Development of the American novel from 1900 to present.
Although reading novels is generally a solitary activity, the novel as a genre has not only encompassed a multitude of voices but has promoted social visions. The diverse set of novels in this class begin with William Faulkner’s weird tale of modernist alienation and isolation, moving toward more collective and political modes, with a Harlem Renaissance (nearly lost) classic and a (recently found) political novel by a Chinese American author. The second half of the class features texts that intertwine cultures and environments, starting with Louise Erdrich’s account of environmental and cultural devastation wrought by settler colonialism, to Chicana feminist perspectives on land and culture, concluding with a SF novel that plunges the reader into a strange but vibrant rewilding. While it would be impossible to do justice to the 20th century American novel in one term, the works in this class are striking not only for their vital content but for their experimental and provocative structure, form, voice, and narrative perspective. We will discuss how the novels seek to perform “cultural work”—shifting the political realities they inhabit—and how their interpretive puzzles and offbeat humor pull readers into the process of understanding personal, social, and environmental realities and imagining alternatives. Readings will most likely consist of the following novels, along with excerpts of theory and criticism: William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying; Zora Neal Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God, H.T. Tsiang, Hanging in Union Square; Louise Erdrich, Tracks; Ana Castillo, So Far from God; Jeff Vandermeer, Annihilation. Participation in zoom discussions, two exams, and a short paper/presentation.
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.