20th-Century American Fiction : The Great Courses: English Literature

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Arnold Weinstein
  • Series: The Great Courses: English Literature
  • 16 hrs and 26 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

Hemingway. Fitzgerald. Faulkner. These and other giants of literature are immediately recognizable to anyone who loves to read fiction and even to many who don't.
Now, thanks to these 32 lectures, you can develop fresh insight into some of the greatest American authors of the 20th century. Professor Weinstein sheds light not only on the sheer magnificence of these writers' literary achievements but also explores their uniquely American character as well. Despite their remarkable variety, each author represents an outlook and a body of work that could only have emerged in the United States. As such, the aim of these lectures is to analyze and appreciate some of the major works of American fiction, using as a focal point the idea of freedom of speech.
The works you'll investigate here include Winesburg, Ohio (among the most poignant descriptions of life at the beginning of the century); Light in August (which depicts the ravages of racism in the American South); Their Eyes Were Watching God (the first – and perhaps the best – account of growing up black and female in America); Slaughterhouse-Five (a poignant and wacky take of mass destruction and aliens); Sula (an experimental novel that makes rubble out of the conventions of black and white culture); and White Noise (which depicts our encounter with the technological madhouse in which we live).
These American fictions, seen together, tell a composite story about coping, about fashioning both a story and a life. Much is dark in these stories, but the honesty and integrity of these writers makes us realize that reading is as much a lifeline as it is entertainment or education.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

A Truly Enriching Experience

I've just spent the most delicious, rich16 hours with this audiobook course. This course is organized around the central theme of American individualism - its presence and absence in the texts, the making and breaking of persona, the way it plays into society and the way society affects it. It's a nuanced, deep dissection of how that has played out in the American novel and other ancillary writings.

Prof. Weinstein offers some vibrant new ways into reading some familiar, and some not so well-known pieces of American literature. I'd buy any course he taught.
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- Madeleine

America comes to Life in 20th Century Fiction

Do you love to read and now wish you would have taken the American Lit course in college or, worse, that you had actually paid attention when you took the course?

If so, or if you just love lit and don't care if you'd taken it in college or not, this is a perfect chance to listen to over 16 hours of a soft-spoken, lively and enthusiastic Ivy League (Brown) professor Arnold Weinstein covering American literature in the 20th century. From the charm of small-town American life (with the secrets) of Sherwood Anderson; to the loss of innocence and the love of booze portrayed by Fitzgerald and Hemingway; the racism in the American South explored by Faulkner; God, religion and the religious (particularly in the South) in the short stories of Flannery O'Connor; the explosion of drugs in William Burroughs' novels; the mass destruction of war and extra-terrestrials in Slaughterhouse Five by Vonnegut; the Nixon administration and execution mocked by Coover; the prevalence of technology in DeLillo's White Noise; as well as the exploration of feminism and race by the wonderful authors, Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison. Each of these novels and authors provides a fictional, provocative account of the issues of its/his/her day.

If you haven't read a lot of these materials, do not let that dissuade you. I hadn't either, but Professor Weinstein inspired me to read many of them and his teaching method doesn't require you to have read them to enjoy and learn from the course.

I highly recommend all of Professor Weinstein's lit courses. In my opinion, just a lecture or so out of the course's 32 lectures over 16 1/2 hours is worthy of a credit.
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- W Perry Hall

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-08-2013
  • Publisher: The Great Courses