19th Century American Literature: American Renaissance, 1820-1865
The rich literary period prior to the Civil War brought vibrant, new ideas about Nature and art that invigorated American literature. This course focuses on major writers whose works declared our literary independence from Europe and shaped our ideas about Nature and the frontier; the hero and society; race and slavery; and an artistic awakening to the perils of the machine age.
Book List and Materials:
The Norton Anthology of American Literature (7th ed.), Vol. B
O'Conner, Woe is I
British Literature I: One Thousand Years of Oral Tradition
In this course you will read and hear great works that have demonstrated or been shaped by Britain's venerable oral tradition. You will explore the idea of the "real" oral tradition while you experience works that were inspired by it. You will consider how storytelling as a communal act evolved into the British literary canon. You will also consider the impact of technology on the thousand year old "written tradition." Are we reverting to a pre-literate society? Are we becoming a super-literate society? How will our age be defined, one thousand years from now?
Heaney (trans.), Beowulf
Chaucer (trans.) The Canterbury Tales
Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
The Comic Tradition in American Literature
What's so funny? This course seeks to answer that question by reading novels, stories and poetry of 19th- and 20th-century American authors. Comedy is a powerful literary genre, one that can help us see the truth of things "on a slant." From political satire to social criticism, poetic to dramatic irony, humor has helped define the careers of some of America's best writers. This course pairs works in order to compare cultures, politics, and literary styles across time. For example, in this election year, we'll read the political satire of Benjamin Franklin with that of Jon Stewart; the social satire of the America of Twain's Huck with that of Salinger's Holden.
Collins, Sailing Around the Room: New and Selected Poems
Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (free copies)
Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle
three-ring binder, loose paper, pens
Illuminating Lives: Biography and Memoir
This course explores what the artistic life has meant to artists, writers, and musicians. The primary goal of the course is to introduce students to the nonfiction genres of biography, memoir, and the personal essay. Students apply their understanding of these genres in a short biographical study of a leader in their field who has influenced their own artistic work. Writing about documentaries or "biopics" is another aspect or form of biography. Open-book/open-journal exams allow students to respond to a shared group of masters in the fields of literature, painting, and music.
Wolff, This Boy's Life
Stravinsky, An Autobiography
O'Conner, Woe is I
three-ring binder, loose paper, pens
Literature & Culture of the American West
The American West has always been as much an idea as it is a geographic region. For some, the West has symbolized frontier freedom and rugged individualism. To others, the West is a site of violence and injustice. For many, it has been both. Throughout this course, we will seek to understand the West in a variety of ways and from a variety of perspectives. We will study and discuss the traditional icons of the West: the cowboy, the gunslinger, the rancher. But we will also examine the West with an ear tuned toward the voices less often heard, those of American Indians, women, and racial and ethnic minorities. We will spend some time discussing the natural environment and resources of the West, and we will investigate what happens when cities-the symbols of East Coast civilization-start to pop up in the West. Films, literature, visual art, and whatever ideas you bring to class will provide us our topics for discussion.
The Virginian by Owen Wister
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
Course Packet including essays, poetry, and short fiction
A selection of films from the 1940s through the present day
Literature of the American South
The American South, as a region ripe with the fruits of literary endeavor, has earned a reputation that ranks with that of the Irish or the Russians and as such, students examine its literature as place, custom and culture. Like that of the Irish and the Russians, Southern literature has a tinge of mystique, an other-worldly quality wherein the line between language and music blurs, and "place" becomes almost a character in itself. The novel, drama, and short story are the forms in which this distinction has been primarily achieved, and those are consequently the focus of the course.
Faulkner, As I Lay Dying
Toole, The Neon Bible
Welty, The Optimist's Daughter
Williams, The Glass Menagerie
Selected stories and poems
Women in Literature
This course has been designed to introduce students to some great literature that deals with the subject of women. In this late day and age it would seem that anyone with a modestly evolved intellect can recognize the two most salient facts with regard to this subject: first, that women are and always have been at least as smart and capable as men, and second, that they have been given nothing close to the same respect or opportunities. Literature both reflects this subjugation and contributes to it. In all-too- rare instances, it offers resistance.
Chopin, The Awakening
Ibsen, Four Great Plays
Mahfouz, Palace Walk
Memoir selection and various handouts
Throughout the nineteenth century and until the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late twentieth century, the Russian authors have been the voices of their society's most urgent concerns. This course examines the lives and representative works of notable writers from both the Golden Age of Russian Literature and the era of Stalin. Attention focuses on the evolving literary aesthetic and the range of cultural and political shifts which influenced its development.
Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
Gogol, "The Overcoat"
Pushkin, "The Bronze Horseman"
Solzhenitsyn, selected works
Tolstoy, The Great Short Works of Leo Tolstoy
Considering Shakespeare's plays as both enduring classics of literature and living theatrical experiences, students become acquainted with the vitality, versatility, and universality of the playwright. The course closely examines the language of the plays, but it also probes how the other "languages" of the theatre interact with text in order to communicate meaning and create art.
Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
Shakespeare, The Tempest
Shakespeare, Twelfth Night
Language and Culture
Through reading nonfiction and some fiction texts, students will explore the intersection of language and culture. Students will give presentations, write essays, and keep a blog to show what they discover about the power of words in shaping cultures, views, and identities.