Basic Reading List

It is recommended that students purchase their own copies of all titles marked with an “*”.

I. Reference Works on American Literature

  • Bercovitch, Sacvan, ed. The Cambridge History of American Literature. 8 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994-2003.
  • Elliott, Emory, ed. Columbia Literary History of the United States. New York: Columbia UP, 1988.
  • Gray, Richard. A History of American Literature. Second ed. London: Wiley Blackwell, 2011.
  • Hart, James D., and Philip Leininger, eds. The Oxford Companion to American Literature. Sixth ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1995.
  • Marcus, Greil, and Werner Sollors, eds. A New Literary History of America. Cambridge: Belknap P, 2012.
  • Parini, Jay, ed. The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature. New York: Oxford UP, 2004.
  • Zapf, Hubert, ed. Amerikanische Lite­ra­tur­geschichte. Third ed. Stuttgart: Metzler, 2010.

II. Anthologies of American Literature

  • * Baym, Nina, and Robert S. Levine, eds. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Shorter Eighth Edition. New York: W.W. Norton, 2012.
  • Baym, Nina, et al. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. (5 volumes) Eighth Edition. New York: W.W. Norton, 2011.
  • Lauter, Paul, gen. ed. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. (5 volumes) Fifth Edition. Lexington: D.C. Heath, 2005.
  • Lehman, David, ed. The Oxford Book of American Poetry. Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 2006.
  • Updike, John, and Katrina Kenison, eds. The Best American Short Stories of the Century. New York: Mariner Books, 2000.

III. Literary Texts

  • John Winthrop, “A Model of Christian Charity” (1630).
  • Anne Bradstreet, “The Author to Her Book” (1650).
  • Phillis Wheatley, “On Being Brought from Africa to America” (1773).
  • * Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography (1771-90, 1868).
  • Thomas Jefferson, “The Declaration of Independence” (1776).
  • Washington Irving, “Rip van Winkle” (1819). 
  • Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself (1845).
  • Henry David Thoreau, “Resistance to Civil Government” (1849)
  • Edgar Allan Poe, “The Raven” (1845), “The Fall of the House of Usher” (1839).
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Young Goodman Brown” (1835), * The Scarlet Letter (1850).
  • Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851), “Bartleby, the Scrivener” (1853).
  • Emily Dickinson, “Much Madness is divinest Sense—,” “I heard a Fly buzz—when I died,” “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—” (publ. posthumously, 1955).
  • Walt Whitman, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” (1860), “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” (1865), “Song of Myself” (1881).
  • Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady (1881).
  • * Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884).
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper” (1892).
  • Stephen Crane, “The Open Boat” (1897).
  • Kate Chopin, The Awakening (1899).
  • Robert Frost, “Mending Wall” (1914), “Birches” (1915).
  • T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (1915), The Waste Land (1922).
  • Ezra Pound, “Portrait d’une Femme” (1912), “In a Station of the Metro” (1913), “Hugh Selwyn Mauberley” (1920).
  • Eugene O’Neill, Long Day's Journey into Night (1940).  
  • * F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925).
  • Ernest Hemingway, The Sun also Rises (1926).
  • William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury (1929).
  • Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937).
  • * Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire (1947).
  • * Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman (1949).
  • Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952).
  • * Martin Luther King, “I Have a Dream” (1963).
  • Allen Ginsberg, “Howl” (1956).
  • Jack Kerouac, On the Road (1957)
  • Edward Albee, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962).
  • John Barth, “Life Story” (1968).
  • * Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon (1977), Beloved (1987).
  • August Wilson, Fences (1986).
  • Louise Erdrich, “Fleur” (1986).
  • Thomas Pynchon, Vineland (1990).
  • Wendy Wasserstein, The Heidi Chronicles (1990).
  • * Tony Kushner, Angels in America (1992).
  • T.C. Boyle, The Tortilla Curtain (1995).
  • Philip Roth, The Human Stain (2000).
  • Sandra Cisneros, Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories (1991), Caramelo (2002).
  • Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2006).

IV. American Civilization

  • Bailyn, Bernard et al, eds. The Great Republic: A History of the American People. 2 vols. Fourth edition. Lexington: D.C. Heath, 1992.
  • Benshoff, Harry M., and Sean Griffin, eds. America on Film: Representing Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality at the Movies. Second ed. London Wiley Blackwell, 2009. 
  • Brogan, Hugh. The Penguin History of the USA. New York: Penguin Books Ltd., 2001.
  • Campbell, Neil, and Alasdair Kean. American Cultural Studies: An Introduction to American Culture. Third ed. London and New York: Routledge, 2011.
  • Cullen, Jim. The American Dream: A Short History of an Idea That Shaped a Nation. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003.
  • Hughes, Robert. American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997.
  • Luedtke, Luther S. ed. Making America: The Society and Culture of the United States. Chapel Hill: The U of North Carolina P, 1992.
  • * Mauk, David C., and John Oakland. American Civilization: An Introduction. Sixth ed. London and New York: Routledge, 2013.
  • Newcomb, Horace, ed. Television: The Critical View. Seventh ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007.
  • Nicholls, David, ed. The Cambridge History of American Music. New ed. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004.
  • Paul, Heike. The Myths That Made America: An Introduction to American Studies. Bielefeld: transcript, 2014.
  • Sklar, Robert. Movie-Made America: A Cultural History of American Movies. Revised and updated. New York: Vintage Books, 1994.
  • Zinn, Howard. A People's History of the United States: 1492 – Present. Revised and updated. New York: Harper Perennial, 2010.

more aboutRecommended Basic Readings in American...