This module will look at a mixture of major and less well-known US texts from c.1850 to the present. Students will study a varied spectrum of US literature, looking at issues such as the relationship between American writing and history, American “difference” and differences within American society, nationalism and regionalism, and conflicts of race and gender.
The range of texts will enable us to consider the history of writing in the United States from before the Civil War to the Vietnam War, the Gulf War and beyond: that is, from the beginnings of a conflict that first threatened and then confirmed the United States as a nation state to the civil conflicts that erupted over the assertion by the United States of its global and imperial power as well as over the continuing denial of civil rights to the descendants of the slaves, the original inhabitants of North America and others. Among other topics, we will discuss:
· literary regionalism and literary nationalism
· the development of realism, modernism and postmodernism
· the conflicts between the innovators who wanted to make it new, to respond to changing times with changing techniques and those who opted for a return to more traditional methods and values
· the emergence of more politically motivated, socially concerned forms of writing
· the impact of a growing concerns with race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class on American writing
· the varying status of the United States in both internal and transnational terms, as reflected and contributed to by its literature