CONN 372

The Gilded Age: Literary Realisms and Historical Realities

This course considers the connections between literature and history in (and beyond) the American era known as the Gilded Age, 1873-1889. Reading three popular novels of the time, William Dean Howell's The Rise of Silas Lapham, Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, and L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, students gain an understanding of the American Realist tradition and will discuss how these literary texts both represent and reinvent what was 'real' about the Gilded Age. To gain an understanding of social developments and concerns beyond the literary, students read speeches, essays, and excerpts from longer works, rounding out this historical contextualization with contemporary essays and film relevant to our study. Ultimately, student in the course study the interplay between literary and historical subject matter and methodology in shaping a lasting and influential myth about the emergence of American might.