English 130D

American Literature: 1900-1945

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2015 Porter, Carolyn
MWF 12-1 88 Dwinelle

Book List

Ellison, Ralph: Invisible Man; Fitzgerald, F. Scott: The Great Gatsby; Hurston, Zora Neale: Their Eyes Were Watching God; James, Henry: The Portrait of a Lady


This course will survey major works of early twentieth-century American literature by Stephen Crane, Theodore Dreiser, Ralph Ellison, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zora Neale Hurston, Henry James, James Weldon Johnson, and Frank Norris, with the goal of understating how their writings respond to the experience of modernity.   The twentieth century was marked during its first half by a string of ups and downs (many of which no doubt feel familiar to us at the dawn of the twenty-first): two wars, gilded age excess, broad economic privation, and, as W.E.B. DuBois predicted for it, a dogged “problem of the color line.”  We will explore how the modern American novel grapples with issues of moral ambiguity, anomie, belonging, and the attraction and antipathy toward blackness.  My lectures will focus on the formal concerns of point of view, frames of reference, and the representation of time, all with the goal of understanding how these authors’ experiments in the novel form produce a reality rather than reflect it.   Regarding this last, I will be keen to foreground the ways in which the modernist novel comes into its own during “the age of mechanical reproduction,” and thus often in dialogue with the emerging technologies of cinema, camera, and phonograph (not to mention television, radio, and telephone).

Two ten-page essays and a final exam will be required, along with regular attendance

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