Syllabus #4

English 347: 20th-Century American Literature
Fal1 1991

Professor Joel Wingard
Moravian College

Course description

"I am large. . . .I contain multitudes"
-Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

In this course we will read and study the work of more than 20 authors working in prose fiction and nonfiction and poetry from around the time of World War I until recent times. Mostly, we will concentrate on what's called the Modern period: the years between the century's two world wars.

Within those generic and historical limits, it is my hope, we will experience diversity. In planning this course, I have tried to broaden the canon of major writers that is usually studied. Some of the usual suspects have been rounded up, to be sure, but the lineup also includes a number of writers whom you may not have heard of, let alone read, because they have long been unanthologized or their work has been out of print.

Diversity should also apply to the way we approach literary texts in this course. Basically, I want you to practice reading, interpreting and criticizing texts, but at the same time there should be room for different ways to do these things. What critical approaches are you familiar with? Which one(s) have you been taught to use or have experimented with on your own?

Finally, diversity should pretty naturally operate in this learning community simply because we are all different people who bring different perspectives to any experience we encounter. Certainly one goal of literary study in a classroom should be to express, share, and learn from these differences.


Lauter, Paul, et al. eds. The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Vol

2. Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath, 1990. (HAL in assignment schedule)

Faulkner, William. Light in August. 1932; rpt. New York: Random House, 1990 .

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. 1925; rpt. New York: Scribner's, 1953.

Gold, Michael. Jews Without Money. 1930; rpt. New York: Carroll and Graf, 1984.

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. 1937; rpt. New York: HarperCollins, 1990.

West, Nathanael. The Day of the Locust. 1939; rpt. New York: New American Library, 1983.

Assignment schedule

Week 1:

Course introduction, requirements etc.

"To The Reader": HAL, xxix-xxxv Personal literary repertoire inventory (PLRI) due

Overview of Modern period: HAL, 933-62

Week 2:

Frost: HAL, 1099-1101 and selected poems - "The Pasture," "The Fear," "Mending Wall," "The Road Not Taken," "The Oven Bird"

Frost: selected poems - "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," "Desert Places," "The Investment," "Home Burial" (handout) - and prose - "The Figure a Poem Makes" (handout)

Supplemental materials - N. Arthur Bleau, "Robert Frost's Favorite Poem," Katherine Kearns, "`The Place Is the

Asylum': Women and Nature in Robert Frost's Poetry" (excerpt)

Frost: selected poems - "Once by the Pacific," "Birches" (handout), "Design"

Supplemental material - from Norman Holland, The Brain of Robert Frost

Week 3:

Wharton: HAL, 985-86 and "Roman Fever," 1024-33

Dreiser: HAL, 1127-29 and "Typhoon," 1129-54

Wharton and Dreiser

Week 4:

Alienation and Literary Experimentation : HAL, 1163-64 Pound: HAL, 1164-66 and selected poems and prose: "A Virginal," "Salutation the Second," "A Pact," "In a Station of the Metro," "A Retrospect"

Williams: HAL, 1205-07 and selected poems - "Danse Russe," "Portrait of a Lady," "The Great Figure," "Spring and All," "The Pot of Flowers," "The Rose," "To Elsie"

H.D.: HAL, 1278-79 and selected poems "Sea Rose," "The Helmsman," "Oread," "Helen," from Trilogy

Week 5:

Pound, H.D. and Williams Supplemental material - Susan Friedman, "Who Buried H.D.? A Poet, Her Critics, and Her Place in `The Literary Tradition'"

Pound, H.D. and Williams

Field trip to H.D.'s grave, Nitsky Hill Cemetery (weather permitting)

Barnes: HAL, 1258-59 and "Smoke," 1259-64

Week 6:

Hemingway: HAL, 1387-89 and "Hills Like White Elephants," 1390-93

Week 7:

Fitzgerald: HAL, 1333-35 and The Great Gatsby

Week 8:

The Harlem Renaissance : HAL, 1456-60

Locke: "The New Negro," 1460-68

Hughes: HAL, 1487-88 and selected poems and prose: "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," "The Weary Blues," "Drum," "When the Negro Was in Vogue" McKay: HAL 1557-58 and selected poems: "The Harlem Dancer," "If We Must Die," "The Lynching," "Harlem Shadows," "I Shall Return," "America"

Week 9:

Hurston: HAL, 1535-37 and Their Eyes Were Watching God

Supplemental material - Alice Walker, "In Search of Zora Neale Hurston"

Week 10:

Faulkner: HAL, 1406-09 and Light in August

Week 11:

Light in August

"Issues and Visions in Modern America" : HAL, 1587

Gold: HAL: 1599-1602 and Jews Without Money

Week 12:

Jews Without Money

Kang: HAL, 1747-48 and from East Goes West, HAL, 1748- "Carved on the Walls": HAL, 1755-56 and poems by early Chinese immigrants

Week 13:

Mourning Dove: HAL, 1728-29 and Preface to Coyote Stories and "The Spirit Chief Names the Animal People," 1729-34, Mathews: HAL, 1735 and from Sundown, HAL, 1735-47

A day of music - Songs from A Vision Shared: A Tribute to Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie

Week 14:

West: The Day of the Locust

Week 15:

"Contemporary Period": HAL, 1763-85

Other reading assignments TBA. Something "contemporary"

Texts from Contemporary Period : individual student choice

Review for final

Course evaluation

Personal literary repertoire inventory (PLRI)

Make this a sort of preface to your response journal. Write as fully as you can in response to the following questions.

1. What do I know/think/believe about:

a. what literature is or is supposed to be--

* is it didactic or aesthetic? is it for moral improvement, political or social education, or for art's sake alone?

* does/should it acknowledge a role in politics and society, or does/should it stand apart or above?

* do writers have a point, message or theme to get across, or do they just write, without concerning themselves with larger purposes or ends or with readers?

* what accounts for the production of a literary text? (e.g. the Muses, individual genius or talent, inspiration, marketing strategies? social or historical conditions, public taste)

b. what's involved in reading literature--

* does a reader have to get some point, message or theme from a literary text--perhaps put there by the author--in order to read successfully? If not, what else might constitute a successful reading?

* how much is a reader allowed to read into a literary text? what limits her or him in doing so?

2. How are my answers to any of the above questions modified when I think of American literature, or the work of any particular American writers?

3. How do I approach reading a literary text?

* do I approach it differently than other kinds of texts? or ones I don't read for class?

* what do I expect to happen or find when I read literature? what is this based on?

* what do I actively do when I read?

4. What critical approaches, theories or assumptions do I know about? Which of these do I actually read with? Why?

5. a. How am I situated with respect to each of the following?

* gender

* race or ethnicity

*social class

* age group

* sexual preference

b. How does my situation with respect to one or more of the above categories affect the way I read? Is there another category I'd place myself in as a reader?

6. What subjects or topics in 20th-century American literature am I especially interested in as I begin this course?

7. a. What other literature courses have I had? where? when?

b. What have I learned about literary study in any of these courses that has proven helpful or interesting beyond that course?

Contents, No. IX