E 379S • James and Wharton: American Novel of Manners
2:00 PM-3:00 PM
The novels of Henry James and Edith Wharton concentrate on life among the financially "comfortable" classes in late nineteenth and early twentieth century America. We will read as many works by these two authors as time allows. (The list below includes some of the texts that we may read, but I may also make some changes to it.) In exploring these works, we will discuss such issues the social construction of "whiteness" as a racial identity; the development of very fine gradations in social and cultural prestige; the significance of social climbing; and turn-of-the-century sex/gender crises involving masculinity and the New Woman. Students should realize that the novels of James, in particular, are long and written in a rather difficult (but stunning!) style. Be prepared for this if you enroll in the class.
Students will write two short papers (2 and 4 pages, respectively) and one longer paper (8-10 pages). Everybody will also have to do one in-class presentation, and several informal one-page "response" papers. Strict attendance and punctuality will of course be required.
Paper #1 (2 pages) 15%
Paper #2 (4 pages) 20%
Paper #3 (10 pages) 30%
Informal response papers and in-class presentation 15%
Class participation 20%
Henry James: Daisy Miller, The Europeans, The Portrait of a Lady, Washington Square, The Turn of the Screw, What Maisie Knew, The Ambassadors
Edith Wharton: The House of Mirth, The Custom of the Country, The Age of Innocence, Summer, Collected Stories
We will view Martin Scorcese's film version of The Age of Innocence and Jane Campion's film The Portrait of a Lady.