2100 Topics in American Literature


ENG2100HF    L0101    

Class, Culture, and American Realism    

Dolan, N.    


Course Description:  

Sociological inclusiveness – serious mimetic attention to the middle and lower classes – is one of the hallmarks of modern realist literature. But what is social class as a subject of literary representation? What, in particular, is social class in modern industrial-commercial liberal-democratic society as opposed to its agrarian feudal-aristocratic predecessor? Is class a form of collective self-identification or just an academic descriptor? Is a class akin to a culture? How, if at all, do different classes interrelate? How has the nature and experience of social class changed over time? And what are the motivations and the special difficulties involved when the highly literate members of the educated classes attempt to sympathetically represent the less literate members of less educated classes? Why do issues of “culture” come up so frequently in such works?

This course attempts to address such questions in relation to a selection of major works of American literary realism. In the first three weeks we will establish a set of shared conceptual reference points by recourse to some of the major sociological theorists of class, from Marx to Bourdieu. In all subsequent weeks the discussion will focus on a primary work of literature.

Course Reading List:  


Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements: 



Term: F-TERM (September 2024 to December 2024)
Date/Time: Friday 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm (3 hours)
Location:  TBA
Delivery: In-Person