Spring 2017

American Extravaganzas

Listed in: English, as ENGL-369


Geoffrey D. Sanborn (Section 01)


“I fear chiefly lest my expression may not be extra-vagant enough, may not wander far enough beyond the narrow limit of my daily experience, so as to be adequate to the truth of which I have been convinced,” Thoreau writes in Walden.  “Extra vagance! it depends on how you are yarded.”  The aim of this course is to seek in a series of fictional extravaganzas by American authors a better understanding of how we are generally yarded, as readers of stories and novels, and what opens up for us when that yard expands.  What does a wildness of invention, an insistent pressure on the confines of literary forms, make it possible for us to feel and know?  What aspects of American cultural history are exposed to our view when writers freewheelingly generate, in Melville’s words, “more reality than real life itself can show”?  Readings include Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, William Wells Brown’s The Escape, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons, Lydia Davis’s Break It Down, and David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.

Limited to 25 students.  Spring semester.  Professor Sanborn.

If Overenrolled: If over-enrolled, enrollment will be by permission of the instructor, on the basis of written account of need and desire for the class.


Attention to Writing


2021-22: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Fall 2015, Spring 2017