readings in cultural studies, literary theory, and introductory film analysis. Requirements will include regular participation, short reading/viewing responses, a critical analysis, and in-class presentation on a monster of your choice, and a research paper. **Fulfills Counter-Canons and Critical Issues Major Requirement. Eligible for credit toward Environmental Studies minor**