Georgia M. Roberts
Examination of significant writers and literary developments within twentieth-century American culture and society. Addresses issues surrounding the formation of an American literary canon. Stresses themes and methods for advanced literary interpretation within American Studies.
From Henry James to Jay Z: Literary Realism in Twentieth-Century American Literature
This class will explore artistic realism from a variety of perspectives, including historiography, painting, literature and music. We will begin our inquiry at the turn of the last century in an attempt to understand the relationship between the end of the civil war, patterns of immigration/migration and the emergence of aesthetic realism.
Scholars differ in their understandings of the goals, accomplishments and historical time frames in which realist artists were active, but most agree that the movement was over by the early 1930's. We will situate such critical debates within a larger set of turn-of-the-century artistic/literary categories -- like naturalism, romanticism, local color fiction, modernism, and magical realism.
Towards the end of the course, students will be asked to consider how "realism" works in present-day practices (and criticisms) of American popular culture, with a particular focus on hip hop. How do hip hop artists engage with literary realism? How might we think about the relationship between structural power and the cultural production and discourses on reality?
Our readings/texts will include three novels: "The Ambassadors" by Henry James, "Absolom, Absolom" by William Faulkner and "Song of Solomon" by Toni Morrison, smaller selections from Charles Chesnutt, Gertrude Stein, and T.S. Eliot....and critical theory selections from Henry James, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Georg Lukacs, Foucault and others.
We will also look at the work of several hip hop artists, including Tupac, Jay Z and Lil Wayne.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Seminar-style discussions, some lectures, peer-review workshops.
Class assignments and grading
3 short analytical papers for each novel (4pp each), class discussion leader, final presentation.
Writing assignments and daily participation will make up the bulk of the final grade.