ENGL 4665 Studies in American Literature after 1900

About the Course

This course will explore the idea of normative versus deviant bodies in post-1900 American literature, employing key works of critical body and spatial theory in the process. Because so much of American literature is founded on the idea of the powerful, strong, capable (often male) body, what happens when bodies become other, strange, or odd—whether due to age, gender, location, an injury, or otherwise? What is the process by which bodies are marked as deviant, and are they allowed to access the American myths of the hero? Are these deviant bodies, in effect, anti-heroic? We will also be considering the way that space often marks and contains—therefore determines—bodies and one’s bodily reality. Because the concept of American space, wrapped up as it is in the frontier (an open, untrammeled space of freedom and possibility), is so interwoven with the American bodies that inhabit it, we cannot remove bodies from the spaces in which they are enmeshed. We will juxtapose canonical works with lesser-known works, exploring the idea of what makes a “masterpiece,” and why some works are critically acclaimed while others are overlooked. We will also juxtapose the journeys and narratives of those American subjects deemed “properly” American (born and raised here, etc.) versus those Americans who are adrift in foreign or dystopian/futuristic landscapes, and those Americans who were born and raised in foreign countries. How do such “outsider” bodies begin to access what it means to be American? Or if they do not want to access Americana, what IS it that they are interested in becoming a part of?


Upon completion of this course, students are expected to: 1) Describe the history of 20th century American literature; 2) Develop a knowledge-base of the fundamentals of literature, including critical schools, key literary terms, and canonical authors/works (including differences in authorial style and voice); 3) Demonstrate skills such as questioning, close reading, research, and written critical analysis; 4) Analyze both published critical commentary on literary works and key works of critical theory; 5) Compose a research paper following MLA format.

Grade Breakdown

  • Discussion Posts (8) = 30%
  • Small papers (2 at 10 points each) = 20
  • Large Analytical Paper (1) = 25%
  • Creative/Digital Project = 15%
  • Participation and Extra Assignments = 10%

Required Text

Nightwood by Djuna Barnes
Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
VAS: An Opera in Flatland by Steve Tomasula
No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
Building Stories by Chris Ware
The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry by Rita Dove, ed.



Email: erin.kingsley@colorado.edu

Erin earned a BA in literature from George Fox University, an MA in Literary Studies from the University of Colorado Denver, and a PhD from CU-Boulder. She was the recipient of the Graduate Student Teaching Excellence Award in Spring 2012. Her research interests include modernism, the body, narratives of gestation, disability, digital humanities, online pedagogies, and women’s studies. She lives in Highlands Ranch, CO with her husband, two children, dog Koy and hamster Gumdrop.

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Monday – Friday
8:00am to 5:00pm


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1505 University Avenue
University of Colorado Boulder
178 UCB
Boulder, Colorado