ENGL 293 - Topics in American Literature
Prerequisite: Completion of the FW requirement. Studies in American literature, supported by attention to historical contexts. Versions of this course may survey several periods or concentrate on a group of works from a short span of time. Students develop their analytical writing skills in a series of short papers. May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.
Winter 2020, ENGL 293A-01: Topics in American Literature: The American West (3). The American West is a land of striking landscapes, beautiful places to visit, such as Yellowstone and Yosemite, and stories that have had a huge impact on the USA and the world, such as Lewis and Clark, the Oregon Trail, Custer’s Last Stand, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and Cowboy and Indian adventures galore. This course studies some of these Western places, stories, art works, and movies. What has made them so appealing? How have they been used? We study works by authors such as John Steinbeck, Frederic Remington, Willa Cather, Wallace Stegner, and Cormac McCarthy, plus movies with actors like John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Brad Pitt to see how Western stories have played out and what is happening now in these contested spaces. (HL) Smout.
Winter 2020, ENGL 293B-01: Topics in American Literature: Literature of the Beat Generation (3). A study of a revolutionary literary movement, focusing on the ways in which cultural and historical context have influenced the composition of and response to literature in the United States. This course examines the writings of several American authors (Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Anne Waldman, Amiri Baraka, Bob Dylan, Gregory Corso, Gary Snyder) active from the mid-1940s through recent decades, loosely grouped together as the Beat Generation. What cultural, literary, historical, and religious influences from the U.S. and other parts of the world have shaped their work? What challenges did their boldly different writings face, and how did their reception change over time? What are their themes? Their notions of style? What have they contributed to American (and world) life and letters? The goal of this course is to lay a strong foundation from which such questions can be richly addressed and answered. (HL) Ball.
Winter 2020, ENGL 293C-01: Topics in American Literature: How We Read (3). What’s the difference between reading for class and reading for fun? How does an English professor read a novel? How does Oprah read a novel? Why do we even read novels, anyway? For that matter, why do we join book clubs, post reviews on Goodreads, and add our photos to #bookstagram? What do all those different ways of reading look like, and how do they work? This class examines, analyzes, and practices different ways of reading, from academic study to pleasure reading to book clubs. Over the course of the term, we hone the skills necessary to literary analysis, focusing on close reading, strong arguments, and precise claims and evidence. In addition, we practice writing about what we read for non-academic audiences like Goodreads, Instagram, and friends and family. Because revision is an essential part of the writing process, you have several opportunities to revise your writing. (HL) Bufkin.
Winter 2020, ENGL 293D-01: Topics in American Literature: Toni Morrison (3). This course takes into account the literary, professional, and scholarly career of Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison. As a class, we read several of Morrison’s works as well as her non-fiction scholarship to better understand the worlds she created in her fiction and the ideas she developed across her career, asking questions about history, representation, style, and identity. Potential works include: The Bluest Eye, Sula, Beloved, Home, Playing in the Dark, and The Origin of Others. Particular attention is paid to Morrison’s writing in relation to the changing literary landscape into which she both wrote and left her indelible mark. (HL) Millan.
Winter 2020, ENGL 293E-01: Topics in American Literature: Asian-American Literature (3). A study of literatures by Asian American authors, with a focus on how Asian Americans—broadly and inclusively defined—have transformed the social, political, and cultural landscapes of the United States. With such topics as immigration and refugee politics, racism and xenophobia, exclusion and internment, civil rights activism, the post-9/11 period, and model minority myth, our selected texts (novels, poetry, short stories) present both a historical and an intimate look into the lives of individuals who articulate what it means to identify as Asian American in the modern and contemporary United States. Potential texts include Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, John Okada’s No-No Boy, Nam Le’s The Boat, Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and R. O. Kwon’s The Incendiaries. (HL) Kharputly.
Spring 2020, ENGL 293-01: Topics in American Literature: Business in American Literature and Film (4). In his 1776 book The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith tells a powerful story of the free market as a way to organize our political and economic lives, a story that has governed much of the world ever since. This course studies that story (also called capitalism), considers alternate stories of human economic organization, such as those of American Indian tribes, and sees how these stories have been acted out in American business and society. We study novels, films, short stories, non-fiction essays, autobiographies, advertisements, websites, some big corporations, and some businesses in the Lexington area. Our goal is not to attack American business but to understand its characteristic strengths and weaknesses so we can make the best choices about how to live and work happily in a free-market society. (HL) Smout.
Fall 2019, ENGL 293A-01: Topics in American Literature: Literature of the Beat Generation (3). A study of a particular movement, focusing on the ways in which cultural and historical context have influenced the composition of and response to literature in the United States. This course examines the writings of such authors as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Anne Waldman, Bob Dylan, Gregory Corso, and Gary Snyder, who wrote starting in the mid-1940s, continued through later decades, and became loosely known as the Beat Generation. What cultural, literary, historical, and religious influences from the U.S. and other parts of the world have shaped their work? What challenges did their boldly different writings face, and how did their reception change over time? What are their themes? Their notions of style? What have they contributed to American (and world) life and letters? The goal of this course is to lay a strong foundation from which such questions can be richly addressed and answered. (HL) Ball.
Fall 2019, ENGL 293B-01: Topics in American Literature: African-American Literature and Visual Culture (3). This course examines African-American literature ranging from 18th-century poetry to mid-20th-century novels. As we read texts published across this 200-year period, we study the ways writers engage visual art to portray black identity. By examining literature by Wheatley, Douglass, Jacobs, Washington, DuBois, Grimké, Larsen, Hurston, and Ellison alongside the high art and popular visual forms of their respective historical periods, we also assess how visual culture impacted the formation of the African-American literary tradition. (HL) L. Hill.
Fall 2019, ENGL 293C-01: Topics in American Literature: The American Short Story (3). A study of the evolution of the short story in America from its roots, both domestic (Poe, Irving, Hawthorne, Melville) and international (Chekhov and Maupassant), tracing the main branches of its development in the 20th and 21st centuries. Among the writers we read: Flannery O’Connor, Joyce Carol Oates, John Cheever, John Updike, Philip Roth, Tobias Woolf, T.C. Boyle, Amy Hempel, Elizabeth Strout, Junot Diaz, Edwidge Danticat, and others. Additionally, we explore more recent permutations of the genre, such as magical realism, new realism, and minimalism. Having gained an appreciation for the history and variety of this distinctly modern genre, we focus our attention on the work of two American masters of the form, contemporaries and erstwhile friends who frequently read and commented on each other’s work—Hemingway and Fitzgerald. We see how they were influenced by their predecessors and by each other and how each helped to shape the genre. (HL) Oliver.
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