Welcome to the Department of English at Rutgers University

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We all know the phrase—but what qualifies a book as a “Great American Novel”? Does it have to do with scope and ambition? Is it a matter of content and themes? Style and voice? In this course, we will address these questions by reading several aspirants to the title of “Great American Novel,” starting with Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (the book that spawned the phrase “GAN”) and moving through the twenty-first century. The course will provide students with an introduction both to the history of the novel in the U.S. and to debates about literary value and the canon that inform our ideas of what makes a novel “great” or “American”—or even a “novel”—and how these ideas have changed over time.

 Our readings are likely to include: Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Ralph Ellison’sThe Invisible Man, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, and Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Requirements: regular worksheets, two short papers, and a final exam.

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 Undergraduate Students


Graduate Program in English


Statue of "Willie the Silent"