L354 2080 ELMER
American Literature since 1914

10:10a-11:00a MWF (30) 3 CR.

This class will survey a wide variety of American literature, but will do so within a restricted temporal frame – the decade of the 1930’s. This is the era at once of the depression and of Hollywood, and as a thematic focus we will explore two aspects of the growing mass culture reflective of that bifurcation, what I will call the modes of “celebrity” and “anonymity.” Thus we will read a novel like Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night by looking at the function of celebrity in that complex work, while we might approach Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath or Wright’s Native Son as explorations of the “everyman,” or the “anonymous” (anti)hero. The texts are not yet set, but will include some of the following: Henry Roth’s Call It Sleep, James M. Cain’s Mildred Pierce, Tess Slesinger’s The Dispossessed, Dawn Powell’s The Happy Island, Meridel le Seuer’s The Girl, Nathanael West’s Day of the Locust, James T. Farrell’s Young Lonigan, Clifford Odets’ Waiting for Lefty, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, poetry by Millay, Olsen, Fearing, Boyle, Hughes, Stevens, and Williams, as well as forays into popular song and cinema.

Requirements include active reading and attendance, and three essays of increasing length. There will probably also be a midterm examination.