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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Spring 2008

E 314L • Special Mirrors: Fiction and Race in America, 1877-1935

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
34327 to 34328 Multiple Sections BUR 228

Course Description

The relationship between a work of art and the culture in which it was produced has long been a subject of vexed interest. Does art comment directly on the culture of which its author is a part? Or does art merely reflect the meaning of culture through words on a page or paint on a canvas? This course will explore the question of how works of literature--novels and short stories--come to have meaning within American culture and what imaginative works can teach us about American culture and society. The relationship between literary text and historical context will be the object of inquiry in this course. We will examine this subject through the history of literary culture as it developed from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th, from domestic fiction and realism to modernism and the Harlem Renaissance.

The subject of the course will be works of fiction that explore the construction and meaning of race, one of the major themes of both American cultural and literary history. We will read four novels that explore the relationship between white Americans and black Americans as it was explored through the medium of fiction. We will also read a number of short stories and critical pieces that will extend our understanding of American fiction, the production and consumption of literature, and the construction of race in America. The course will be divided into four major units that aim to connect the history of literature to American cultural history through individual literary works: 1) romance, domesticity, and caste, 2) realism, dialect, and Jim Crow, 3) modernism, alienation, and segregation, and 4) renaissance, resistance, and nationalism.

Grading Policy

Two 2-page literary essays on class readings (20% each)
One 5-page literary essay on class readings (20%)
One substantial revision of paper (6-7 pages) (20%)
Participation and attendance (20%)


Frances Harper, Iola Leroy (1892)
Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)
W.E.B. Du Bois, Souls of Black Folk (1903)
William Faulkner, Light in August (1932)
Nella Larsen, Passing (1929)


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