In 1905, upon reading the final chapter of Edith Wharton's serialized novel, The House of Mirth, one woman was so overcome with emotion that she telegraphed a friend: 'Lily Bart is dead.' Evident in the brief note is the shock and grief this reader experienced over the death of a heroine she experienced as 'real' and to whom she felt personally related and powerless to revive. Even today readers of The House of Mirth ask why Lily has to die, what purpose her death serves within and beyond the story. And Lily Bart isn't the only female protagonist to die in the canon of American literature'not by a long shot. This course examines the phenomenon of the dead and dying female in the American novel (and film adaptations). Students examine the history, cultural contexts, and distinctive stylistic features and thematic preoccupations of the novel as a genre and also consider the significance of the course's theme. That is, they identify trends among, and significant differences between, the texts reading the course, and consider the role(s) of fictional female death within the larger American culture. Of equal or greater importance is the rhetorical techniques and analytical and evaluative methodologies stressed in the course to familiarize and prepare students for college-level work in the liberal arts. This course offers extensive and intensive practice in writing, revising, and orally presenting original arguments that advance critical claims about the novels read and examines the genre's place in and effects upon contemporary culture.