Jun 23, 2024  
Catalogue 2019-2020 
Catalogue 2019-2020 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

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ENGL 329 - American Literary Realism

Semester Offered: Fall
1 unit(s)
(Same as AMST 329 ) Exploration of the literary concepts of realism and naturalism focusing on the theory and practice of fiction between 1870 and 1910, the first period in American literary history to be called modern. The course may examine past critical debates as well as the current controversy over realism in fiction. Attention is given to such questions as what constitutes reality in fiction, as well as the relationship of realism to other literary traditions. Authors may include Henry James, Mark Twain, Stephen Crane, Charles Chestnutt, Edith Wharton, Theodore Dreiser, and Willa Cather. 

Topic for 2019/20a:  American Literary Realism and Naturalism: A Reading of Major American Novels Written Primarily Between 1870 and 1910. After the Civil War, the U.S. experienced increasing rates of democracy and literacy, the rapid growth of industrialism and urbanization, an expanding population due to immigration, and a rise in middle-class affluence, which provided a fertile literary environment for writers interested in explaining these rapid shifts in culture. A grand explanatory narrative directs the plot and action of these novels. Authorial intentions give way to a set of laws or principles derived from the dominant ideologies that supported America’s maturation into a super-power: Social Darwinism, the Gospel of Efficiency (new Protestant work ethic), or Imperialism (new Manifest Destiny). Surprisingly, the myth of American ‘progress’ is tested and found wanting in almost every book on the syllabus. In seeking scientific objectivity, writers plied a representational strategy focused on ‘hard facts’ and minute detail, which as often as not found the protagonist at odds with his or her environment. Though post-war, the terrain we cover is embattled: race riots, strikes, downward economic mobility, criminality, and homelessness. Shut out of the canon by reason of changing fashions in literary tastes, the less familiar authors on the syllabus belong to the emerging protest novel.  Authors include: Henry James, Mark Twain, Stephen Crane, Charles Chesnutt, Frank Norris, William Dean Howells, Edith Wharton, Thorstein Veblen, Theodore Dreiser, Richard Wright, and Ralph Ellison. Wendy Graham.

One 2-hour period.

Course Format: CLS

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