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

Spring 2009

E 376L • Mark Twain and Charles Chestnutt

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
34522 TTh
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
GAR 1.126

Course Description

This course will offer students a fresh perspective on Mark Twain by placing him in conversation with Charles Chesnutt, an African-American realist whose works, like many of Twain's, deal with the complex issue of racial justice in the post-bellum United States. Reading Twain's celebrated novels alongside Chesnutt's, Chesnutt's lauded "Conjure Tales" alongside Twain's local color, and cultural and historical criticism of both authors will allow us to explore issues of region, race, authenticity, and authorship in the United States in the last decades of the nineteenth century.

Significant attention will be given to helping students develop their writing skills. Frequent short-writing assignments will allow students to get feedback on their writing in a low-stakes context and will also provide fodder for class discussion. Making use of secondary criticism and historical documents, students will enter into ongoing critical discussions of the texts. Though broad questions of culture, race, and canonicity will certainly be central to the course, we will not neglect close reading and engagement with the words on the page.

Students will leave the course highly knowledgeable about Twain, Chesnutt, and their writings, and better able to describe Twain's impact on American literature because of their study of Chesnutt.

Grading Policy

Participation and attendance 25%
Short writings 10%
Essay 1, 3-5 pp 15%
Essay 2, 3-5 pp 15%
Final paper proposal 5%
Final paper, 8-10 pp 30%
[Revisions of all essays required]


Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) (Bedford Case Studies in Critical Controversy)
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889)
Puddn'head Wilson (Norton Critical Edition) (1894)

Chesnutt, Conjure Tales and Stories of the Color Line (1899) (Penguin Classics)
The House behind the Cedars (1900)
The Marrow of Tradition (1901) (Bedford Cultural Edition)

Course packet including secondary criticism and additional short stories and essays by the two authors.


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