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Undergraduate English Courses

358:345 Early Twentieth Century American Literature

01  TTH6  CAC  18370  EVANS  HH-A5

Five American Novels. What relations can we draw between five important American novels and the manifesto-driven movements of modernist painting and poetry most commonly associated with the first half of the twentieth century, symbolism, expressionism, futurism, cubism, imagism, primitivism, dadaism, and surrealism? How do we figure these novels alongside landmarks of musical innovation like Wagner’s Tristane and Isolde, Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, Stravinsky’s The Firebird, and jazz greats like Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Bessie Smith? What connections can we make between the novels, the vaudeville stage, and the emergence of the Hollywood film industry? This course will provide students with an intensive reading of five classic American novels alongside an introduction to a broad swath of cultural history from the early twentieth-century. Novels are likely to be chosen from the following: Henry James, What Maisie Knew (1896); Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie (1900); James Weldon Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912); Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence (1920); Sinclair Lewis, Main Street (1920), F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925); Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises (1926); William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom (1936); Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937); and Richard Wright, Native Son (1940). Evaluation will be based on two essays and a series of responses to various listening and screening exercises.