Summer 2010 Course: Masterpieces of American Literature

This was my course last summer.

ENGL 1600: Masterpieces of American Literature

Violence, Movement, Faith, America

Despite contemporary protests that popular media such as film and television (and, more recently, the internet) is too violent, the United States has been grappling with violence and its representation for centuries. This section of Masterpieces of American Literature will discuss how violence has been represented in American literature since the nineteenth century. Often, if not always, violence is coupled in American literature to other themes, including some that are expected (such as the frontier and death), some that are not (such as the innocence of youth), and some that are bound to be controversial (such as religion and faith). We will examine six novels, each of which takes on the issue of violence in one of its many physical or metaphysical forms. Through our readings, we will come to understand that violence is cruel and necessary, tragic and comic, subtle and ubiquitous, literal and figurative. In short, we will learn that the United States is violent. However, our greater task will be to discover what we mean when we say as much and whether such statements should be spoken as a moral lesson.

Reading list:

  • James Fennimore Cooper: The Deerslayer
  • Mark Twain: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • Willa Cather: Death Comes for the Archbishop
  • Ralph Ellison: Invisible Man
  • Flannery O’Connor: The Violent Bear it Away
  • Cormac McCarthy: Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West

Here‘s the Text list.

And here is the schedule.


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