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Prospectus

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Literature 4A: The Age of Realism: American Literature, 1865-1917

Course
2017-2018

Admission requirements

Literature 1A and Literature 2, or equivalent.

Description

The end of the American Civil War (1861-65) inaugurated a period of vast economic and industrial expansion in the U.S., attracting millions of immigrants in pursuit of the American Dream. The promise of social and economic betterment also lured masses of rural Americans to cities like Chicago, which almost overnight was transformed from a backwater into a metropolis. The expanding economy enabled large numbers of Americans to join the ranks of the middle class, while a happy few gained fortunes. For many others, however, facing long working hours in the factories and the squalor of city slums, America turned out to be a land of broken dreams. Widespread corruption earned the post-Civil War era the name of the Gilded Age. The Civil War ended slavery, but Jim Crow laws in the South relegated the newly freed blacks to second-class citizenship. These historical developments and the emergence of a consumer culture had a profound impact on the literary world, creating a mass market for fiction and changing literary tastes and ambitions. While regional literature offered an escape from the complexities and anxieties of modern life with nostalgic depictions of a simpler world in rural America, there was also a great demand for realistic accounts of life in the industrial age: literature, according to the influential novelist and editor William Dean Howells, should depict “life as it really is,” but Howells’s definition of “the real” was called into question by “naturalist” writers. We’ll start the course by reading some Civil War poems by Whitman and Melville, which mark the transition from Romanticism to realism. Subsequently we will be reading some of the classics of the age of literary realism and naturalism, as well as works by women and African American writers, whose voices challenged some of the assumptions and conventions of the dominant literary scene.

Course objectives

On completing this course, the student will have

  • Gained a survey of American literature from the Civil War to the First World War, with a focus on the rise of realism and naturalism

  • Gained insight into the ways the literature of this period critically reflects on cultural and social historical developments and debates (about slavery and the Civil War; the Reconstruction Era and racial segregation; gender and sexuality; and immigration);

  • developed critical and analytical skills, e.g., recognition of and insight into genre, narrative strategies, and rhetorical devices

  • developed and practised basic research skills

  • developed and practised speaking and academic writing skills in English (discussion, essay, exam)

Timetable

The timetable is available on the BA English website

Mode of instruction

Seminar

Course Load

The course load of this course is 140 hours

  • hours spent on attending lectures and seminars: 24 hours

  • time for studying the compulsory literature: 90 hours

  • time to prepare for the exam and write a paper (including reading / research) 26

Assessment method

Assessment

  • Essay 2000 words

  • Final written exam

Weighing

  • Essay 2000 words (50%)

  • Final written exam (50%)

Resit

Only if the final grade is 5.0 or lower can the students do a resit.

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Attendance

Attendance is compulsory. Missing more than three tutorials means that students will be excluded from taking the exam (or essay or other assignments) and resits. Consequently, the course cannot be completed during that particular academic year. Unauthorized absence also applies to being unprepared and/or not bringing the relevant course materials to class.

Blackboard

Blackboard will be used for: . course information . specific information about (components of) the course, such as weekly discussion questions, links to recommended secondary literature and websites, essay topics, sample exam questions.

Reading list

Titles of course books and/or syllabi

  • Norton Anthology of American Literature, 8th ed. vol. C. (voor o.a.Civil War gedichten, Huck Finn, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” en andere teksten)

  • Crane, Stephen. The Red Badge of Courage (Penguin)

  • Wharton, Edith. The House of Mirth (Penguin)

  • Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle (Dover)

  • Dreiser, Theodore. Sister Carrie (Penguin = unexpurgated edition! ) Note: Purchase of these books is required and the assigned texts have to be brought to class. Make sure you have the right edition.

Registration

Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Students other than BA English language and culture studies need permission from the coordinator of studies before enrolling.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs

Contact

Please contact Student administration van Eyckhof for questions.

Remarks

This is the second of three survey courses in American literature (lit 3a, 4a, and 5a), which can also be taken individually. This course is an elective course for students taking the minor in American Studies.