L352 1970 NORDLOH
American Literature 1865-1914

9:05a-9:55a MWF (30) 3 cr.

This course will introduce central cultural and literary concerns of the period between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of World War I by focusing on four major writers: Mark Twain, Henry James, Kate Chopin, and Edith Wharton. The opportunity to spend time on each writer will allow us to explore--in greater depth than a rapid survey of single works by a large number of authors would permit--the principal themes with which each writer was engaged, the unique characteristics of his/her art, and the evolution of those themes and that art over the course of a career. Our goals are both an appreciation of the special genius of these writers and the complex relationship between the artist and the culture from which the artist draws and to which he/she speaks. Twain, James, Chopin, and Wharton are exceptional figures living in an exceptionally complicated and vital period, as America copes with its rapid transformation from an agricultural to an industrial economy, as an ordered society of white gentlemen reluctantly concedes power to African Americans, to women, and to the "middle" and "lower" classes, and as the theory of evolution and the rise of modern notions of personality alter perceptions of the role of human beings in their universe.

The course will proceed mostly by discussion, with class meetings organized around discussion questions. Those same questions will also serve from time to time as the basis for in-class writing assignments and out-of-class responses. Each student will also participate in preparing a 15-minute small-group presentation on a topic relevant to the authors and topics, and will write two longer formal essays (5-7 pages). We'll also devote one class to a visit to the Lilly Library to look at original editions of works by the writers. No examinations.

The reading for the course will include–