Survey of American Literature

American Literature as an academic field studied by college students only really came into existence in the early 1900s. At its beginnings, professors in American universities and colleges saw the teaching of American Literature as a way to make their students into better “citizens.” But this citizenship was one characterized by its ability to produce and reproduce whiteness, masculinity, and heteronormativity. In other words, American Literature was good for teaching people to be white straight men—even if they were not any of those things.

We will not be doing that.

In ENGL 204, we will read American Literature not to become better citizens but to become better readers, better writers, and better thinkers. We will read American writers who have, for the most part, not been included in the canon known as American Literature, primarily for the reasons that they are women, or people of color, or disabled, or queer, or any combination of the aforementioned. This class is the remix of American Literature. We’re going to chop it up, splice it, mix it, you name it. The one thing we will NOT do is let American Literature just mean one thing. We will recognize that American Literature is many things all at once; it is a vibrant, protean, occasionally beautiful while often problematic thing that we can use in a multitude of ways.


Short fiction

Henry James, "The Beast in the Jungle"

Zora Neale Hurston, "Spunk"

Chanelle Benz, "James III"

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, "The Era"

Bitter Root #1 (comic)


John Okada, No-No Boy

Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior

Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower


Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

James Baldwin, The First Next Time

Local Fiction

Linda Hogan, selections of poetry--Hogan is the Chickasaw Nation's Writer-in-Residence and Lane College is on Chickasaw lands

Fatima Massaquaoi, Autobiography of an African Princess--Massaquaoi, a Liberian writer who graduated from Lane College in the 1940s, discusses her experience as an undegraduate