Department of English

University of Toronto

ENG250Y1Y L0101

ENG250Y1Y   L0101   LEC M1-3; Tutorial W1 OR W2
American Literature 
Prof. A. Ackerman
Office Location: 
Jackman Humanities Building, Room 911
Email: alan.ackerman@utoronto.ca  

Brief Description of Course:
An introductory survey of major American literature, this course applies methods of close readings to a variety of genres, including autobiographies, poems, novels, speeches, essays, dramas, and movies. Starting with the arrival of European colonists, we focus on ways in which writers have conceptualized America and representative Americans. The “American dream,” even the idea of America itself, is rhetorical construct that dates back to colonial or “New World” literature. This course investigates the motifs and metaphors that mark more than three centuries of American culture and examines how they have both shaped and been shaped by the historical experience of individuals and communities. We will pay special attention to recurring narratives, symbols (such as the “virgin land”), and character types (such as the “ideal woman,” the self-made man, and the frontiersman), in works ranging from Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography to Toni Morrison’s Bluest Eye.

Required Reading: Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography (Penguin); Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Penguin); Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (Penguin); Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (Penguin); Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Penguin); F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (Penguin); William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury (Random House); Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (Penguin); Willa Cather, A Lost Lady (Hachette); Philip Roth, Goodbye, Columbus (Random House); Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior (Random House); Edward Albee, Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf?;Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye;Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Penguin).

First Three Authors/Texts: Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography (Penguin); Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Penguin); Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (Penguin); Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1855) (Penguin).

Method of Instruction: Lecture and discussion.

Method of Evaluation: Close-reading assignment (5%); 6-7 page essay (20%); informed class participation (15%,); mid-year two-hour test (30%,); two-hour exam (30%).



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