Department of English

University of Toronto


ENG480H1S  L0101   M11-1
Narrating American Mobility
Instructor: Jordan Howie

Brief Description of Course: This seminar will consider how narrative constructions of mobility inform competing visions of American identity in different historical contexts and moments. Participants will read a range of fiction, non-fiction and films from the nineteenth century to the present in order to examine how various narratives make travel, tourism, hitchhiking, border crossing, and commuting into defining experiences. Our texts will allow participants to consider differently constructed lives as they follow potentially disruptive trajectories—across regional and national borders, the rural/urban divide, categories of racial, gender, or sexual difference. Our readings will also allow us to re-evaluate a series of influential accounts about how mobility may or may not define the United States: Frederick Jackson Turner’s frontier thesis (1893); Henry James’s anxious reflections in The American Scene (1905); Malcolm Cowley’s mythologizing of the Lost Generation in Exile’s Return (1951); Lauren Berlant’s discussion of citizenship pilgrimages in The Queen of America Goes to Washington City (1997); Saidiya Hartman’s recovery of the rebelliously mobile practices of young black women in Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments (2019).

Required Reading: Course texts will include fiction by Edith Maud Eaton, Henry James, Willa Cather, Nella Larsen, Dashiell Hammett, James Baldwin, Colson Whitehead, and Garth Greenwell and films by Frank Capra, the Maysles Brothers, and Kelly Reichardt, in addition to critical and theoretical readings.

First Three Authors/Texts: TBA.

Method of Instruction: Seminar.

Method of Evaluation: Short assignments (20%), participation (25%), presentation (25%), final essay (30%) .

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