English 4665/5665: American Literature from 1920-Present, Spring 2012

Section 01 (CRN 20868/20869): TR 3:30-4:45PM, Arts & Sciences 368

In Class Activities

1. Reassembling The Waste Land

Next week, we will interpret T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land. Our discussion will benefit if we all do some homework. Here are the two tasks I'd like each of you to complete for your assigned part of the poem:

  1. narrative: reconstruct the overarching narrative thread from the various voices and situations in your assigned section (the Brooks and Leavis articles on GeorgiaVIEW will help)
  2. allusion and theme: look up major allusions and interpret what they add to your assigned section's theme (Modern American Poetry's page on The Waste Land is a good place to start)

Here are the assigned sections:

2. Evaluating Light in August as Modernist Novel

For our first day of discussion of William Faulkner's Light in August, we will begin with an evaluation of whether or which of David Trotter's key modernist novel traits apply to the present work.

  1. novel of the perceiving mind (71)
  2. will-to-literature: Naturalism (extreme mimesis) vs/and Symbolism (extreme poesis) (74-5, 84)
  3. will-to-life over against and/or will-to-death because of collapsing civilization (76, 79)
  4. crisis (77-8)
  5. path/revelation/crisis of identity and selfhood (difference within vs/and difference between) (88, 94)

We will then construct a sketch of the differentially-created character Joe Christmas from various episodes and relationships:

3. Yoknapatawpha County Has Issues

For our second day of discussion of Light in August, we will focus on Faulkner's larger issues and themes. First, Sara Stephens will teach us about race and homoeroticism in the novel based on Abdur-Rahman's article "White Disavowal, Black Disenfranchisement, and the Homoerotic in William Faulkner's Light in August". Then, we will have a larger discussion about race, women, history, psychoanalysis, and existentialism. Bring to class your tentative interpretation of one of the issues below and provide two significant quotations that support your analysis.

  1. African American Criticism: Race
    • What cultural values and ideological power structures does the novel question and critique? affirm and reinforce?
    • How does the social construction of race engender Joe Christmas's identity (sense of self), psyche (mental structure), and/or subjectivity (internal reality as subject to external realities)?
    • Kristen Anderson, Tessa Arnold, Lucy Bartholomew, Peggy Des Jardines
  2. Feminist Criticism: Women
    • Describe the characters and narrator's attitude(s) toward women, for instance, feminine sexuality.
    • How are women like Miss Burden and Lena Grove portrayed? How are they treated by characters like Joe Christmas?
    • Brittley Blount, Ward Bowles, Blake Davison, Rachel Foss
  3. Psychoanalysis: The Unconscious and Sexuality
    • How does repression affect the characters; what unconscious desires do they have?
    • Describe Joe Christmas's childhood and upbringing. How do they influence (or not) his interiority, his sexuality, his aggression?
    • Chris Dulaney, Stephen Hundley, Jude Marr, Michelle Stinson
  4. Existentialism: Being in the World
    • Describe Joe Christmas's consciousness. How does he define his existence? Describe Joe Christmas's relation to himself and to the world.
    • In what ways and why does Joe feel isolated from the world, dread life, and suspect that nothingness lies at the center of the life and the world?
    • Joseph Brogdon, Ellie Ebert, Amelia Esguerra, Sara Stephens
  5. New Historical and Cultural Criticism: History and Culture
    • What does the novel add to our understanding of Southern history and culture in the 1930s?
    • How do Reverend Hightower and Miss Burden's family histories, coupled with the orphans Joe Christmas and Lena Grove's lack of family past) problematize our knowledge of Southern history and culture?
    • Rori Hoatlin, Katie Nix, Tori Quante, Chelsea Werner

4. Hemingway's Heroics


Today, in a threefold effort to understand Hemingway's characters' world view(s), bring more of the class into our discussions, and more effectively cover all three stories, we're going to break into small discussion groups led by our reserved compatriots and then the small group leaders will report their findings to the following questions:

  1. Do a character sketch of the male protagonist or hero, paying special attention to his core internal conflict, psychological affect, and relationship with the world (society, family, friends, women).
  2. How has the war affected the protagonist's life?
  3. How has the modern era engendered Hemingway's literary style?
  4. If you have time, compare and contrast Hemingway's literary style, cultural themes, and character types with Fitzgerald's.

The groups:

Exam 1


You will write two thesis-driven comparison/contrast essays of your choice from a selection of four-six questions.


The broad topics that you will be tested on, generated from class discussion Tuesday, February 21, are:

Preparations for this exam include:


You will write two thesis-driven comparison/contrast essays of your choice from a selection of four-six questions. Each essay will be 5-6 pages long and include supporting quotations. The exam will be posted here on Thursday, March 1.


Write two different essays on four different literary works by answering two of the following four essay questions. Do not use a work in more than one essay. Here are important guidelines for essays:

Questions announced on Thursday, March 1:

Exam 2



You will write two 5-6 page thesis-driven comparison/contrast essays of your choice from a selection of four-six questions.


The broad topics that you will be tested on, generated from class discussion Thursday, April 19, are:

The questions posted here on Tuesday, April 24 are:



Select one genre (poetry, fiction, or drama) and write a 10-12 page essay exploring the literary evolution of the genre's form and content (style and themes) from modernism to postmodernism. You may use one of the topics from the undergraduate exam above to focus your essay.

Research Paper

The close reading paper asked undergraduates to closely read a work and the midterm exam tested undergraduates and graduate students alike to make connections and distinctions among the themes and style of modernist texts. The research paper will afford you the time and space to perform a sustained and sourced discussion of a significant issue in a modernist or postmodernist work. Your thesis-driven paper should employ textual analysis and support its interpretation of the issue with scholarly criticism. Here is how to conduct literary research.


Undergraduates: You will write a 7-9 page research paper, incorporating at least 5 scholarly articles, on a work read in class (but not one written on in either the close reading paper or the exam) or a work not studied in class by one of the authors studied in class.


Graduates: You will write a 12-15 page research paper that enters, engages, and advances the scholarly discourse of a modernist or postmodernist work either discussed in class (but not one from the exam) or selected by you and approved by the professor. Your essay should be worthy of being presented at a conference, integrate at least 6 interpretive sources and apply at least 2 theoretical articles on modern or postmodern literature.

Undergraduate Assignments

Literary Biography

GeorgiaVIEW Post

You will write a literary biography of an author we're reading in class and post it to GeorgiaVIEW > Discussions > Literary Biographies. Much like a Norton anthology or Contemporary Authors author biography, this paper should

Below is a list of sources that will help you collect the information for your literary bibliography. They are available through the GCSU Library.

Informal Presentation

You will also be asked to introduce the author and work on the first day of class discussion. Your graded paper will be returned to you within a week of your presentation in GeorgiaVIEW > Assignments > Literary Biography.

Due Dates

  1. Your written literary biography will be due in GeorgiaVIEW > Discussions > Literary Biographies three days before we discuss the author in class. If you do not submit your written summary to GeorgiaVIEW before the article is discussed in class, you will fail the assignment.
  2. Your brief, informal presentation will be due on the day we discuss the author in class. This date is approximate for we sometimes fall a day behind.
  3. I will return your graded literary biography to you in GeorgiaVIEW > Assignments > Literary Biography a week after we discuss the article in class.
  4. For example, we are scheduled to discuss Faulkner on Thursday, 9-2. Therefore, someone's literary biography will be due in GeorgiaVIEW by Thursday, 8-26. In class on Thursday, 9-2, that student will informally present her literary biography. I will return the graded literary biography to her the following week in GeorgiaVIEW > Assignments >Literary Biography.

Note: It is extremely important for each person to turn in the literary biographies on time and attend class for the presentation component. Biographies will be penalized one letter grade for each day, not class period, that they are turned in late. Failing to present the article to the class without providing a valid absence excuse will result in a one letter grade penalty.


GAV Due Date Presentation Due Date Author Student
S, 1-14
T, 1-17


1 Peggy Des Jardines
M, 1-23
R, 1-26


2 Krissy Anderson
M, 1-30
R, 2-2


3 Tessa Arnold
S, 2-4
T, 2-7


4 Stephen Hundley
M, 2-6
R, 2-9


5 Ward Bowles
M, 2-13
R, 2-16


6 Amelia Esguerra
S, 2-18
T, 2-21


7 Chris Dulaney
S, 3-3
T, 3-6


8 Lucy Bartholomew
S, 3-10
T, 3-13


9 Blake Davison
S, 3-17
T, 3-20


10 Chelsea Werner
M, 3-19
R, 3-22


11 Tori Quante
M, 4-2
R, 4-5


M, 4-2
R, 4-5


13 Rachel Foss
S, 4-7
T, 4-10


14 Ellie Ebert
S, 4-21
T, 4-24

Auster, Invisible

15 Brittley Blount

Close Reading

For the first paper, perform a close reading of a literary work we've read in the first six weeks of class, either a short poem, a short section of a long poem, or a significant passage of fiction. The short, close reading paper should demonstrate how a nuanced and rigorous reading of the selection not only broaches the key issues and core conflicts of the literary work but also points to the text's overall thematic meaning.

Graduate Assignments


For the 30 minute presentation, you will either present/teach a critical article already on the syllabus or research/find and present/teach an article that advances class discussion of a literary work.


Presentation Due Date Reading Student
T, 1-31

Faulkner, Light in August

Sara Stephens
R, 2-9

Hutchinson, Introduction, The Cambridge Companion to the Harlem Renaissance

T, 2-14

Larsen, Passing

Rori Leigh Hoatlin
R, 2-16

Watt, "Modern American Drama"

T, 2-28

Treadwell, Machinal

R, 3-8

Bernstein, Girly Man

R, 3-15

Howe, Come and See

T, 3-20

Schmidt, "The Postmodern Condition of Theatre"

Joseph Brogdon
R, 3-22

Angus, "Metadrama, Authority, and the Roots of Incredulity"

T, 4-3

Wolfe, The Colored Museum

Jude Marr
R, 4-5

Lewis, "Postmodernism and Fiction"

R, 4-26

Auster, Invisible