American Fortunes

Spring 2016-2017


Kevin Kimura

Getting rich quick is practically synonymous with the American Dream. But while a fortune might alleviate financial hardship, it creates problems of its own. Like our present moment, the turn of the 20th century saw rapid changes in technology and finance generate unprecedented wealth inequality. In this period of rapid urbanization and industrialization, writers explored how rapidly changing financial circumstances might change a person’s life. This course surveys major American novels from the late 19th and early 20th centuries to ask questions like: How does money articulate with social class in the context of American political ideology? How do writers represent the moral status and responsibilities of the wealthy as different from those of the poor? What can literary texts tell us about the world in which they were produced and consumed? Readings will include texts by William Dean Howells, Frank Norris, Theodore Dreiser, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Jessie Redmon Fauset. (B, G)