This course begins with the question of what is the American novel? It is a question asked and answered by some of the most ingenious and challenging thinkers of the 20th century, who, as it turns out, were novelists. But for these thinkers who thought in the form of novels, the 20th century was in many respects about breaking down the form of the novel and the idea of "Americanness," as it had been traditionally understood by Anglo-European settlers. This is a century of tradition-breaking, deep reckonings with history, and radical new identity formation in the cultural contexts of immigration, war, sexual liberation, feminism, black power, LGBTQ rights, and new media from comics to TV to Twitter. The fact that the novel survived all this and persists as a popular form will be one of our enduring riddles.
Arts & Letters (A&L) courses create meaningful opportunities for students to engage actively in the modes of inquiry that define a discipline. Courses are broad in scope and demonstrably liberal in nature (that is, courses that promote open inquiry from a variety of perspectives). Though some courses may focus on specialized subjects or approaches, there will be a substantial course content locating that subject in the broader context of the major issues of the discipline. Qualifying courses will not focus on teaching basic skills but will require the application or engagement of those skills through analysis and interpretation.
Literature, 1789 to the present courses focus on literary work produced over more than two centuries -- from the period of British romanticism and the early republic of the United States up to now -- in order to foster familiarity with key works in British and American literary history. Literary history illustrates how literary works reflect, address, and resist the social and political environments in which they are produced as well as other works that have preceded them.
English Minor courses offer students centuries of cultural experience and representation in poetry, prose, drama, film, TV, new media, and folk artifacts. The English minor can focus and extend the values of a liberal arts education, while also providing extensive training in writing, speaking, and critical thinking.