Professor Hungerford situates Marilynne Robinson's novel Housekeeping (1980) in a tradition of American writing about the individual's relationship to nature that includes the powerful influences of the Bible, Herman Melville, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. The loss of identity that Emerson describes as becoming a "transparent eyeball" in the woods, Robinson brings into the realm of the home, the built environment. The individual voice and its guiding consciousness are all mixed up in the material substance of the world, giving them a concurrent fixity and fragility that it is Robinson's talent, and our challenge, to explore.
In this course, Professor Amy Hungerford gives 27 video lectures on "The American Novel Since 1945". Students will study a wide range of works from 1945 to the present. The course traces the formal and thematic developments of the novel in this period, focusing on the relationship between writers and readers, the conditions of publishing, innovations in the novel's form, fiction's engagement with history, and the changing place of literature in American culture. The reading list includes works by Richard Wright, Flannery O'Connor, Vladimir Nabokov, Jack Kerouac, J. D. Salinger, Thomas Pynchon, John Barth, Maxine Hong Kingston, Toni Morrison, Marilynne Robinson, Cormac McCarthy, Philip Roth and Edward P. Jones. The course concludes with a contemporary novel chosen by the students in the class.