Gerry Canavan

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2520 Intro to American Literature 2

Thematic Title: “Thrill and Dread in the American Century”

Description: “To be modern,” Marshall Berman wrote, “is to find ourselves in an environment that promises us adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world—and, at the same time, that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are.” This course traces the development of this tension between hope and disaster, between “thrill” and “dread,” in American literature since the Civil War. In this course we will examine and interrogate this explosive sense of what it means to be “modern” with respect to themes of history and futurity, identity and difference, politics, community, war, empire, and the environment. From the private lives of individuals and families to the very public relationships that exist in and between diverse communities to the nation’s assent to global superpower status in the context of a nuclear-powered Cold War, we will find America in the post-Civil-War period understands itself as a place where anything can happen—in good ways, and in bad.

Readings: Norton Anthology C,D,E; Nabokov’s Lolita (1958); Butler’s Parable of the Sower (1993)

More Spring 2013 offerings from the English department here.

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