English 445

ENGL 445
Modern American Literature

Catalog Entry

ENGL 445. Modern American Literature
Three hours lecture (3).

Prerequisite: CORE 101 and CORE 102

Study of major poets and novelists between 1900 and World War II with consideration of how their works relate to intellectual currents of the period.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

Designed primarily for English majors as an American literature option, this course offers a study of interest to the general student population as well in its discussion of major American fiction and poetry written in the years between that literary period traditionally called "Realism and Naturalism" and the Contemporary Period.

The course aims (1) to place these writers within an historical context that gives a sense of the different phases of US art forms, (2) to relate that US perspective to world events of both an artistic and a socio-political nature, (3) to analyze intellectual movements that influenced American writers in the period under study, and (4) to suggest ways in which these writers affected contemporary American and/or world writers.

The study of this literature gives students an understanding of not only the works themselves but the reading public's response to and awareness of the works. Students will look at the assigned readings in light of (1) how they spoke to their own contemporaries, (2) what type of reader made up their particular audience at the time of publication, and (3) how and if that audience has changed. In other words, the course concerns itself with those matters by which specific pieces have been traditionally included or excluded from the canon.

The course also introduces students to a variety of critical approaches to the study of literature. Students will read selected criticisms that reflect some of the basic strategies of literary criticisms (historical, formalist, feminist, deconstructionist, reader-response, etc.).


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

The course will incorporate presentations and participation by the instructor and the students. The instructor will, when appropriate, present lectures and lead discussions. The format of the class is designed so that students can become active participants in their own learning process. Small discussion groups may precede whole-class discussions. The instructor may provide specific questions for those small groups. Students are encouraged to come to some kind of consensus of what are the significant points, the pertinent questions related to the reading:

  • Writer's Log: Students are encouraged to use writing as a learning strategy within and outside of class. A reader-response log is one method that the students may use to give them insight into their own reading. Such logs kept throughout the term often show readers patterns of responses that give them a better understanding of themselves as readers. The log allows the students to explore literature through first-draft writing. The instructor may collect log entries in order to gain insight into what the class as a whole is thinking. Primarily, the students write for themselves and for their classmates with whom they may share their logs as a means of focusing small-group discussions:
  • Formal Writing: Students may also write brief critiques of scholarly articles related to the course material. Students may be asked to present these critiques to the class orally. Students may choose to make group presentations of related scholarly articles. Students may be required to complete one or more formal written projects during the term. These projects may be in the form of the traditional documented essay or in a non-traditional form (e.g., a parody, a rewrite of a significant scene, a dialogue between two characters from, or two authors of, different novels).
  • Writing on Tests and Exams: Students may be asked to demonstrate their familiarity with assigned works in test-like situations. These "tests" would require essay responses (either as in-class or as take-home projects) and possibly more objective answers.


Goals and Objectives of Course

A basic goal of this course is that students become more astute and confident readers. Fundamental to the class's format is the philosophy that students learn most deeply when they accept responsibility for their learning; that they can best, with the instructor's guidance, direct their learning by articulating the questions raised by their readings; and that they are more likely to continue the learning process as a life skill if they see themselves as their own teachers. Certainly, the course centers around a knowledge base--a body of historical, critical, sociopolitical facts that enhance a reader's appreciation of the primary sources. In addition, the course assumes a certain degree of performance on the part of students in academic discourse--abilities to write and speak about their grasp of these facts.


Assessment Measures

Knowledge of the literary period and primary/critical works may be assessed in a variety of ways. Those ways may include oral reports, objective tests, essay exams, formal papers, and informal writings. It is likely that specific methods of assessment will vary from instructor to instructor and from semester to semester. Such methods may be determined in part by the class members, especially in reference to special projects. Members of one particular class may choose to review a series of deconstructionist articles for the writers being studied. The class may elect to do a group project in which each small group deals with one specific work in light of one critical approach. Another class may choose to publish a collection of individual reader-response pieces at the end of the semester. Assessment measures will be shaped to the needs of the class community.


Other Course Information


Review and Approval

October, 2009