College Of Arts And Sciences | American Bestsellers & Their Movies
E103 | 0094 | Gutjahr, P.


This course will explore novels that have sold an extraordinary
number of copies in the United States, either when they were first
published or over an extended period of time.  Beginning with
Susannah 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).