ENGL313 - American Literature

This discussion-based, writing-intensive course offers a selective overview of American literature from the eighteenth century to the present. Moving across historical periods and literary genres (from slave narratives to poetry, regional fiction to modern experimental novels), we will examine how authors contribute to notions of an “American experience” by reworking ideas of literature and its relationship to broader social categories. Along the way, we will consider questions about the various functions of literature, as well as several key terms in the American lexicon (the wilderness, nature, the self, democracy, union, nation, to name just a few). This course will explore the ways in which literary texts have addressed (or failed to address) America’s critical struggles over the extension of democratic principles across the lines of race, class, and gender, and will also examine the ways later writers engage with earlier works of literature and American literary history.  Among other things, we will ask how American writers have contributed to, and often constested, peoples’ ideas about themselves, either by building, or breaking down, notions of what counts as “American” literature.


Two lower-level English courses, at least one in literature; or permission of department.