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

Fall 2004

E 316K • Masterworks of Literature: American

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
32185 to 32260 Multiple Sections JES A121A

Course Description

"American Literature," according to Daniel Aaron, "is the most searching and unabashed criticism of our national limitations that exists." This course aims at examining these limitations through a selective reading of major American writers from the 17th to the 20th century, tracing the development of major literary forms, themes, and historical and cultural trends.

Explicit throughout the course will be the notion --as Robert Scholes once explained -- "that reading and writing are important because we read and write our world as well as our texts, and we are read and written by them in turn. Texts are places where power and weakness become visible and discussable, where learning and ignorance manifest themselves, where structures that enable and constrain our thoughts and actions become palpable." At its most fundamental level, then, this course will use the study of literature to help its students become better readers, writers, and thinkers.

But also at stake in this course will be the notion of an "American identity," the historical emergence of something called "American Literature," and the ways in which the issues of race, class, region, sexuality, and gender affect these constructions. We will also explore how marginalized groups face the prospect of self-formation. In this way, issues of descent and dissent and the role they play in the formation of a democratic culture will constitute the focus of our study.

The approach will be loosely historical, though the large period we will attempt to cover will necessitate some rather big jumps in time.

Grading Policy

Reading journals 20%
Class discussion, quizzes, and attendance 20%
Two short 2-page papers 40%
Final exam 20%

Only one unexcused absence allowed from lectures and one from discussion sections -- extra absences will affect your final average. Discussion sections are mandatory. The TA in your discussion section has the option of passing out extra materials and giving short quizzes.


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Samuel Clemens (Bedford/St. Martins; 0-312-11225-4)
The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (Vintage; 0-679-73477-5)
In Our Time, Ernest Hemingway (Scribner Classics; 0-684-17470-7)
Men with Guns & Lone Star, John Sayles (Faber & Faber; 0-571-19527-X)
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass (Penguin; 0-14-039012-X)
Sula, Toni Morrison (Plume/Penguin; 0-452-26349-2)
Packet of Xeroxes available at Speedway Copies & Printing (in the Dobie Mall)


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