ENGLISH 649:  STUDIES IN REALISM AND NATURALISM                               FALL 2016

Instructor:  Jake Jakaitis

Meeting Time:  6:30-9:15 p.m. W

Office:  Root Hall A-209

Classroom:  RO A-108

Office Telephone:  812-237-3269

Office Hours: 5-6 W, 2-3 Tu & Th, and by appt.

Web:  isu.indstate.edu/jakaitis

E-mail:  jake.jakaitis@indstate.edu

Required Texts [Original Year of Publication]:

Chopin, Kate. The Awakening [1899] Oxford UP. ISBN 9780199536948
Crane, Stephen. Maggie: A Girl of the Streets. [1891 first draft; 1893—self published] Penguin. ISBN 9780451529985
Dreiser, Theodore. Sister Carrie.[1900] Penguin. ISBN 9780451531148
Howells, William Dean. A Hazard of New Fortunes [Serialized in Harper’s Weekly, March through November 1889; published 1890] Random House. ISBN 9780375759277
James, Henry. The Ambassadors. [1903] Oxford UP. ISBN 9780199538546
Norris, Frank. The Octopus: A Story of California.1901] Dover. ISBN 9780486432120
Wharton, Edith. The House of Mirth. [1905] Dover. ISBN 9780486420493
Wright, Richard. Native Son. [1940] HarperCollins. ISBN 9780061148507

You may choose other editions of the assigned texts, but if you do, you might have difficulty locating passages as we discuss them in class. Please also note that the ordered editions of A Hazard of New Fortunes and Native Son include essays and other materials that will be assigned reading in the class.

Course Description:

We will explore significant works of literary realism and naturalism in their social, political, and historical contexts while attempting to establish meaningful definitions of these two movements in late nineteenth and early twentieth century American literature. While the authors that we will study are often identified with either realism or naturalism because of the manner in which they address narration, description, character, and narrative form, it should become clear over the course of the semester that realism and naturalism are rather fluid terms and that some of these authors and novels cannot easily be placed in one category or the other. To negotiate this rather complicated terrain, we will begin with some rather facile definitions, discuss those novels typically identified as American literary realism, cover a few works more difficult to place wholly in either category, and then finish with works by Norris and Wright that are most often classified by critics as naturalism.

Course Requirements:

  • Attendance/Participation: Come to each class having read the assigned work and prepared to discuss the relation of each work to principles of realism and/or naturalism. Since we have a small group it is crucial that all students participate in the discussions both to promote our developing understanding of both realism and naturalism and to demonstrate their familiarity with the assigned texts. It will be obvious if you have not done the reading. 10% of the course grade.
  • Short Writings: For most weeks, I will post a question in our schedule of readings at my faculty website. You are to concisely and specifically answer the question in about two double-spaced, typed pages. I will assign a minimum of eight short writing assignments. 40% of the course grade.
  • Seminar Paper: Your seminar paper of 12+ double-spaced, typed pages will be due during our scheduled final exam period: Wednesday, December 14. Your paper will focus on a limited topic, draw heavily on close reading of one of the assigned novels, integrate secondary sources, and demonstrate your ability to write grammatically and document scrupulously. 50% of the course grade.


ENG 649: STUDIES IN REALISM AND NATURALISM                        FALL 2016 Syllabus

This is a tentative schedule of readings and is subject to change as the semester continues. Please check the on-line syllabus and schedule of readings regularly, for I will frequently update with additional links, short writing questions, and supporting information on texts and authors. 


8-24     Course Introduction. Review the definitions of Realism and Naturalism in these links. Read Schlesinger’s “Introduction” and Carter’s “Critical Introduction” to A Hazard of New Fortunes [pp. xi-xxxvi].

8-31     Read A Hazard of New Fortunes [Part First and Part Second, pp. 7-211]. William Dean Howells

9-7        Read A Hazard of New Fortunes [Part Third and Part Fourth, pp. 213-378]. Short Writing on Howells

9-14     Finish A Hazard of New Fortunes [Part Fifth, pp. 379-496]       

9-21     Read The Ambassadors [Books I-V, pp. 1-169]. 2-3-Page Writing Prompt: What is your initial impression of Strether and how has he changed by the end of Book V?

9-28     Finish The Ambassadors [Books Six through Twelve, pp. 171-438]. 2-3-Page Writing Prompt: Writing about the novel, James once said that Strether's reward was "a handful of gold pieces for imagination and memory." What do you think he meant and how does the statement conform to your feelings about the end of the novel?

10-5     Read The House of Mirth [Books One and Two, pp. 1-268]

10-12   Read Sister Carrie [Chs. 1-27, pp. 1-256]. 2-3-Page Writing Prompt: How is the city of Chicago used to develop and reveal character in this section of the novel?

10-19   Finish Sister Carrie [Chs. 28-47, pp. 257-487].

10-26   Read the Alfred Kazin Introduction [pp. vii-xx] and Maggie: A Girl of the Streets [pp. 1-75]. 2-3-Page Writing Prompt; choose one of the following topics: 1) In his introduction, Alfred Kazin suggests that Crane "liked to create effects like a painter using strong colors to frame and emphasize his material" (viii). Discuss Crane's use of color in Maggie. Or 2) Discussing Crane's painterly style, critics debate whether his approach is impressionist or expressionist. Do you see his use of color and imagery as essentially impressionist or expressionist? Or 3) Discuss the novel's address to determinism vs. free will. Is Maggie fated to end this way, or is her end merely a product of choices that she has made?

11-2     Read the Introduction by Pamela Knights [ix-lviii] and The Awakening [Chs. I-XXXIX, pp. 3-128]. 2-3-Page Writing Prompt: The Awakening, like Crane's Maggie, is difficult to classify. Both novels are often labelled Naturalism, but both are also considered to possess elements of local color or regionalism, and Maggie, as we noted in class, is sometimes accused of being Realist is some of its features. How do you classify The Awakening? Naturalism? Regionalism? Local Color? Supply specific examples from the novel to support your judgment.
11-9     Read The Octopus [Book I, pp. 1-181].

11-16   Read The Octopus [Book II, pp. 182-421].

11-30   Read Native Son [Books One and Two, pp. 1-270].

12-7     Finish Native Son [Book Three, pp. 273-430]; Read “how Bigger Was Born” [pp. 433-462].