Engl 402: American Literature 2

Cr. 3


This course begins with the end of the Civil War, a conflict that ushered in a turbulent period of rapid change when emancipation, Reconstruction, and increasing industrialization inspired an array of new literature and literary approaches.  As writers grappled with a period of vast social, political, and economic reorganization, they addressed and challenged the world around them with modes of writing that have now become familiar literary categories: realism, naturalism, modernism, and eventually post-modernism.  In the last 150 years, these developments emerged as a response to a changing world and the changing place of Americans within it.  As we make our way from the nineteenth century to the present day, we’ll read texts that confront issues of empire and immigration, race and religion, class and citizenship, and gender and sexuality.  In the process, we’ll see how writers shaped American history as well as American literature. 

In order to encourage a balance of breadth and depth in our study of American literature, major assignments for this course will include several critical papers (4-8 pages), a midterm, and a final examination.

The Norton Anthology of American Literature(volumes C, D, and E), 8th ed.



This course will focus on close readings of major American writers from the Civil War to the present. Beginning with the poetry of Whitman and Dickinson, we will also study the works of such figures as Twain, James, Wharton, Chopin, Frost, Hemingway, Faulkner, Welty, O'Connor, Baldwin, W.C. Williams, Stevens, Brooks, T. Williams, O'Neill, Cheever, and Updike. Special attention will be given to works by women and minorities. The historical and cultural context of these writers will be provided by lecture and oral reports; however, the themes and styles of their literature will be the primary focus of our discussions.

Beyond an oral report, students should expect two unit exams and a comprehensive final exam. Students will write two relatively compact critical essays of five to seven pages.