Section 2: Monday and Wednesday 3:00-4:15 PM
Topic: American Bestsellers
Professor: Debbie Mix
American Bestsellers – What makes a book a bestseller? What can reading bestsellers tell us about a particular cultural moment? What kind of afterlife does a bestseller have? We will read a variety of American bestsellers–from early texts like Michael Wigglesworth’s “Day of Doom” (1662) and Susanna Rowson’s Charlotte Temple (1791) to nineteenth-century successes like Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) and Horatio Alger’s Ragged Dick (1868) to mid-twentieth-century favorites like Grace Metalious’s Peyton Place (1956) and Mary McCarthy’s The Group (1963) to hot-off-the-press contemporary bestsellers. We’ll also consider theories of taste, popularity, and the middlebrow as we seek to understand the distinctions (if there are any) between the “literary” and the “popular.” While most of our attention will be focused on novels, we’ll also consider some other bestsellers in poetry and nonfiction. In addition to completing a major research-driven project and a reflective essay, students will also read and research bestselling texts and present their findings to the class.