For Friday, August 31: What is American Literature?

To begin with, read the article posted below, a famous piece by William Spengemann called "What Is American Literature?" Think about it for a while: it's meant to challenge some assumptions you might have about what "literature" is (or can be), what "America" is (or might be), and what the relationship between the two is (or could be, or ought to be.)

So give all these questions some thought, and write a response to it. What is "literature" to you? What does it do? What defines it? What does it define? How is it related to the concept of "America" or "American identity" or "American culture"?

That's a lot to think about. But keep in mind where this is really going: what you're trying to do is define a starting point. What is it we study when we study literature? What do we seek there? And, since we can't read everything, what SHOULD we read, and why?

Don't try to make this perfect. If it gets jumpy on you, let it jump. Just think, and try to say what you think is true. Then write a response -- something in the neighborhood of 500 - 750 words should be fine.

Type up your response, and bring it with you to class on Friday.