L355 21415 AMERICAN FICTION TO 1900
Barbara Lehr
9:30a-10:45a TR (30 students) 3 cr., A&H.

English L355 is primarily a course about 19th-century American fiction. Its purpose is partly to teach you about the literature itself--about the images, metaphors, and characters at work within the fiction, about the systems of beliefs and values that inform the works, and about the stories’ own explications of significant 19th- century concerns: nature and civilization, the American frontier, success, and freedom. We will also survey the historical development and changing patterns of fiction, and examine the relations of the works to the ideas of their times--the connection, for example, between late 19th-century realistic and naturalistic novels and contemporary ideas about science. You will be asked to inspect critical and theoretical concepts about fiction--concepts such as myth, realism, romance, naturalism, and symbolism, and to be able to speak intelligently about some of the main themes of the course: varieties of romanticism; the uses of tradition versus dreams of starting over; the triumph of the novel; literature of urban life; crises of faith; “the woman question”; and literary responses to slavery.

You can expect to leave L355 with a better understanding of the social upheavals, literary revolutions, and cultural conditions of America through the nineteenth century and you will become very familiar with some of the more notable fiction written in nineteenth- century America. In addition, you should improve your writing and reading skills, and become a more precise critic of literature and a stronger, more active and perceptive reader of texts.

Required work: two papers(3-4 pp. and 4-5 pp.), group presentations (five short ones throughout the semester, one lengthy one at the end), 10 quizzes (unannounced), a midterm exam, and a final exam (cumulative).

Course Texts:
William Dean Howells, The Rise of Silas Lapham
Henry James, Daisy Miller
Kate Chopin, The Awakening
Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie
From Four Classic American Novels: The Scarlet Letter, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Red Badge of Courage
selections from a course packet