20th Century and Later American Literature
The 20th Century has been called ‘the American Century’ and the faculty in the field variously address the rhetoric and substance of this claim. We have particular interests in modern and contemporary literature within an international and global frame; in peacetime and at war; in the emergence of forms of experimental writing that even as they cross boundaries possess special affinities with evolving characterizations of ‘Americanness.’ Nor are we content to let phrasings such as ‘modern’ and ‘contemporary’ pass unchallenged. The complex interactions of modernism and modernity stand at the core of the field. When does modernism start? When does it stop? Is it one thing or many? (Among the varieties of modernism we study: American modernists abroad in London and Paris, cinematic modernism, theatrical modernism, the Harlem Renaissance, Afro-Modernism, queer modernism, Jamesian modernism.) Ethnicity, gender, sexuality, race don’t just enter into the picture—they define and redefine it. How adequate is the language of postmodernism to characterize the fiction, poetry and nonfiction prose of the past thirty, forty, fifty years? Politics, science, society, our relations to the natural world and to built environments, to our selves, our bodies, those of others—these all enter into the department’s vigorous investigation of the past century and of the present.