Fall 2016 - Undergraduate Course Descriptions
Description of Course:
â€œRealismâ€ and â€œNaturalismâ€ are the names given to literary movements that flourished in the decades after the Civil War, when America was becoming the modern nation that we recognize today: a technologically advanced and culturally diverse economic powerhouse. But the forces that pushed Americans toward the modern ageâ€”scientific innovation, immigration, African American liberation, secularizationâ€”were both exhilarating and divisive. We will investigate how, in the face of so much change, American writers tried to define and claim the â€œrealâ€ and the â€œnatural.â€ What was the â€œunrealâ€ or â€œunnaturalâ€ that such literature hoped to advance beyond? Did everyone agree on how to tell the difference between the authentic and the fantastic? or on what it meant to advance, in literature or otherwise? Our texts offer different understandings of reality, and different ways of handling the tension between faith in forward motion and fear of loss. As we read, we will compare this key period in American culture to our own moment. We will do so in part by evaluating the degree to which you see the categories of natural vs. artificial and progress vs. loss still operating in our culture, and in your own judgments of that culture, today.
Your progress in the course will be assessed by regular writing assignments, active class participation (including informal presentations on the reading and on outside research), and a final examination.
Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:
Our reading list will include some well-known authors like Mark Twain, Henry James, Emily Dickinson, and W.E.B. DuBois, and it will introduce you to some writers you may not know yet, like Elizabeth Stoddard, Charles Chesnutt, and Pauline Hopkins.