English 144: American Realism and Social Change (Fall 2021)

*This course fulfills the American Literature Requirement for English majors.


In the years following the Civil War, a group of American authors wanted to break away from the romantic style that had pervaded American literature.  They wanted to represent what they saw as “real”, not romantic, depictions of American life, and they wanted to use literature as a vehicle for social change.  In this course we will read works by Henry James, Edith Wharton, Charles Chesnutt, Theodore Dreiser and Kate Chopin, among others to explore the social and historical influences and aesthetic characteristics of American Literary Realism paying particular attention to the ways in which works took on social justice issues of immigration, labor, poverty, race and gender. 


Requirements:  Three papers, informal writing


REALISM. n. Nothing more and nothing less than the truthful treatment of material. 

William Dean Howells.  Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, 1889.


REALISM. n. The art of depicting nature as it is seen by toads.  The charm suffusing a landscape painted by a mole, or a story written by a measuring-worm.  Ambrose Bierce.  The Devil’s Dictionary, 1911.


REALISM. n. A strategy for imagining and managing the threats of social change.  Amy Kaplan, The Social Construction of American Realism, 1988. 


Instructor:        Molly Metherd      MWF 2:45 - 3:50pm