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New Undergraduate Course Supplement 2022

ENGL 52.19 Poverty in American Literature, 1861-1925

From accounts about the streets being paved with gold to tales that take characters from rags to riches, success stories form an important part of American literary and national identity. Some eras especially seem to embrace such narratives, such as the “Gilded Age” which owes its name to Mark Twain. Yet the term itself was tongue-in-cheek, and many of the works produced in that “age” are as -- if not more -- concerned with rags than riches. Taking material possessions – or their absence – as a lens through which to examine economic and cultural conditions, these texts don’t work from as much as they work towards a definition of what poverty is and what it does – to individual people and whole classes (with gender and race as salient categories). In this class, we will read key literary works, especially in the genres of Realism and Naturalism, alongside theoretical texts to shed new light on the way in which American Literature portrays, critiques, embraces as well as reimagines the material and cultural conditions of Americans’ lives and livelihoods.

Distributive and/or World Culture

Dist:LIT; WCult:W

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