This course examines New York City as a central setting and trope in literary texts concerned with the American Dream. As the setting for dramatic stories of immigrant success and failure, as a site replete with consumer and cultural fantasies, the city of these texts both disseminates and critiques the belief in that dream. Our examination will take into account New York City’s central role in U.S. media culture. How does New York’s dominant place in the publishing industry (and in television) tie in with images of the city as a site to be celebrated or reviled?

Assignments include:

• Course assignments include: daily work; one short, analysis paper; one presentation; and a research and analysis final paper.

Readings include:

  • Writings by Horatio Alger (Ragged Dick), Walt Whitman, Stephen Crane (Maggie; a Girl of the Streets), Abraham Cahan, Willa Cather, Edith Wharton (The Age of Innocence), James Baldwin (Go Tell It on the Mountain), Truman Capote (Breakfast at Tiffany’s), and Michael Chabon (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay).
  • Possible course texts: Part of the course syllabus will feature an investigation of nineteenth and twentieth-century New York City periodical culture; titles considered will likely include St. Nicholas, Harper’s, the “Harlem: Mecca of the New Negro” issue of the Survey Graphic, and The New Yorker.