ENGL 250 A: American Literature

Meeting Time: 
MW 1:30pm - 3:20pm
LOW 113
Bob Abrams
Robert Abrams

Additional Details:

Winter Quarter 2016

Class: English 250A—MW 1:30-3:20

Instructor: Robert Abrams

Course Description: We’ll be reading a wide range of American literary texts, from poems by Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson to novels by such authors as Nathaniel Hawthorne, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ralph Ellison. Students in this course should expect to do lots of reading, and they should come prepared to record their responses to all reading assignments through detailed journal entries keyed to each session of the course. Several papers will also be required. Two major issues that we’ll be grappling with are the challenges that these text pose to: 1) the often unexamined American concept of e pluribus unum—one indivisible national whole emerging out of many strands; 2) the tendency to think of American time as progressing forward into a future that displaces the past, makes historical memory largely irrelevant, validates youth over age, and directs attention away from current disappointments toward forthcoming promise and hope. In contrast to the concept of e pluribus unum, the focus in this course will be on how shifting voices and perspectives from disparate dimensions of U.S. culture often collide to the point of ambiguity, friction, and dissonance; they resist easy synthesis, although their collisions often prove to be considerably more fascinating, and far less dismal, than naïve dismissals of dissonance sometimes assume. We’ll also be exploring challenges to the glib assumption that time inevitably progresses forward in the U.S.A. As Ralph Ellison writes in Invisible Man, he has learned that history often moves like a “boomerang” rather than an “arrow.”

Required Texts:

Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” Dickinson’s poems (sent by email); also for purchase at the U Bookstore: Hawthorne, THE PORTABLE HAWTHORNE; Frederick Douglass, NARRATIVE; Rebecca Harding Davis, LIFE IN THE IRON MILLS AND OTHER STORIES; Twain, HUCKLEBERRY FINN; Kate Chopin, THE AWAKENING; Fitzgerald, THE GREAT GATSBY; Ralph Ellison, INVISIBLE MAN

Catalog Description: 
Introduces American culture through a careful reading of a variety of representative texts in their historical contexts.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Other Requirements Met: 
Last updated: 
March 16, 2016 - 3:58pm