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Yales philosophy of teaching and learning begins with the aim of training a broadly based, highly disciplined intellect without specifying in advance how that intellect will be used. The Yale Courses channel provides entry into the core of the University--its classrooms and academic programs--including complete sets of lectures from the Open Yale Courses initiative.

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1. Introductions

The American Novel Since 1945 (ENGL 291)

In this first lecture Professor Hungerford introduces the course's academic requirements and some of its central concerns. She uses a magazine advertisement for James Joyce's Ulysses and an essay by Vladimir Nabokov (author of Lolita, a novel on the syllabus) to establish opposing points of view about what is required to be a competent reader of literature. The contrast between popular emotional appeal and detached artistic judgment frames literary debates from the Modernist, and through the post-45 period. In the second half of lecture, Hungerford shows how the controversies surrounding the publication of Richard Wright's Black Boy highlight the questions of truth, memory, and autobiography that will continue to resurface throughout the course.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Introduction: Major Themes
08:07 - Chapter 2. Course Requirements
13:43 - Chapter 3. How To Read: On Joyce and Nabokov
29:30 - Chapter 4. Introduction to Richard Wright's "Bl


2. Richard Wright, Black Boy

The American Novel Since 1945 (ENGL 291)

Professor Amy Hungerford continues her discussion of Richard Wright's classic American autobiography, Black Boy. Through a close analysis of key passages, she demonstrates an oscillation in the narrative between the socioeconomic deprivations and racial jeopardy confronting its characters, and the compensations to be found in sensual experience, the imagination, and in particular, the power of words. Dramatizing the editorial struggle evident in letters between Wright and Book-of-the-Month-Club-President Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Professor Hungerford shows the high stakes of Wright's uncompromising portrait of America's failed ideals at a time when those ideals are being tested during the Second World War.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Classifying the Literary Object: Fiction and Autobiography
06:06 - Chapter 2. Choices in the Construction of an Autobiography: A Close Reading of the First Scene
11:26 - Chapter 3. Decoding Meaning in Wright's Descrip


3. Flannery O'Connor, Wise Blood

The American Novel Since 1945 (ENGL 291)

Professor Amy Hungerford's first lecture on Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood addresses questions of faith and interpretation. She uses excerpts from O'Connor's copious correspondence to introduce the critical framework of O'Connor's Catholicism, but invites us to look beyond the question of redemption. What do characters see in this text, and what are they blind to? What do we see as readers, and how does methodology shape this vision?

00:00 - Chapter 1. Introduction: The Catholicism of Flannery O'Connor
12:27 - Chapter 2. The Search for Home: Haze's Essex
24:53 - Chapter 3. The Depiction of Nothingness: The Landscapes of O'Connor
33:42 - Chapter 4. The Symbolism of Senses: Hazel Motes's Eyes and Ears
38:43 - Chapter 5. Fragmented Bodies: What We Miss When We Limit Our Interpretative Lens

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website:

This course was recorded in Spring 2008.


4. Flannery O'Connor, Wise Blood (cont.)

The American Novel Since 1945 (ENGL 291)

In this second lecture on Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood, Professor Amy Hungerford continues to offer several specific contexts in which to read and understand the novel. Having used O'Connor's letters to delve into her theological commitments in the previous lecture, Professor Hungerford now explores the southern social context, particularly with respect to race and gender, and the New Critical writing program of which O'Connor was a product. Hungerford finally suggests that O'Connor's writing illuminates the important--and perhaps undertheorized--link between the institutionalization of formal unity by the New Critics, and their strong religious influences.

00:00 - Chapter 1. On the Depiction of Women: Fragmented Bodies and Southern Society
07:36 - Chapter 2. Modes of Violence: Abused Children, Police Brutality, and Racism
16:52 - Chapter 3. Exploring the Narrative Purpose of Violent Imagery: The Question of Sympathy
24:13 - Chapter 4


5. Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

The American Novel Since 1945 (ENGL 291)

Professor Amy Hungerford introduces the first of three lectures on Nabokov's Lolita by surveying students' reactions to the novel, highlighting the conflicting emotions readers feel, enjoying Nabokov's virtuosic style, but being repelled by the violence of his subject matter. Nabokov's childhood in tsarist Russia provides some foundation for his interest in memory, imagination, and language. Finally, Professor Hungerford shows how Nabokov, through the voice of his protagonist Humbert, in his own voice in the epilogue, and in the voice of "John Ray, Jr." in the foreword, preempts moral judgments in a novel that celebrates the power of the imagination and the seductive thrill of language.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Lolita: Initial Student Responses
09:49 - Chapter 2. Historical Context: A Brief Biography of Nabokov
15:33 - Chapter 3. Blurring Narrative Layers: Locating the Author in John Ray Jr.'s Forward
23:49 - Chapter 4. Seduction and Cliché
34:22 -


6. Guest Lecture by Andrew Goldstone

The American Novel Since 1945 (ENGL 291)

In this guest lecture, Teaching Fellow Andrew Goldstone provides us with some key concepts for understanding Modernism and Nabokov's relation in particular to his literary forebears T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, and Marcel Proust. Positing the "knight's move" as a description of Nabokov's characteristically indirect, evasive style, Goldstone argues that Nabokov's parodies of Modernist form in fact reveal his deep commitment to some of the same aesthetic principles. While the knight's move often indicates a playful attitude towards tradition, it also betrays a traumatic rupture with the past, reflecting a sense of exile that links Nabokov's art with the violence of Lolita's protagonist, Humbert.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Defining Literary Modernism
10:01 - Chapter 2. The Knight's Move: Nabokov on Tradition and Originality
15:56 - Chapter 3. The Influence of Joyce
27:35 - Chapter 4. Reading Nabokov as an Exile

Complete course materials are availa


7. Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (cont.)

The American Novel Since 1945 (ENGL 291)

In the last of three lectures on Lolita, Professor Amy Hungerford discusses the broader context of Nabokov's relation to his novel: both the debate it inspires surrounding censorship and artistic originality, and the concern it evokes in him about the work of art's distillation of the living world or word. Hungerford masterfully draws connections between Nabokov's interest in lepidoptery--butterfly collecting--with his evident fear that the printed word become lapidary, or stone-like. Just as we can no longer appreciate the beauty of a butterfly's motion, once it has been pinned down, so too might living language fall victim to a kind of violence on the page, a formal equivalent to the thematic violence that increases as the novel progresses.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Censorship
11:11 - Chapter 2. The Second Road Trip: Lolita's Agency
24:45 - Chapter 3. Canceled Children: The Symbol of Elphinstone
35:03 - Chapter 4. Two Forms of the Aesthetic:


8. Jack Kerouac, On the Road

The American Novel Since 1945 (ENGL 291)

Professor Amy Hungerford's lecture on Kerouac's On the Road begins by contrasting the Beats' ambition for language's direct relation to lived experience with a Modernist sense of difficulty and mediation. She goes on to discuss the ways that desire structures the novel, though not in the ways that we might immediately expect. The very blatant pursuit of sex with women in the novel, for example, obscures the more significant desire for connection among men, particularly the narrator Sal's love for Dean Moriarty. The apparent desire for the freedom of the open road, too, Hungerford argues, exists in a necessary conjunction with the idealized comforts of a certain middle-class American domesticity, signaled by the repeated appearance of pie.

00:00 - Chapter 1. The Beats: Similarities and Differences to Literary Modernism
09:46 - Chapter 2. A New Use of Language: Mirroring the Speed of Experience
18:13 - Chapter 3. "The Prophet of 'Wow'": Th


9. Jack Kerouac, On the Road (cont.)

The American Novel Since 1945 (ENGL 291)

In this second lecture on On The Road, Professor Hungerford addresses some of the obstacles and failures to the novel's high ambitions for achieving American community through an immediacy of communication. Sal Paradise's desire to cross racial boundaries, for example, seems ultimately more exploitative than expansive; Dean's exuberant language of "Yes!" and "Wow!" devolves into meaningless gibberish. And yet the novel's mystical vision of something called "America" persists, a cultural icon that continues to engage the interest of readers, scholars, and artists. Among these latter is the digital art collaborative Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, with whose online work DAKOTA Hungerford concludes the class.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Kerouac's Mythical America: Trans-historical Communities
22:03 - Chapter 2. Defining American Identity: Sal's Illusory Vision of Mystical Oneness
30:01 - Chapter 3. Dean and Sal, Again: The Theme of Sadness


10. J. D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey

The American Novel Since 1945 (ENGL 291)

In this lecture on J. D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey, Professor Hungerford presents her argument about religion in the novel as an example to students of how to construct a sound literary critical paper using evidence from the text. Moving between large claims and close readings, Hungerford shows how Salinger prevents his investment in mysticism from becoming mystification by grounding his sense of the divine in the specificity of persons, the importance of family language and love. In this way writing, like the theme of acting that appears again and again in the novel, models a spiritual performance that brings together artist and audience in the partnership of human communication.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Forming a Literary Argument: Advice for Paper Writing
08:25 - Chapter 2. The Theological Theme: Specific Doctrine versus Syncretic Religion
29:06 - Chapter 3. Structures of Drama
35:08 - Chapter 4. Religion and Love: The Performance of Hum


11. John Barth, Lost in the Funhouse

The American Novel Since 1945 (ENGL 291)

In her lecture on John Barth's collection of stories Lost in the Funhouse, Professor Amy Hungerford delves beyond the superficial pleasures and frustrations of Barth's oft-cited metafictional masterwork to illuminate the profound commitment to language that his narrative risks entail. Foremost among Barth's concerns, Hungerford argues, is the multi-faceted relationship between language and love. Desire can drive a narrative, or disrupt it. Language can create desire, or replace it. Unifying the virtuosic variety of his tales is Barth's inquiry: Does language always stand in for a loss of bodily presence? Must the written word always exist as the shadow of the oral?

00:00 - Chapter 1. Barth, the Teacher
10:00 - Chapter 2. The Modernist Ambition in 'Night-Sea Journey'
25:27 - Chapter 3. Alienation and Desire
42:05 - Chapter 4. The Power of Voice

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://open.yale.


12. Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49

The American Novel Since 1945 (ENGL 291)

Professor Hungerford introduces this lecture by reviewing the ways that authors on the syllabus up to this point have dealt with the relationship between language and life, that collection of elusive or obvious things that for literary critics fall under the category of "the Real." The Real can shout out from a work of art, as it sometimes does in Black Boy, or haunt it, as in Lolita. It can elude authors like Kerouac and Barth for widely different reasons. Placing Pynchon firmly in the context of the political upheaval of the 1960s that he is often seen to avoid, Hungerford argues that Pynchon--no less than a writer of faith like Flannery O'Connor--is deeply invested in questions of meaning and emotional response, so that The Crying of Lot 49 is a sincere call for connection, and a lament for loss, as much as it is an ironic, playful puzzle.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Language and Reality: Course Review
09:18 - Chapter 2. Pynchon and Politics: A


13. Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

The American Novel Since 1945 (ENGL 291)

Professor Hungerford draws a contrast between Toni Morrison and most of the writers studied up to this point in the course by pointing out how, for an African-American woman writer in particular, language is a site of violence. For all of her power to recuperate the voices of the oppressed, the novelist must be wary of the ways that breaking the silence, too, can constitute an act of invasion. As in the case of Pynchon, the word in The Bluest Eye enacts a near-physical touch; this is its pleasure and its danger. With inimitable complexity and grace, Morrison weaves her narrative around a young black girl who, in the void of her social persona, constructs a beautiful and poisonous fiction.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Morrison's Politics: The Other Side of the 1960s
07:16 - Chapter 2. Choosing a Form: Morrison's Use of the Novel
16:40 - Chapter 3. Complicated Sympathy: Cholly Breedlove
31:15 - Chapter 4. Negativities: The Other Engine of Narrative


14. Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior

The American Novel Since 1945 (ENGL 291)

In this lecture at the midpoint of the course Professor Hungerford takes stock of the syllabus thus far and to come by laying out her guiding thesis of the Identity Plot, a rubric for understanding novels in the twentieth century as, she argues, the Marriage Plot is a rubric for understanding novels in the nineteenth century. Referring to examples throughout the syllabus, but especially Maxine Hong Kingston's Woman Warrior, Hungerford describes the overriding tendency of American novels written after 1945 to explore the tension between individual and collective identities and to interrogate the artistic and political stakes of competing notions of authenticity.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Course Thesis: The Identity Plot
26:04 - Chapter 2. The Roles of Literary Fiction and Genre Fiction
31:12 - Chapter 3. Multiple Forms of Identity
39:43 - Chapter 4. Definition Through Delimitation: The End of Identity and the Rise of History

Complete course


15. Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping

The American Novel Since 1945 (ENGL 291)

Professor Hungerford situates Marilynne Robinson's novel Housekeeping (1980) in a tradition of American writing about the individual's relationship to nature that includes the powerful influences of the Bible, Herman Melville, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. The loss of identity that Emerson describes as becoming a "transparent eyeball" in the woods, Robinson brings into the realm of the home, the built environment. The individual voice and its guiding consciousness are all mixed up in the material substance of the world, giving them a concurrent fixity and fragility that it is Robinson's talent, and our challenge, to explore.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Names and Introductions: My Name is Ruth
10:09 - Chapter 2. Crafting Social Worlds: The Communal and the Singular
20:14 - Chapter 3. Permeable Identity: Anonymity and Ghostliness
31:03 - Chapter 4. The "Soul All Unaccompanied": Matching Language to Consciousness

Complete course materials are availab


16. Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping (cont.)

The American Novel Since 1945 (ENGL 291)

At the very beginning of the course, Professor Hungerford offered students the opportunity to pitch a novel of their choice to fill the final spot on the syllabus. Today six students rise to that challenge, presenting their arguments for why each book would complete the intellectual trajectory established thus far. While the Teaching Assistants tally the results of the class vote, Professor Hungerford provides some final thoughts about the theme of loss in Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping. The effacement of the body in this novel, and the beauty of absence and hunger, result in what Hungerford terms an "anorexic aesthetic" that raises problems for feminist interpretation.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Novel Pitch Day
02:03 - Chapter 2. Emma's Pitch: "Giovanni's Room"
06:44 - Chapter 3. Kelsey's Pitch: "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"
12:25 - Chapter 4. Miranda's Pitch: "Play It As It Lays"
18:06 - Chapter 5. Will's Pitch: "Jesus' Son"
22:31 -


17. Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian

The American Novel Since 1945 (ENGL 291)

In this first of two lectures on Blood Meridian, Professor Hungerford walks us through some of the novel's major sources and influences, showing how McCarthy engages both literary tradition and American history, and indeed questions of origins and originality itself. The Bible, Moby-Dick, Paradise Lost, the poetry of William Wordsworth, and the historical narrative of Sam Chamberlain all contribute to the style and themes of this work that remains, in its own right, a provocative meditation on history, one that explores the very limits of narrative and human potential.

00:00 - Chapter 1. The Literary Tradition: Allusions and Revisions
08:49 - Chapter 2. Eradicating Interiority: "Moby Dick"
20:50 - Chapter 3. Modeling Evil: "Paradise Lost"
30:13 - Chapter 4: Rejecting Innocence: Wordsworth
34:59 - Chapter 5. Historical Sources: Samuel Chamberlin's "My Confession"

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses websit


18. Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian (cont.)

The American Novel Since 1945 (ENGL 291)

In this second lecture on Blood Meridian, Professor Hungerford builds a wide-ranging argument about the status of good and evil in the novel from a small detail, the Bible the protagonist carries with him in spite of his illiteracy. This detail is one of many in the text that continually lure us to see the kid in the light of a traditional hero, superior to his surroundings, developing his responses in a familiar narrative structure of growth. McCarthy's real talent, and his real challenge, Hungerford argues, is in fact to have invoked the moral weight of his sources--biblical, literary, and historical--while emptying them of moral content. Much as the kid holds the Bible an object and not a spiritual guide, McCarthy seizes the material of language--its sound, its cadences--for ambiguous, if ambitious, ends.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Structural Allusions: McCarthy's Formulation of the Hero
15:08 - Chapter 2. Maturation without Morality: Revising


19. Philip Roth, The Human Stain

The American Novel Since 1945 (ENGL 291)

In this lecture on The Human Stain, Professor Hungerford traces the ways that Roth's novel conforms to and pushes beyond the genre she calls the Identity Plot. Exploring the various ways that race can be construed as category, mark, biology, or performance, the novel ultimately construes the defining characteristic of its protagonist's race to be its very concealment. Secrecy is, for Roth, the source of identity and the driving force behind desire and narrative.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Roth's Mundane Modern Context: Historical Markers of the 1990s
05:59 - Chapter 2. Roth's Identity Plot: The Performance of the Self
16:36 - Chapter 3. Classification as Definition
21:25 - Chapter 4. The Body as Sign: Moments of Irreducible Otherness
27:18 - Chapter 5. Speech and Secrecy: Locating Identity in the Interval
41:31 - Chapter 6. Desire and Difference

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website:


20. Philip Roth, The Human Stain (cont.)

The American Novel Since 1945 (ENGL 291)

In this lecture Professor Hungerford discusses how the novels we read are shaped by legal and market constraints. She traces a history of censorship from the Comstock laws, to the policing of Joyce's Ulysses and Ginsberg's Howl, and shows how changes in publishing practices have tended to penalize more unusual, less profitable books. Hungerford also touches on the canon debates of the 80s and 90s (citing John Guillory and Toni Morrison), and the issues of intellectual property and internationalization raised by digital literature. Finally, she points to some ways that Philip Roth, despite his controversial representations of Judaism and of women, succeeds in tackling fundamental human concerns.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Observing Local Bookshops: Patterns of Display and Absence
12:28 - Chapter 2. The History of Legal Censorship in the United States
23:43 - Chapter 3. New Forms of Censorship: The Influence of the Market
31:41 - Chapter 4. The O