The Great American Novel

AMERICAN CULTURE STUDIES 302A

What is the Great American Novel? This is a question that has been hotly debated for decades, from Harriet Beecher Stowe to Ralph Ellison, William Faulkner to Toni Morrison. It's a question with a hundred answers and no answers at all-a question of taste, of prejudice, of time. But what is a "Great American Novel"? What does it look like? What do we expect of it? What have Americans throughout history wanted it to say about America? These are questions we can, and will, answer in this course. As elusive a thing as the Great American Novel has been, the idea of the Great American Novel has a long and fascinating history that mirrors all the major movements of American literature from the American Renaissance to the present. Piecing together the story of this dream, this cultural quest with all of its inclusions and exclusions, is a way of telling a shadow history of American society. The Great American Novel tradition is something like a fossil record of America's shifting norms in relation to race, gender, sexuality, domesticity, democracy, citizenship, immigration, labor, capitalism, and war. And so each presumptive Great American Novel is a new variation in an evolving genre and a new thesis statement of American grandiosity or guilt. By cataloguing shared themes, conventions, and preoccupations, and by paying close attention to a handful of likely-and unlikely-candidates, this course will ask big questions about American exceptionalism, American tragedy, and the role of art in American culture. Authors will likely include Harriet Beecher Stowe, Herman Melville, Toni Morrison, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Carmen Boullosa, among others. Satisfies the Twentieth Century and later requirement.
Course Attributes: EN H; BU Hum; AS HUM; FA HUM; AR HUM; EL TC

Section 01

The Great American Novel
INSTRUCTOR: Maciak
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