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Literature 5A: American Literature 1917 to 9/11


Admission Requirements



Although the U.S. did not enter the war until 1917, World War I was a watershed in American culture. Marking the end of the old order, the “Great War” gave rise to both alienation and liberation. While young authors like Anderson, Cather, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald attest to the widespread sense of anxiety and uncertainty, their works reflect a longing for the values and traditions of a “lost” civilization as well as seize the opportunity to break with literary conventions and “make it new.” These American writers responded and gave shape to the international Modernist movement that had emerged in Europe in the early 1900s. Modernist symbols such as T.S. Eliot’s “wasteland,” mythological motifs, and experimental literary techniques such as fragmentation, shifting perspectives, and “stream of consciousness” as well as the new medium of film had a profound impact on American (and European) literature throughout the twentieth century, as modernism gradually shaded into postmodernism after World War II. Reading works by male and female, white, black and Chicana authors, we will also study the ways in which changing perceptions of gender, race, and ethnicity inform the literature of a multi-ethnic and multicultural nation. We’ll end by discussing recent post-9/11 literature and new genres such as the graphic novel.

Course Objectives

This course gives a survey of twentieth-century American literature from World War I to the post-9/11 present, from Modernism to Postmodernism. Students learn to develop their text-analytical and research skills and also acquire basic skills in analyzing other media such as film and new genres such as the graphic novel.


The timetable will be available from June 1st on the Internet.

Mode of Instruction

Two hour lecture and seminar per week.


Essay of 3500 words (50%) and written exam (50%).


This course is supported by Blackboard. Students should sign up before the beginning of the semester.

Reading list

  • Norton Anthology of American Literature, 7th edition, vol. D and E.

  • Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises (Scribner).

  • F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (Penguin).

  • Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (Penguin).

  • Paul Auster, The New York Trilogy (Penguin).

  • Sandra Cisneros, The House On Mango Street (Vintage).

  • Toni Morrison, Beloved (Vintage).

  • Art Spiegelman, Maus: A Survivor’s Tale vol. 1 (Pantheon).

  • Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Penguin).


Students can register through uSis.

Register for ‘Contractonderwijs’ via:

Register for ‘À la Carte’ via:

Contact information

English Department, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 103c. Phone: 071 527 2144, or mail: