The course is English 269: American Literature from 1865 to the Present. Read along, or come sit in, if you're in western Mass on a Tuesday or Thursday.
  1. A little Whitman and Dickinson.
    To get started. What and who is literature for?
  2. Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885).
    The great American novel. Dialect. Race. Humor.
  3. Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (1905).
    Great novel, great to teach.
  4. Stories by Charles Chestnutt, Sui Sin Far, Zitkala-Sa, and Mary Antin.
    American readers love difference.
  5. Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons (1914).
    Different kind of difference.
  6. Stories by Ernest Hemingway ("The Big Two-Hearted River") and F. Scott Fitzgerald ("The Diamond as Big as the Ritz").
    White people problems!
  7. T. S. Eliot's "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock" (1915) and a bunch of poems by Langston Hughes (1921-1927).
    What and who is modernist poetry for?
  8. Nella Larsen, Passing (1929) and William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (1931).
    Two short novels about how much the world was changing, and how painful the change was.
  9. Irwin Shaw, "Select Clientele" (1940), Karl Shapiro, "Jew" (1943), and Kadya Molodowsky, "God of Mercy" (1945).
    Americans writing about the Holocaust, as it happened.
  10. A few Flannery O'Connor stories.
    Because how could I not?
  11. Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955).
    Road novel, dirty book, everything.
  12. Philip Roth, Portnoy's Complaint (1969).
    The sexual revolution meets the paperback revolution.
  13. Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987).
    ... and the rise of literary prizes.
  14. Tony Kushner, Angels in America (1990-1993).
    Because it covers so goddamn much ground.
  15. Alison Bechdel, Fun Home (2006).
    First time teaching it. Chris Ware was too depressing for my students, I think.