"Encountering American Literature" examines American literary history, with an emphasis on the close reading of texts that illustrate distinct literary periods. The course focuses on a range of American voices and expressions, while also acknowledging the role the canon plays in literary history. Because it is impossible to fit all American literature into ten short weeks, we will focus on writers of the later 19th century, the Modern period (with particular attention paid to the Harlem Renaissance), and contemporary writers of the late 20th/early 21st century. As you’ll see once we get going, such literary boundaries are permeable, with conversations echoing and re-emerging in different eras. The novels, short stories, poems, autobiographies, memoir, and songs we’ll read are paired thematically, but the chronology is often more slippery. What happens, for instance, when we pair Huckleberry Finn, written in the late 19th century but set 20-30 years before the end of slavery in the United States, with Beloved, written in the late 20th century, set during Reconstruction but populated by characters haunted by their memories of being enslaved? Through reading, discussion, and writing, you will develop your interpretive skills, get a taste of the ongoing complexity and richness of American literature, and further your growth as a student of literary studies.