Fall 2010 - Undergraduate Course Descriptions

Walsh, Dennis
Discipline and Number
LIT 3324 Section 501
T Time 7:00 PM - 9:45 PM
Course Title
American Realism and Naturalism

Description of Course:

American literature 3324.501 explores the literary movements of Realism and Naturalism that took place during the latter portion of the 19th century and early decades of the 20th. It was an era of extraordinarily complex social, cultural, economic and political change. While the terms are often used synonymously, in actuality they differ significantly. Broadly defined Realism concentrates on life as it is, life treated truthfully, exactingly and without exaggeration. The Realist focused on middle-class democracy, manners, values and aspiration confronted by the complexities of an emerging capitalistic culture. Rejecting what it perceived as the falseness of romantic idealism and sentimentality, Realism sought to capture faithfully the rising middle class with a pragmatic certainty and psychological profundity.
On the other hand, Naturalism extended the techniques of Realism, incorporating a sense of scientific objectivity and philosophic determinism, contending that blind external and environmental forces shaped one's fate. Influenced by Darwin, Spencer and Marx, the Naturalist sought to confront class conflicts as well as the impact of industrialization, urbanization,race,gender,heredity, incorporation and capitalistic exploitation on ordinary lives, particularly, those of the lower classes.
Our class will examine realistic and naturalistic texts as they create distinct literary patterns and techniques during an era in which the novel became a triumphant art form. Authors include Henry James, Edith Wharton, Kate Chopin, William Dean Howells, Stephen Crane, Theodore Dreiser, Frances E.W.Harper and Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

Required Texts:

Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. Ed. Sandra M.Gilbert. New York: Penguin Classics, 1983. Print. (ISBN 0-14-243732-8)

Crane, Stephen. Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and Other Tales of New York. Ed. Larzer Ziff. New York: Penguin Classics, 2000. Print. (ISBN 978-0-14-043797-3)

Dreiser, Theodore. Sister Carrie. Ed. Alfred Kazin. New York: Penguin Classics, 1981. Print. (ISBN 978-0-14-018828-8)

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper. Alexandria, Va.: Orchises Press, 1990. Print. (ISBN 0-914061-16-x)

Howells, William Dean. A Hazard of New Fortunes. Ed. Phillip Lopate. New York: Penguin Classics, 2001. Print. (ISBN 978-0-14-043923-6)

Harper, Frances E.W. Iola Leroy. Ed. Hollis Robbins. New York: Penguin Classics, 2010. Print. (ISBN 978-0-14-310604-3)

James, Henry. The Ambassadors. Ed. Harry Levin.New York: Penguin Classics, 1986. Print. (ISBN 978-0-14-043233-6)

Wharton, Edith. The House of Mirth. Ed. Cynthia Griffin Wolff. New York: Penguin Classics, 1986. Print. (ISBN 978-0-14-018729-8)

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

Students will be required to write three formal papers of five to seven pages in length on topics of their choosing that are related to our readings. The papers will be graded for validity of research, strength of organization, clarity and grace of presentation and power and quality of thought.

Attendance is essential: repeated absences (unexcused or otherwise) will have a negative impact on grades. Please contact the instructor should an emergency arise.

A caution: many of the class texts are lengthy (400 pages or more); accordingly, please begin reading in advance and allow time to complete the texts before we begin discussions.

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