Faculty of Arts


Literature USA: from the American Renaissance to the Jazz Age


Examines a selection of classic texts and major issues in the literature of the United States from the American Renaissance of the 1840s and 50s through to the Jazz Age of the 1920s and 30s. Texts and emphases may vary from year to year, but our primary concern is the relation between literature and some of the larger historical processes and problems of the period. A cross-cultural frontier becomes a settled landscape; a ‘new world’ becomes a new world order; a post-colonial literature engages the traditions of Europe; utopian hopes are contradicted by slavery and its legacies; emancipated women challenge the dominance of men; the big city offers new opportunities for self-fashioning and cultural invention. The theoretical orientation of the course is broadly new historicist and is responsive to recent developments in settler colonial studies, gender theory, environmental and spatial history.


This course promotes advanced reading, critical, and writing skills through the study of a carefully chosen set of thematically interlocking texts. Proposed 2021 timetable:

1. Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

2. Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance

3. Melville, Moby-Dick

4. Melville, Moby-Dick

5. Melville, Moby-Dick

6. Thoreau, selections from Walden


7. Poe, Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym

8. Emily Dickinson (poems)

8. Twain, Huckleberry Finn

9. Cather, The Professor’s House

10. Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

11. Faulkner, As I Lay Dying

12. Conclusion


Learning outcomes:


Develops a broad-ranging and high-level understanding of major authors and issues in nineteenth and early twentieth-century American Literature.


Develops reading and writing skills to an appropriate graduate level, and models the processes that lead to professional publication.


Develops a transferable theoretical understanding of new historicist, settler-colonial, ecocritical and gender-related criticism. 


Develops the potential to undertake comparative work in other settler colonial literatures, such as New Zealand, Australian, Canadian and South African.


Coursework only

Availability 2022

Semester 1


Coordinator(s) Associate Professor Alex Calder


ENGLISH 787: 30.0 points

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