ENGL439G - Major American Writers after 1865; American Nobel Prize Winners

Of eleven United States winners, only two are women and only one an African American, so the winners are clearly not representative of our population. Besides studying the United States Nobel prize winners, this course will consider who else might have been selected as means of comparative analysis concerning representations of race, gender, sexuality, class, place, and space and what those might mean about cultural and social movements in the United States as well as about literary circles and literary value. What counts as “American” will also be explored—might one, for example, count Derek Walcott in any way “American”? The course will open, as this description closes, with a brief history of United States awardees: Sinclair Lewis was the first “American” writer to win the Nobel Prize “for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humor, new types of characters.” Since that recognition in 1930, Eugene O’Neill (1936) won “for the power, honesty, and deep-felt emotions of his dramatic works, which embody an original concept of tragedy”; Pearl Buck (1938) “for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces”; William Faulkner (1949) “for his powerful and artistically unique contribution to the modern American novel”; Ernest Hemingway (1954) “for his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea, and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style”; John Steinbeck (1962) “for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humor and keen social perception”; Saul Bellow (1976) “for the human understanding and subtle analysis of contemporary culture that are combined in his work”; Isaac Bashevis Singer (1978) “for his impassioned narrative art which, with roots in a Polish-Jewish cultural tradition, brings universal human conditions to life”; Joseph Brodsky (1987) “for an all-embracing authorship, imbued with clarity of thought and poetic intensity”; Toni Morrison (1993) for “novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import,” giving “life to an essential aspect of American reality”; Bob Dylan (2016), “who can be read and should be read, and is a great poet in the English tradition for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”


Requirements will be contributing weekly to an online collective journal kept by the entire class (a collaborative Google doc), a short (2 pp.) paper, and a longer semester project (6-10 pp. paper or equivalent and a brief oral presentation of the project).