Great American Books

This is the official blog for the students of Monica Osborne's Great American Books course at Purdue University.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

So What Makes an American Book Great?

This semester we've looked at a variety of American books and stories that have been called "great" for one reason or another -- Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Flannery O'Connor's stories, Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, Morrison's Love, Hijuelos's Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, Roth's American Pastoral, and Doctorow's Ragtime. So the big question, then, is what makes an American book great? Or, what makes it especially "American"? And, finally, which of these books do you consider great, and why?

This is the last post of the semester -- yay! Please post your comment no later than Saturday, April 21.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Doctorow: Ragtime

We've talked a bit about what it means to write historical fiction. We've also discussed whether the fiction-writer has a moral or ethical responsibility to be "truthful" when it comes to historical fiction. What questions and concerns does Doctorow raise about the nature of historical truth? How does his use of historical figures (Emma Goldman, JP Morgan, Henry Ford, Harry Houdini) in Ragtime serve the greater purpose of his novel?

Please post your response no later than Saturday, April 11, 12:00pm.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Roth: American Pastoral

"His great looks, his larger-than-lifeness, his glory, our sense of his having been exempted from all self-doubt by his heroic role -- that all these manly properties had precipitated a political murder made me think of the compelling story . . . of Kennedy" (83). In what ways do American Pastoral's political metaphors reflect the story of mid-century America? Why might they be presented through a Kennedy-like figure?
Note: You should have finished the first two sections of this book before answering this question. Please post your comment no later than Thursday, March 22, 4:30pm.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Morrison: Love

Why has Toni Morrison chosen Love as the title for her novel? It might seem like a strange choice, especially since the first scene she wrote was the rape scene. In what ways is the book about love? What kinds of love affect and afflict its characters? What does the novel, taken as a whole, suggest about the nature of love?
Please post your response no later than Thursday, February 15, 4:30pm.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Faulkner: The Sound and the Fury

A number of the characters in The Sound and the Fury might be characterized as insane, or borderline insane, but only Benji is mentally retarded. How do people distinguish between insanity and mental handicaps? What kind of statement do you think Faulkner might be making about the line between sanity and insanity? Be sure to use specific examples from the text to support your answers.

You should post your comment no later than Thursday, February 1, 4:30pm.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Great American Books Spring 2007!

Welcome to the English 250 Course Blog! This will be a great place for you to engage in dialogue about some of the books we'll be reading this semester. As you can see, I've left some of the posts and comments from last semester, so feel free to glance at those if you like. The most important thing to remember for this exercise is to have fun with it!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Roth: American Pastoral

Nathan Zuckerman imagined the Swede's life to be perfect. And the Swede tried to live up to this romanticized view of his life by trying to make it picture perfect; he lived that life until it became dark and violent. Was his life the essential American Dream, or was it a nightmare rather than a pastoral? What comment does the novel's title make upon the story it tells? Feel free to connect this to other texts we've read as well.

Please post your response no later than Monday, November 27.