Undergraduate Course: American Innocence (ENLI10286)
|School||School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures
||College||College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate)
||Availability||Not available to visiting students
|Summary||The aim of this course is to examine the historiographical origins and complexities of this American mythology through the dramatisation of innocence in the American novel. In particular, the genre of the coming-of-age novel (which has become, perhaps, a quintessentially American genre, despite its German origins) will be used as a focus for the scrutiny of innocence and experience. We will examine the concept of innocence as it is represented in ten American novels. The novels are studied for their depictions of childhood, adolescence and coming of age, with a view to understanding the significance of innocence and youth in the national mythology of the United States.
The U.S. is often understood as a young nation, one that defined itself by means of a decisive departure from Old World customs that had grown moribund. The New World┐s emergent autonomy is often articulated in the language of a parent┐child relationship in which the U. S. is the rebellious teenager, impatient to commit itself to fresh experiences, and eager to create its own character founded on a new set of priorities and values. The figurative language of youth frequently inhabits the national mythology of the U.S., and the concept of innocence, or something designated innocence, has acquired a particular resonance in the context of American studies. Oscar Wilde once wrote that the youth of America is their oldest tradition; for how long can a nation understand itself as beginning again without seeming to acquire significant historical baggage, and what specific ideological practices continue to facilitate a view of the U. S. as young?
The aim of this course is to examine the historiographical origins and complexities of this American mythology through the dramatisation of innocence in the American novel. In particular, the genre of the coming-of-age novel (which has become, perhaps, a quintessentially American genre, despite its German origins) will be used as a focus for the scrutiny of innocence and experience. Protagonists in this genre are the American Adam, caught in a moment of prelapsarian naivety, and then expelled forever into the unforgiving world of modern experience.
But what specific forms of experience shape American character? Why do adult writers so often appropriate the voice of the disaffected teenager as a vehicle for social critique? What investments in youth does adult culture make, and how might that determine how `innocence┐ is permitted to be? How do women writers work successfully in a genre that was originally male, and how has the genre been re-invigorated since the impact of The Catcher in The Rye in 1951? `American Innocence┐ is a course that addresses these questions through the close study of ten novels that problematise innocence and dramatise its fall through a variety of different American cultural experiences.
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2020/21, Available to all students (SV1)
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20,
Other Study Hours 10,
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Additional Information (Learning and Teaching)
1 hour per week autonomous learning
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
2500 word essay (40%) submitted mid-semester
+ 3000 word final essay submitted at end of semester / in exam period (60%).
OR: Alternative model: alternative coursework assessment (40%)
+ 3000 word final essay submitted at end of semester / in exam period (60%)
|No Exam Information
| Students who complete this course successfully, will develop a close textual knowledge of a number of key American novels that depict the experiences of coming of age, and an understanding of how and why the ideas of innocence and youth have acquired such currency in the national mythology of the United States. Successful students of this course will also develop an understanding of the historiographical origins of this mythology, and an appreciation of the value of coming of age as a uniquely American genre.
|Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn|
Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio
Carson McCullers, The Member of the Wedding
J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
Brady Udall, The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint
Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye
Barry Hannah, High Lonesome
Charles Portis, True Grit
Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
|Course organiser||Dr Sadek Kessous
Tel: (0131 6)50 3087
|Course secretary||Ms Sheila Strathdee
Tel: (0131 6)50 3619