Telling American Narratives
It has always seemed to me a rare privilege, this, of being
an American, a real American, one whose tradition it has taken
scarcely sixty years to create. We need only realize our parents,
remember our grandparents, and know ourselves, and our history
The old people in a new world, the new people made out of the old,
that is the story that I mean to tell, for that is what really is and
what I really know.
The Making of Americans
When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock—to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures.
“The Fiction Writer and His Country”
The course title and the above quotations define the main objectives of this course: to use the stories of American literature as startling narratives that reflect American history, culture, ideology, and writers’ attitudes about those matters. We will read and reflect on many centuries of American—primarily short fiction—publications from the 18th- 21st centuries so as to analytically consider their historical, cultural, aesthetic, and biographical contexts. As we move through these, we will attempt to connect American eras and authors with the substance and style of the stories penned such that by the end of the quarter, you should have a sophisticated understanding of what American literature "really is" as well as what more you'd like to read after course completion to "really know" past and present “Americas” that help to configure you in contemporary America.
Requirements include active, consistent, vocal, and critically-informed discussion; essay-focused midterm and final exams; pop quizzes, presentations.
The syllabus will be distributed in person on the first day of the course, auditing is not an option, and extra credit cannot substitute for exams.