Beyond Literary Landscapes—Classic American Literature

Beyond Literary Landscapes—Classic American Literature

From my early beginnings as a young introvert, the public library has always been a bit of a refuge.  Years later, not much has changed, albeit with an additional affinity for endless hours spent scouring second-hand bookstores to add to my ever-growing “to-read” pile.

From one bookworm to another, this column will be underscoring and outlining various literary genres, authors, and recent reads and can serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with these works, as a refresher for long-time aficionados, and maybe as an inspiration for readers to share their own suggested topics.  Do you have a topic that you would like covered in this column?  Feel free to contact me for an interview and a feature in an upcoming column.


In continuing with my focus on classics in literature, this week this column focuses on Classic American Literature.  Although various periods exist, in particular, this column centres its attention on the 19 and 20 centuries, with a few examples of the 18 century.

Many AU literature students may be familiar with many of these well-known American authors, including Herman Melville, Ralph Ellison, J.D. Salinger, Ken Kesey, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Alice Walker, William Faulkner, Jack Kerouac, Maya Angelou, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway,


Some examples of Classic American Literature include Moby Dick by Herman Melville, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D.  Salinger, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, Native Son by Richard Wright, Go Tell it to the Mountain by James Baldwin, The Colour Purple by Alice Walker, The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, On the Road by Jack Kerouac, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, and The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway.


These novels are set throughout the United States, including the East Coast and the South.


Many of these novels take place during the 18, 19, and 20-centiries.


These novels may be of interest to AU students who would like to learn more about Classic American Literature, as well as those interested in timeless themes, such as love, loss, and mourning.  These novels also deal with many difficult topics, such as migration, racism, impoverishment, and classism.


AU’s wide range of diverse courses make it easy to study this topic in depth.  Courses related to Classic American Literature are available in a variety of disciplines, including one’s that may fit into your Degree Works.  (Always check with an AU counsellor to see if these particular courses fulfill your personal graduation requirements!)

AU students interested in learning more about this topic may enroll in ENGL 344: American Literature I, a senior-level, three-credit course, which “introduces students to American literature, its history and development, and its rich variety of forms and techniques.”  (Note various prerequisites are required, including  ENGL 211: Prose Forms and ENGL 212: Poetry and Plays or a first year English course.)

Students may also be interested in ENGL 345: American Literature II, another three-credit, senior-level course, which “takes as its focus works of American literature written from approximately 1900 to 1950.”  (Please note that the same prerequisites as above are required.)  Happy reading!