Permanence and Change in Modern Literature
“No person ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he/she is not the same person.” If this is the human condition according to Heraclitus, what remains permanent in the midst of change? This course will explore the twin themes of permanence and change as they are expressed in William Wordsworth’s Intimations Ode and four American novels: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, Nella Larsen’s Passing, and Philip Roth’s The Human Stain. We will consider the specific cultural context and key concerns of each text. Themes to be explored include childhood in the early 19th century for Wordsworth; the United States in the 1920s for Fitzgerald; the post WWI world that shapes Hemingway’s characters in Europe; the ambiguous nature of race and gender in the American scene for Larsen; and the American angst at the end of the Twentieth Century for Roth.
Fitzgerald, Scott F. The Great Gatsby. Scribner, 1995. ISBN-10: 0684801523. ISBN-13: 978-0684801520.
Hemingway, Ernest. The Sun Also Rises. Scribner, 1995. ISBN-10: 0684800713. ISBN-13: 978-0684800714.
Larsen, Nella. Passing. Penguin Classics, 1997. ISBN-10: 0141180250. ISBN-13: 978-0141180250.
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. ISBN-10: 0060838671. ISBN-13: 978-0060838676.
Roth, Philip. The Human Stain. Vintage International, 2001. ISBN-10: 0375726349. ISBN-13: 978-0375726347.
Charles Scruggs is a professor of American literature at the University of Arizona. He is the author of The Sage in Harlem: H.L. Mencken and the Black Writers of the 1920s, Sweet Home: Invisible Cities in the Afro-American Novel, and co-author of two other books on African-American writers. He has also published articles on Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Ernest Hemingway, John Fowles, Raymond Chandler, Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift and on American film.