E 395M • American Literary Realism, 1881-1929
9:30 AM-11:00 AM
We will survey selected works from the three interrelated genres mentioned above, all of which rose to prominence in United States literature towards the end of the nineteenth century. In exploring this literature, we will interweave political, historical, theoretical, and formal/aesthetic concerns. What relation do realism, regionalism, and naturalism bear, for instance, to crises in cultural definitions of masculinity and femininity around the turn of the century? Why have realism and the middle classes been so tightly linked? How does race, including whiteness, function in these texts? In what ways does literary realism both participate in and critique the development not only of a continental but also of an overseas U.S. empire? What does it mean, anyway, to claim to represent the really "real"? What sorts of authorial voices do we tend to find in these different genres? How do representations of regional, class, and racial dialects differ from author to author, and with what effects? In addition to the primary course texts, a packet of secondary readings will include essays by Eric Sundquist, Amy Kaplan, Walter Benn Michaels, Toni Morrison, and other critics.
1. You (with one other person) will lead class discussion for about half of one class meeting. The starting point for the discussion will be your short (about five pages) critical paper responding to some aspect of the day's reading. You may focus your essay on any specific facet of the reading that you find interesting and that you think holds some potential for class discussion. In addition to the essay, please provide a brief (five entries or so) annotated bibliography of critical articles or book chapters on the text (25%) 2. You will serve as a designated respondent to a classmate's short paper and will then share responsibility with that classmate for leading class discussion. You aren't required to write your response, but you should have something substantive and organized to say and should take no more than 5-10 minutes to say it. 3. You will write an approximately 15-20 page paper, of the sort that you might consider revising for submission to a journal (75%). 4. Attendance, punctuality, class participation, and the timely completion of all reading assignments are minimal requirements. Recurrent problems in any of these areas will affect your final grade.
Texts will be chosen from the following list (arranged here in no particular order): Stephen Crane, Maggie, A Girl of the Streets and The Red Badge of Courage Henry James, The Princess Cassamassima or The Bostonians or The Portrait of a Lady Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson William Dean Howells, A Hazard of New Fortunes Hamlin Garland, Main-Travelled Roads Sara Orne Jewett, The Country of the Pointed Firs Charles Chesnutt, The Conjure Woman and Other Conjure Tales and/or The Marrow of Tradition Kate Chopin, The Awakening Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie Mary Wilkins Freeman, selected stories Anzia Yezierska, Hungry Hearts Frank Norris, McTeague