English 132

American Novel

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2020 McWilliams, Ryan
MWF 2-3 54 Barrows

Book List

Brown, Charles Brockden: Edgar Huntly; Chopin, Kate: The Awakening; Cole, Teju: Open City; Faulkner, William: The Sound and the Fury; Kingston, Maxine Hong: The Woman Warrior; Melville, Herman: Moby-Dick; or, The Whale; Morrison, Toni: Beloved


This survey of the American novel begins with a somnambulist whose surprisingly violent rambles in the summer of 1787 raise questions about responsibility for the land theft that undergirded the emergent nation. It ends with a twenty-first-century Nigerian-American flaneur whose urban peregrinations call into question the coherence of borders in a globalized world. In response to these de-territorializing, non-linear journeys, this course begins by interrogating the deceptively simple terms “novel” and “American,” asking how they have shaped one another over time.               

As we saunter through the centuries separating somnambulist and flaneur, we will pay special attention to the peculiarly haunted dimensions of American psychic life. We will consider how the uncanny centrality of phantoms, ghosts, reveries, and nightmarish apparitions has allowed authors to complicate matters of inclusion and exclusion, of representation (both political and artistic) and the unrepresentable. In turn, how have thematic entanglements of historical memory and the return of the repressed inflected authors' uses of voice and perspective, narration and description, fragmentation and organicism? By treating the novel as a form emerging from a particular social and ideological history, we will consider how its development has alternately enabled and resisted broader national narratives about where the nation came from, where it is going, and what it means.

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