College Of Arts And Sciences | American Best Sellers and Their Movies
E103 | 0138 | Gutjahr, P


This course will explore novels that have sold an extraordinary
number of copies in the Untied States either when they were first
published or over an extended period of time.  Beginning with Susanah
Rowson’s 1791 seduction tale, Charlotte Temple, and ending with Mario
Puzo’s 1969 crime epic, The Godfather, students will be asked to
consider the reasons behind, and the influence of, popular novels in
the United States.  We will examine issues such as how might one
define the term “best seller,” who writes these books, who publishes
them, who reads them, and how are they distributed.  Students will
learn how to examine books as complex entities whose production and
reception involves a host of forces and figures, including authors,
editors, booksellers, book clubs, librarians, movie moguls,
politicians, and teachers.  Students will, in turn, learn what role
certain popular novels have played in changing our country’s language
idioms, fashions, politics, notions of gentility, sexual mores,
etiquette, and religious values.

Aside from attending lectures and discussion sections, other elements
of the class will include writing papers, reading quizzes, and a
midterm and final examination.  This course will also involve
watching motion picture versions of all but one of the books we will
read.  Students will be responsible for attending these evening movie
screenings and examining these movies in a way which complicates and
enhances their analysis of the novels under discussion.  The reading
list for the course includes: Rowson’s Charlotte Temple (1791),
Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans (1826), Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin
(1852), Hull’s The Sheik (1921), Metalious’ Peyton Place (1956) and
Puzo’s The Godfather (1969).