Instructor: B. London
This course will provide an opportunity to sample an exciting body of contemporary literature, some written by authors already widely acclaimed at the time they received the Nobel Prize and some by writers suddenly catapulted into fame and international recognition. While a central focus of the course will be the literature itself, we will also look at some of the particular controversies and debates the prize has generated and at how receipt of the prize changed writers' lives and literary reputations. In the U.S., where less than 5% of the literature published each year is literature in translation, Nobel prize-winning literature is often the only modern literature Americans read in translation. We will therefore consider the question of translation and the role of the Nobel Prize in creating and promoting an international literature. We will also consider the special challenges this literature poses for its readers in speaking to both local and global audiences.
Instructor: G. Grella
The course will consider the life and work of the most famous American writer of the 20th century; we will read and discuss the major novels and short stories, perhaps some of the nonfiction, and screen a few of the films based on his writing. Assignments will consist of reports and papers on selected works and some secondary material. We will spend most of our class time on discussion rather than lectures, so participation and dialogue will be important components of our study.
Instructor: E. Tawil
We’ll trace the remarkable developments of the novel form in the U.S, from the decade after the Revolution (when Americans first begin to write long prose fictions) to the decade before the Civil War (when the American novel claimed its ascent to literary Art). All along the way, we will be reading “novels,” yes, but it will quickly become apparent how varied a form this noun actually names; we’ll read a broad range of the novel’s different modes (the epistolary novel, the novel of seduction, the gothic, the historical novel, sentimental-domestic fiction, the Romance). We begin in the 1780s, when the American novel is just trying to find its feet, and yet sees itself as having a profound political duty to serve the national interest. Even fictional writings about sexual conduct—the seduction novels with which we begin the course—charged themselves with this grave nationalist purpose. We then follow the form through the early nineteenth century, as it becomes obsessed with the topics of race and violence that now threatened to destroy the young nation. Strange as it may seem, the novel in the period seemed to believe that it could resolve massive real-world crises, particularly slavery and white-Indian conflicts over land ownership, in fictional and symbolic terms. We end in the 1850s when American novelists asserted that their writing was relatively autonomous from politics, and—as part of the same gesture—transcended everyday life to achieve “Literature” with a capital L. We spend the last month with the widely advertised literary masterworks of Hawthorne and Melville, asking ourselves how the novel had progressed from a didactic form of social consciousness to a species of writing that could open a world of sublime aesthetic experience. Readings will likely include works by: Hannah Webster Foster (The Coquette), Charles Brockden Brown (Edgar Huntly), James Fenimore Cooper (The Last of the Mohicans), Harriet Beecher Stowe (Uncle Tom’s Cabin), Martin Delany (Blake), Nathaniel Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter), and Herman Melville (Moby-Dick).