EN 132: American Literature: Between the Living and Dead

Class Program
Credits 4

Think you know American Literature? Would you dare to read a blood-spattered Robert Frost poem about a farm boy fatally cutting his hand off with a noisy buzz saw, in “Out, Out-", or will you stay with Frost's quiet and lovely "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening''? How about braving a classic American horror story, "The Damned Thing'', featuring an invisible predator, set in a late 19th-century version of a CSI morgue, and written by a traumatized Civil War veteran--who wrote with a real human skull on his desk. Do you have a taste for the gothic, sympathy for outsiders, or an urge to follow clues and dig up underground history? Take this course, if you do! Starting with our own backyard ghost tour, for example, we will visit a small-town cemetery whose undead creep out to speak their lives in poetry, near the Spoon River in Illinois. Generally, we will try to understand both the fears and desires imagined by literature, and we will do so by placing each text in the context of its place in time. The 20th century is what connects us, the generations of the living, with the dead of the past and the American tradition as a whole. Possible themes include violence, war, trauma, (im) migration, and their impact on the values that span the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.