ENGL631 - Readings in 20th Century American Literature

This course will explore the diverse and complex field of modern American literature against the backdrop of the watershed political, social, and cultural developments of American modernity. We will also be investigating this field of literature in relation to contemporary questions of democracy and current democratic and related political theory, as we seek to challenge critical approaches predicated on the pursuit of a “political unconscious” (Jameson) with an approach more grounded in the significance of state, constitutional, and political institutions as they manifest themselves in literary works as a kind of critically engaged “republican unconscious.” Though we will be examining multiple understandings of “modernism” in this course, our true emphasis will fall on the recovery of aesthetically, ethnically, and politically diverse practices that make the modern US literary field much wider than any articulation of modernism can ultimately meaningfully elucidate. Conceptually, we will be attending to issues of literary representation and political representation; literary form and forms of governance; liberal arts and liberal politics; democratic, revolutionary, and utopic political and artistic programs; and a variety of related ideological and historical concerns grounding the literatures we read—i.e., economic strife and industrialization; immigration and migration; race relations; feminism; war and imperialism; national and transnational flows, displacements, and borders; and contemporary developments in media, technology, mass culture, and commercialization. Literary authors may include: W.E.B. Du Bois, Pauline Hopkins, Jack London, Theodore Dreiser, Sui Sin Far, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Zitkala-Sa, Mary Austin, Willa Cather, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Claude McKay, Mourning Dove, Katherine Anne Porter, William Faulkner, John Dos Passos, Jovita Gonzalez, and Miné Okubo. Political writings and theory may include texts from: Walter Lippmann, John Dewey, Woodrow Wilson, Du Bois, Margaret Sanger, John Rawls, Jürgen Habermas, Giorgio Agamben, Domenico Losurdo, Chantal Mouffe, Ernesto Laclau, Bonnie Honig, William Connelly, Cornel West, Amartya Sen