Course Description

This course delves into the rich tapestry of American literature, exploring seminal works from various time periods, genres, and authors. Students will read and analyze classic and contemporary texts, gaining insights into the themes, styles, and cultural contexts that define American literary tradition.

Through a combination of readings, discussions, and written assignments, students will examine key literary movements, such as Romanticism, Transcendentalism, Realism, Modernism, and Postmodernism. The course also explores the works of iconic American authors, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Toni Morrison.

By the end of the course, students will have a deeper appreciation for American literature and a greater understanding of its role in shaping American identity and thought. This course is ideal for students interested in literature, writing, or exploring the cultural heritage of the United States.

Course Details


Eleventh Grade Twelfth Grade

Course Objectives

  • Explore major literary movements in American history and their characteristics.
  • Analyze key themes, styles, and cultural contexts in American literature.
  • Develop critical reading and literary analysis skills.
  • Understand the contributions of prominent American authors to the literary canon.
  • Engage in thoughtful discussions and written reflections on literature.

Course Outline

Unit 1: Early American Literature

  • Native American Oral Traditions
    • Introduction to Native American myths, legends, and storytelling.
    • Exploration of the cultural significance of these oral traditions.
  • Colonial and Puritan Literature
    • Readings from early American colonists and Puritan writers.
    • Examination of themes such as faith, survival, and community.

Unit 2: The Age of Romanticism

  • American Romanticism
    • Understanding Romanticism and its focus on emotion and nature.
    • Analysis of works by authors like Washington Irving and Edgar Allan Poe.
  • Transcendentalism
    • Exploring the philosophy of Transcendentalism.
    • Readings from Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.

Unit 3: Realism and Naturalism

  • Realism in American Literature
    • The characteristics of Realism and its emphasis on everyday life.
    • Examining the works of Mark Twain and Henry James.
  • Naturalism and Social Commentary
    • Understanding Naturalism and its exploration of human struggles.
    • Analysis of works by authors like Stephen Crane and Jack London.

Unit 4: The Jazz Age and the Harlem Renaissance

  • The Jazz Age and the Roaring Twenties
    • Exploring the cultural changes of the 1920s through literature.
    • Readings from F. Scott Fitzgerald and other writers of the era.
  • The Harlem Renaissance
    • The impact of the Harlem Renaissance on American literature.
    • Analysis of works by Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and others.

Unit 5: Modernism and Postmodernism

  • American Modernism
    • Understanding Modernism and its break from traditional forms.
    • Examining works by T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, and William Faulkner.
  • Postmodernism and Experimental Literature
    • Introduction to Postmodernism and its unconventional approaches.
    • Exploring the works of authors like Thomas Pynchon and Kurt Vonnegut.

Unit 6: Contemporary American Literature

  • Literature from the Civil Rights Era
    • Exploring the literature that emerged during the Civil Rights Movement.
    • Readings from authors like James Baldwin and Maya Angelou.
  • Contemporary American Voices
    • Examining contemporary American literature and diverse perspectives.
    • Analysis of works by Toni Morrison, Jhumpa Lahiri, and others.

Unit 7: Themes and Cultural Contexts

  • Major Themes in American Literature
    • Identifying recurring themes in American literature, such as identity, freedom, and the American Dream.
    • Discussion of how these themes reflect broader cultural contexts.
  • Literary Analysis and Interpretation
    • Developing skills in literary analysis and critical interpretation.
    • Applying analysis techniques to various texts and genres.

Expected Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will have a comprehensive understanding of key literary movements and themes in American literature. They will have developed critical reading and analysis skills, as well as an appreciation for the cultural contexts that shaped these works. This course aims to prepare students for further studies in literature or related fields, fostering a deeper connection to American literary heritage.

Coming soon.

Coming soon. 

Dr. Michael Murdock

Michael Murdock holds  a PhD in Modern Chinese history from the University of Michigan. For 30 years he taught history, international relations, and political science courses at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, Bowling Green State, Brigham Young University-Provo, and Brigham Young University-Hawaii. His primary expertise lies in the history and contemporary developments of Asia, but he also enjoys European and North American history and politics. Raised by educator parents, Michael saw examples of exceptional teaching from his youth. He believes that good teaching is an act of Christ-like love. He loves using models and examples from history to explain conditions today.