The (Hi)Story of the USA

Course 172.4G552E International Literature I VHS Essen Wed., 9-11.20am I Dates: 4.09.2016 – 21.06.2017

Suggested Texts and Topics

Students may choose texts and topics they are interested in from the list below or make their own suggestions. We usually prepare one story or short excerpt (12-15 pages) at home. Class time is devoted entirely to discussion, with the exception of a 10-minute snack break at about 10.15. A reader will be provided at the beginning of the semester. Additional material (pictures, film scenes, podcasts, comics, worksheets etc.) is used during each session in order to broaden students’ vocabulary and contextualise the texts given.

Topic I: The Mayflower and the Pilgrim Fathers (17th century) 

The Mayflower Compact, 1620 (non-fiction)

Thomas Tillam, Upon the First Sight of New-England June 29 1638 (poetry)

Anne Bradstreet, The Tenth Muse lately Sprung up in America (poetry)

John Smith and Pocahontas – Life and Legend (biography, film)

American Indian Chants (songs)

Arthur Miller, The Crucible (play, film, audiobook)

Topic II: From Colony to State (18th century)

Benjamin Frankling, Excerpt from The Autobiography (non-fiction)

Thomas Paine, Excerpt from The Crisis, Number 1 (non-fiction)

The Declaration of Independence (non-fiction)

Yankee Doodle and Others (revolutionary songs)

Topic III: The Frontier Experience and The Wild West (19th and 20th century)

James Fennimore Cooper, Excerpts from The Prairie or The Pathfinder (tale, novel)

John Williams, Excerpts from Butcher’s Crossing (novel)

Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House in the Big Woods (children’s fiction)

Topic IV: The Individual and the Natural World (19th century)

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Excerpt from Nature (essay)

Henry David Thoreau, Excerpts from Walden (personal reflections)

Walt Whitman, Selected Poems (poems)

Nathaniel Hawthorne, Dr Heidegger’s Experiment (story, film)

Topic V: Slavery and the American Civil War (19th century) 

Randy Newman, Sail Away (song)

Negro Spirituals (songs)

Solomon Northrup, Excerpts from 12 Years a Slave (autobiography, film)

Herman Melville, Shiloh. A Requiem (poem)

Abraham Lincoln, Excerpt from The Gettysburg Address (speech)

Ambrose Bierce, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (short story)

Topic VI: Teen Fiction or American Classics?

Herman Melville, Excerpts from Moby Dick (novel, film)

Lack London, To Build a Fire (short story)

Louisa May Alcott, Excerpts from Little Women (novel, film)

Topic VII: Modern American Literature (20th century)

Ernest Hemingway, Selected Stories (short stories)

F. Scott Fitzgerald, Winter Dreams (short story)

William Faulkner, The Bear (short story)

John Steinbeck, Flight (short story)

James Thurber, Selected Stories (short stories)

Jesse Stuart, Another April (short story)

Eudora Welty, A Worn Path (short story)

Truman Capote, The Diamond Guitar (short story)

Robert Frost, Selected Poems (poems)

William Carlos Williams, The Poem; This Is Just to Say (poems)

Langston Hughes, As I Grew Older; The Negro Speaks of Rivers (poems)

Topic VIII: The American Dream: Myth or Reality? (19th – 21st century)

Horatio Alger, Excerpt from Ragged Dick (novel )

Arthur Miller, Excerpts from Death of a Salesman (play, film)

John Steinbeck, Excerpts from Of Mice and Men (novel, film)

Tennessee Williams, Excerpts from A Streetcar Named Desire (play, film)

Topic IX: The Civil Rights Movement and Anti-War Protests (20th century)

Bernard Slate, Same Time, Next Year (comedy, film)

Winston Groom, Forrest Gump (novel excerpt, film)

Robert F. Kennedy: I Have Some Very Sad News for All of You (speech)

Protest Songs by Various Song Writers (songs)

Topic X: Current American Politics (20th and 21st century)

Mexican American Stories by various authors (short stories)

Tom Coraghessan Boyle, Excerpts from The Tortilla Curtain (novel)

Rodolfo Gonzales, Excerpt from I am Joaquín (poem)

Topic XI: The Big Apple – The Fascination of New York City 

John Updike, The Lucid Eye in Silver Town (short story)

Don DeLillo, Excerpts from Falling Man (novel)

Paul Auster, Random Notes (short story)

Peter Carey, Union Square (short story)

Dorothy Parker, From the Diary of a New York Lady (Short Story)

Tama Janowitz, The Slaves in New York (short story)

Tony Kushner, Excerpts from Angels in America (play)

Topic XII: American Love Stories and Poems

Dorothy Parker: A Telephone Call (short story)

Kate Chopin, The falling in Love of Fedora (short story)

Amy Lowell, Selected Poetry (poems)


Image detail from Rick Reeves, The Old Flag Never Touched the Ground, 1999. The painting is in the public domain. 

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