What does it mean to be “American”? How have our nation’s greatest writers created the myths and narratives that define the American experience? And how, at times, have these same writers questioned and critiqued American activities in the name of truth or justice?
This brand new Premium Course will explore the power of the written word to explore the mysteries and paradoxes of American life, as we see how novelists including John Steinbeck, Ralph Ellison, Harper Lee, Thomas Pynchon, Joyce Carol Oates, and Jonathan Franzen, and many more have told their individual versions of the “American story” in their pages. Questions we will consider include: How have America’s novelists reacted to cataclysmic events like war and civil strife? How have America’s struggle with racism and class inequality inspired transcendent literary responses? And how have constructs like the “American dream” shaped the development of American literature? Overall, we will see how profoundly American issues like our immigration history, our dynamic social structure, and our centuries-long journey through democracy have been interpreted and translated into powerful narratives by writers as varied, eclectic, and diverse as America itself.
Joseph Luzzi is a literature and Italian professor at Bard College, and was previously a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where he received the Scaglione Prize for his teaching. He is also the author of the audio course, “The Art of Reading.” Professor Luzzi previously taught at Yale University, where he was awarded a Yale College Teaching Prize.