Sue Y Shon
Introduces American culture through a careful reading of a variety of representative texts in their historical contexts.
Introduction to American Literature: Problematizing America
This course offers an introduction to American literature that examines what is "American" about these texts conventionally defined as canonical or classic. What does "America" or the "U.S." mean according to the canon of American literature? What role does literature play in establishing the nation--how do these texts reveal the relationship between literature and the political, social, and economic elements of American culture? These questions will help us explore what it means to define American literature through the canon as well as what logics and assumptions are at work in deciding what gets included in an American literature survey course at the university setting. These questions inevitably overlap with questions about the uniqueness of literature: How does the literary form provide specific ways of producing, establishing, and critiquing national projects?
The following list includes texts we'll most likely study. In addition to these books there will be a coursepack of secondary critical essays.
Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861) Stephen Crane, Maggie, Girl of the Streets (1893) William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom! (1936) John Okada, No No Boy (1957) Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye (1970)
Student learning goals
Course readings and assignments are designed to be active learning strategies that allow students to develop analytical skills and a deeper understanding of course materials. Therefore, throughout the quarter we'll use writing as an opportunity to think through a problem rather than perform mastery or demonstrate knowledge. In this course, the study of literature will help students:
- Develop the ability to perform competent critical close readings of course texts and similar texts. - Develop an understanding of the investments, contexts, and effects of the kind of critical close reading skills or approaches under study and use. - Develop sophisticated discussion and presentation skills in the interest of being better able to construct and defend their own arguments or interpretations.
In sum, our goals are to explore definitions of "American" and "literature" by carrying out a critical reading and writing practice.
General method of instruction
Class assignments and grading