| ||This course examines the rich, varied, and occasionally quirky textures of American literature from colonial times to the late twentieth century. Once again, we take a generally historical approach to the material, tracing the development of particular themes, ideas, and techniques of writing, and examining the kaleidoscopic interactions of the many strands of the American population and culture.|
While Western Literature to Dante emphasized extensive reading and English Literature focused on intensive reading, this course puts the two together. We read for the long view and zoom in on occasion for close scrutiny where it is warranted. In the process, we dig into issues of theme and symbolic language in the works of the great nineteenth-century masters Melville and Hawthorne, and the evolution of different approaches to realism in its various guises. We also spend some time examining modern critical writing. Those who plan to go on to take literature courses in college are well advised to be at least forewarned about some of the directions critical thought has taken.
The textbook for the course is The United States in Literature, which, like England in Literature, is part of the “America Reads” series from Scott, Foresman. The series has long since gone out of print, and nothing nearly as good has emerged to replace it, but happily used copies are still available and circulating fairly freely. A number of novels and plays take their place alongside the course textbook.