In this course, we will use 20th-century American literature as a means of understanding 20th-century America. We will do so by reading best-selling novels and analyzing the causes and components of their popularity. As an optional component of the course, we may watch film versions of the assigned readings, and supplementary reading will focus on American history, the publishing industry, and the profession of authorship in America. In the fall of 1999, the course theme will be "Family in America."
Students will be required to complete a series of assignments during the semester, focused on a single best-seller (chosen from the lists of bestsellers by decade, below, but not one of the required readings for the course). These assignments will comprise a bibliographical description of a first edition, a publication history (including performances in other media, if any), a biographical sketch of the author, a reception history, and a critical analysis of the work in its cultural and literary contexts. All of these assignments will be submitted online, using Web-based submission forms: they will become part of an ongoing project to compile a Web-accessible database of information about bestselling 20th-century American literature, which will ultimately become part of Alderman Library's electronic collections. For each assignment, students will also submit a printed list of the sources used in completing the online submission, listed by assignment subsection. More information about grading is available here.
|Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description||September 20th|
|Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History||October 11th|
|Midterm Exam||October 20th|
|Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author||November 1st|
|Assignment 4: Reception History||November 15th|
|Assignment 5: Critical Analysis||December 8th|
|Final Exam||See individual section schedules|
|Add Supplementary Materials||Any Time|