English 146 - Spring, 2015

American Literature 1900-1945

Class Information

Instructor: Jerng, Mark
CRN: 52841
Time: MWF 11:00-11:50
Location: 146 Olson


    This course explores some of the major social, aesthetic, and political concerns in U.S. literature in the first half of the twentieth century. We will focus on four crucial problems that preoccupy many of this period’s writers:

    Civilization and Its Discontents: The question of what constitutes civilization was provoked and exacerbated by shifting relations between urban and rural space, two major world wars, world-changing technological developments, and felt anxieties in gender norms. Authors to be read include Edith Wharton, T.S. Eliot, H.D., Ernest Hemingway, and Robert Howard.

    Defining America/Americans: The question of what defines Americans is renewed and articulated through nativist movements, immigration exclusion, the development of ethnic literatures, imperial formations, and the construction of Americanist poetics. Authors to be read include Willa Cather, Sui Sin Far (Edith Maude Eaton), Carlos Bulosan, Toshio Mori, William Carlos Williams, Zitkala-Sa, and Robert Frost.

    The Veil of the Color-Line: The color-line takes on various forms through segregation, heightened and renewed lynching, racial capitalism, and migration, as well as key revisions and reimaginings of the legacies of slavery and reconstruction in the U.S. Authors to be read include W.E.B. DuBois, Zora Neale Hurston, Nella Larsen, Claude McKay, William Faulkner, and Margaret Mitchell.

    The Great Depression: The world-wide economic depression and governmental response (New Deal politics) set the stage for a variety of debates about poverty, inequality, the role of government, a “free” society, and class. Authors to be read include Muriel Rukeyser, James Agee & Walker Evans, and Richard Wright.

    Across these defining concerns, we will analyze how they intersect with the form of literary works, paying particular attention to naturalism, realism, sentimentalism, imagism, modernist poetics and verse forms, lyric, autobiography, plantation romance, and photodocumentary.


    Attendance and Participation: 15%
    Three Blog Posts 15%
    Paper #1 20%
    Paper #2 25%
    Final Exam: 25%


    The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton
    O Pioneers, Willa Cather
    Quicksand, Nella Larsen
    12 Million Black Voices, Richard Wright
    Go Down, Moses, William Faulkner