Course Instructor Days Times Room


Much that is unreal and unnatural fills the pages of American literature's "realists" and "naturalists."  By the end of the semester, I hope this apparent paradox will be more a source of pleasure than of confusion in the students who tackle what is likely to seem an eccentric reading list. We will begin the class with Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage and end with Edith Wharton's House of Mirth--the first published in 1895 and the second in 1905--but between those comparatively traditional titles and those years we will touch on an unusual collection of fiction and nonfiction: L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz, Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie, W. E. B. Dubois's The Souls of Black Folk, William James's The Varieties of Religious Experience, Sarah Jewett's The Country of the Pointed Firs, Mary Austin's The Land of Little Rain, Thorstein Veblen's The Theory of the Leisure Class. Henry James might put in an appearance (The Ambassadors), or late Mark Twain (Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc or Following the Equator). I will keep the list of required titles short enough to allow us to dwell on the reading experience in some detail, with each book, but long enough to do justice to the rich and various decade of writing that spans the turn of the Twentieth Century in the United States. Very little of the syllabus is likely to be "light" reading--not even The Wizard of Oz--so students should expect to be challenged as well delighted by this body of work.


Students will write three short papers (5-7 typed pages) over the course of the term.  Depending on the size of the group, I may add a requirement involving the presentation of some part of a book in one class meeting where the presenter leads the subsequent discussion.


We will read the following books in the order that I list them here, by year of publication.  The ISBNs are available to you through the new Athena database (just type in your browser) or through a direct search on the Tate Union Bookstore site.  Please be sure to buy new books in the editions that I ordered so that our discussions can all focus quickly on the same page:

Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage (1895)

Mark Twain, Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896)

L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz (1900)

Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie (1900)

William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902)

W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903)

Henry Adams, Mont Saint Michel and Chartres (1904)

Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (1905)

I will be out of town on Monday, August 18, so our first meeting will be on Wednesday, August 20, by which point you should all have read and be eager to discuss the first four, brief chapters in The Red Badge of Courage.