Syllabus #6

English 60: Introduction to American Fiction
Fall 1993

Professor Renny Christopher
Cabrillo College

The text for this course, The Heath Anthology, has been devised out of the current debate about the canon of "American" literature. The text is designed to open up that canon to include works previously excluded. This class will use the breadth available in that anthology as a place to begin talking about literature. The class is organized around three themes: Gender and Sexualities, Race, and Class, but note that each of the sections actually brings up issues related to the other two, as well. Many of the texts are paired, to encourage you to think about the ways in which ideas presented by the authors contend with one another.

There is a lot more in this anthology than we will be reading in class. I have deliberately left out the page numbers of the selections so that you have to look through the table of contents to find them. My hope is that you will happen on other things you find interesting and read them as well. If you do, please feel free to bring them up in class.


Attendance in both lectures and sections is of primary importance. Five papers will be required; one of these will be a revision of an earlier paper. You must see the writing assistant with a draft of one of the first two assignments; you are free to see the writing assistant as many times as you like during the quarter. Because the substance of this course consists of talking about the assigned readings, it's important to stay current in the reading schedule.

Text: The Heath Anthology of American Literature, volume 2

9/23: First day: chaos theory and American lit.

9/28- 9/30 T: Introductions of just about everything; canons and cannons and what they have to do with this class

Th: Sarah Orne Jewett, "A White Heron," & Jack London, "To Build a Fire"

10/5-10/7 Sections begin meeting this week; read for your section meeting: Charlotte Perkins Gilman, "The Yellow Wall-Paper"

T: Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, "A Church Mouse," Edith Wharton, "The Quicksand," Willa Cather, "Old Mrs. Harris"

Th: Zora Neale Hurston, "Sweat," Hisaye Yarnamoto, "Seventeen Syllables"

Paper due in lecture

Th: character analysis

10/12-10/14 Read for section: James Baldwin, "Sonny's Blues"

T: Richard Wright, "The Man Who Was Almost a Man," Ernest Hemingway, "Hills Like White Elephants"

Th: Stephen Crane, "The Open Boat," John Dos Passos, from USA: The Body of an American; Ambrose Bierce, "Chickamauga"

10/19-10/21 Read for section: Alice Walker, "Nineteen Fifty-Five"

T: Kate Chopin, "Desirée's Baby," Nella Larsen, from Passing, Toni Morrison, from The Bluest Eye

Th: W.E.B. DuBois, from The Souls of Black Folk, Booker T. Washington, Chapter III from Up From Slavery

Paper due in lecture

Th: close reading

10/26-10/28 Read for section: Leslie Marmon Silko, "Lullaby"

T: Edith Eaton, "Notes from the Mental Portfolio of an Eurasian," John Okada, from No-No Boy, Younghill Kang, from East Goes West

Th: Rolando Hinojosa-Smith, "Sometimes...", Tomas Rivera, "...y no se lo trago la tierra"

11/2-11/4 Rebecca Harding Davis, Life in the Iron-Mills

Paper due in lecture

Th: thematic analysis

11/9-11/11 Read for section: Anzia Yezierska, "American and I"

T: Michael Gold, "The Soul of a Landlord," Pietro di Donato, from Christ in Concrete

Th: Meridel Le Sueur, "Women on the Breadlines," "Annunciation," Tillie Olsen, "Tell Me a Riddle"

11/16-11/18 Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn

Paper due in lecture

Th: revision

11/23 Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn

11/3-12/2 Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn

T: Topic statement for paper due in lecture

12/6 Final Paper (on Twain) due

Assignment 3
Choose one of the following topics:

1. Analyze one or more of the readings in terms of one of the following categories of analysis: gender/sexuality social class race/ethnicity

2. Look at one of the readings in which the characters' experiences are very different from your own. How does the story introduce you to their experiences? Do you feel drawn in, or held out, by the story? How and why?

3. Look at one of the readings in which the characters' experiences are similar in some way to your own. How does your identification with the characters affect the way you read the story?

4. Look at one of the readings in which you expected the plot to go in a different direction than it did (that is, a story that surprised you). How did it set up your expectations? How did it then flout your expectations? What effect does that flouting of expectations produce?

5. Write an analysis of a writer's style. How does the author's use of language relate to the author's content? Is the style distinctive? What makes it that way?

6. Create your own topic. You must focus on one or more of the readings.

Possible suggestions for topics relating to specific stories:

*Is justice served in "Sweat"? Why or why not?

*How does darkness operate as a metaphor in "Sonny's Blues"?

*In "1955" are Traynor and his manager guilty of theft? Why or why not?

*In what ways do the multiple voices build the story "Sometimes it Just Happens That Way"? How do they add layers and perspective? How do you, as a reader, figure out what has happened?

*The boy in "...y no se lo trago la tiera" thinks, "God could care less about the poor." What has led him to this conclusion? What do you think about his conclusion?

*Write a feminist critique of "The Man Who Was Almost a Man."

*Does the protagonist of "America andI" want too much?

Contents, No. XIII