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American Literature

American literature is the product of a diversity of peoples, regions, philosophies, and ways of life. Beyond the intrinsic pleasure and usefulness of knowing more about the history of this literature, a focus in American literature or American studies can benefit undergraduates in several ways. Students considering graduate school in English can experience intensive immersion in the literary history of the United States, with the textual interconnections and the cultural insights that follow from taking a variety of related courses. Students considering careers as high school teachers will need to know not only how to teach close reading, but also ways of teaching a wide variety of texts, including works by ethnic (African American, Hispanic American, and Native American) and women writers, since many high school courses now emphasize American literary diversities. Students interested in fields such as advertising, marketing, or public relations will find the richest exposure to American culture in this sequence.

The undergraduate AML sequence has been designed to emphasize surveys at the 3000 level and more specialized studies or “variable topics” at the 4000 level. Especially at the senior (4000) level, the Variable Topics courses will differ greatly from instructor to instructor, and students can retake the course if the topic has changed. Individual course designations encompass both specialized studies and broader connective syntheses. Usually these course topics will cross chronological and genre boundaries. Often they focus on the histories of ethnic literatures; or study connections and relations between these literatures and more traditionally canonized texts; or consider how literary language both reproduces and constructs such categories as ethnicities, nationalities, genders, class, and race. Since these variable topics change from year to year, students should develop their American literature model in consultation with a faculty member.

Five courses in American literature, at least two before 1900:

  • AML 3031 American Literatures I
  • AML 3041 American Literatures II
  • AML 3270 Survey of African American Literatures I
  • AML 3271 Survey of African American Literatures II
  • AML 3284 Surveys in American Women’s Literatures
  • AML 3285 Variable Surveys of American Literatures
  • AML 4170 Studies in American Literary Forms
  • AML 4213 Studies in American Literature & Culture Before 1800
  • AML 4225 Studies in Nineteenth-Century American Literature & Culture
  • AML 4242 Studies in Twentieth-Century American Literature & Culture
  • AML 4282 Studies of Am. Genders & Sexualities in Am. Lit. & Culture
  • AML 4685 Race & Ethnicity in American Literature & Culture
  • AML 4311 Major Figures of American Literature & Culture
  • AML 4453 Studies in American Literature & Culture
  • ALSO LIT 4930 Variable Topics & ENG 4953 Department Seminar [when appropriate]

Two courses in British literature, one before 1800 and one after 1800:

British Literature Before 1800:

  • ENL 3112 English Novel: 18th C.
  • ENL 3210 Medieval English Lit.
  • ENL 3230 The Age of Dryden & Pope
  • ENL 3231 The Age of Johnson
  • ENL 4220 Renaissance Lit. 16th C.
  • ENL 4221 Renaissance Lit. 17th C.
  • ENL 4311 Chaucer
  • ENL 4333 Shakespeare

Literature in English After 1800:

  • ENL 3122 English Novel: 19th C.
  • ENL 3132 English Novel: 20th C.
  • ENL 3154 20th Century British Poetry
  • ENL 3241 The Romantic Period
  • ENL 3251 The Victorian Period
  • ENL 4273 20th Century British Lit.
  • LIT 4188 World English Language Literatures
  • LIT 4194 African Literature in English

At least one course in cultural studies or literary theory, or, for those considering law school, advanced expository writing or argumentative writing:

  • ENC 3310 Advanced Exposition
  • ENC 3312 Advanced Argumentative Writing
  • ENC 4260 Advanced Professional Writing
  • ENG 3010 Modern Criticism
  • ENG 3011 Major Theorists
  • ENG 3115 Introduction to Film Criticism & Theory
  • ENG 4015 Psychological Approaches
  • LIT 4183 Postcolonial Literature, Culture, & Theory
  • LIT 4320 Introduction to Folklore
  • LIT 4322 The Folktale
  • LIT 4396 Feminist Theories
  • LIT 4483 Issues & Methods in Cultural Studies
  • SPC 4680 Rhetorical Criticism

Two supplementary courses in English.

The student should consult the English web site before selecting variable topics courses.

We also recommend that students take related courses in other departments, particularly American history, art, music, and religion, that may be used as college electives.


Department of English faculty who regularly teach courses in this model include: