During the middle decades of the 20th century, the American South experienced monumental and wrenching social change. In little more than fifty years, the South shifted from being an isolated and overwhelmingly rural society, in thrall to an all-encompassing system of racial segregation, to becoming both the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement and a reconfigured landscape of strip malls, booming suburbs, and a haunting, ever-present past. During the same decades, the South also produced a phenomenal body of literature. Not only did 20th-century Southern authors have a profound impact on literature worldwide, but they also helped to create what is considered by many to be America's richest literary terrain.
Focusing on five classic southern novels, this course will examine how history and literature can illuminate each other, particularly in matters of race and race relations. Readings will include works by Harper Lee, Zora Neale Hurston, William Faulkner, Dames Dickey, and Alice Walker, while in-class lectures will address Southern literary history and the history of the South during the turbulent decades of the 1930s through the 1970s. We will also focus on the authors' lives and the ways in which they created works of lasting significance out of the raw materials of their experiences.
Grades will be based on the following criteria: regular and active participation in class discussion; four 3-4 page essays; a take-home final exam. See syllabus for details.
This course is geared towards students with interests in literature, culture, history, and race relations in the 20th-century United States. The course will help students to pursue the "Expressive Cultures" specialization within the major.
The course will meet twice a week for one and a half hours each session. The format will be lecture/discussion with emphasis on class participation.