English 166

Special Topics: American Regionalism

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Spring 2010 Clowes, Erika
Clowes, Erika
MWF 1-2 122 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Cather,  W.: My Antonía; Ellison,  R.: Invisible Man; Faulkner,  W.: Light in August; Norris,  F.: McTeague; West,  N.: Miss Lonelyhearts & The Day of the Locust


What makes a work of literature characteristically “American”? This question is complicated by the variety of distinct geographical and cultural landscapes that make up the country. In some ways, the representation of place in American regional literature becomes a kind of genre-coding, so that we come to expect the ghosts of slavery to appear in Southern narratives, a wild frontier in the West, etc. In this course, we will examine these generic conventions about place, and observe the methods authors use to embrace, adapt, or resist them. Often, the concept of caricature itself becomes the focus of a narrative, as characters struggle to disentangle themselves from identities imposed upon them by settings. Special attention will be paid to character (in addition to landscape, architecture, and sociological factors) as a means of representing a region. The collective group of texts will provide, beyond regional differences, a composite view of the national culture. Contemporary America is singularly fascinated with violence and sex; this course will focus on the related concepts of grotesqueness and fecundity, strangely interconnected, that have historically preoccupied American writers.

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