American Literatures After 1865
Scott D. Peterson, St. Louis, MO
Amy Berke, Macon, GA
Robert Bleil, Brunswick, GA
Publisher: University of Missouri - St. Louis
Conditions of Use
The provided selections are generally the “hits” –both critically and popularly. The book includes perennial favorites, such as “A Rose for Emily,” “The Yellow Wall-paper,” “The Red Wheelbarrow,” and more. Some selections do take the reader... read more
The provided selections are generally the “hits” –both critically and popularly. The book includes perennial favorites, such as “A Rose for Emily,” “The Yellow Wall-paper,” “The Red Wheelbarrow,” and more. Some selections do take the reader from an embedded link to an outside source. This departure from the text (to the Internet Archive site) could fracture the students’ reading experience and take them into rabbit holes, with the pop-up advertisement on those newly opened pages (more of a concern for students who might get easily distracted). Some links could be confusing; Streetcar Named Desire departs to the Internet Archive where some pages seem to be omitted, yet a login for borrowing is offered.
The text includes some thoughtful and helpful introductions to some of the works (such as Stevens’s “Emperor of Ice Cream”). The provided review questions are also strong. These items could prove quite helpful for professors who include homework assignments and who might want to use those questions or who might find that they inspire similar homework questions or just talking points for a class discussion.
Well-conceived unit introductions are a true strength in this text. The wording is clear and direct, suggesting these portions could prove very helpful to students who are considering main ideas of the referenced literary movements as well as key historical events that affect the various literary trends. Some of these portions include emboldened terms. –Very helpful! Being more consistent with the emboldening, in the various chapters, would enhance the help to students even more.
The text’s overall introduction is clear and personable. It should prove engaging to most student readers. This main introduction is also very direct in its discussion of AI and how AI contributed to this book. Professors considering this text might want to consider how this fact and admission would (or would not) complement their approaches to including this text in their course study. (Admittedly, Ai is “here to stay,” but professors who’ve had academic integrity issues with AI might have mixed feelings about the book’s embrace of AI.
This text offers a gentle and brief introduction to key works of American literature since 1865. If the educator wants a basic text, then this one could "fit the bill," so to speak. Most of the included works could be described as the best or better known examples.
Overall, the book is clear. The unit introductions offer some fresh --and sometimes unexpected, perspectives; however, the writing itself is clear and direct. Any students using this book, especially at the college-level, should not need to consult dictionary.com or Google to learn a word or to investigate the phrases.
The text in this book shows a consistency. The text style suggests that the editorial team considered each other's ideas. Some of the sequencing did distract form the overall sense of consistency, however.
The book’s approach to units and chapters is clear in its titling. Some of the literary movement “bundles” seem a little unexpected, however. For instance, combining the Naturalism with Modernism and combining the Southern Literary Renaissance with Post-Modernism for various units was unexpected, not what I am accustomed to seeing in these anthologies. On one hand, I appreciate the fresh possibilities for interpretation that an arise from these movement pairings. At the same time, I wonder about the experience for a student who is new to the study of American literature. Would these pairings help that student to develop the broad spectrum as easily and as clearly as possible?
The sequencing also requires some adjustment for any reader expecting more of a chronological approach. For instance, Faulkner appears in the book before Whitman. The book begins with an introduction to and samples of contemporary fiction. Several chapters later the book features nineteenth century fiction. –Yet, the chronology does not consistently move backwards, either. Nor does the book sequence by theme. And nor does it sequence by literary genre; chronologies, movements, and samples vary throughout.
This overall sequencing is at once intriguing but concerning. While it can elicit fresh ideas for the course instructor, the concern is for students who might need a clearer approach to the overall sequencing of material. Admittedly, a professor can assign the works in the preferred order –chronological, thematic, or genre; nevertheless, in some ways the provided sequence is a bit puzzling.
The text offers 4 viewing options. I sampled the PDF version on my Smartphone. It worked quite nicely; I have no complaints about the download or agility of the text. Of course, the embedded links do not work in a PDF, but that’s because of the nature of PDF’s rather than an error in the textbook functionality.
On my laptop, I sampled the other 3 viewing options: eBook, Online, and MS Word download. The first two worked pretty well. The content dropdown options on the left were especially well-done. The links between sections of the text work nicely, as well. In addition, I appreciate how the book “remembers” where you were if you close it and return later –a nice feature! Overall, the eBook option seems the most user-friendly.
The Word format did not want to work on my school laptop (an Apple Air), however. At first, the book seems to download, but then an error says that some of the content won’t be readable. It asks for the go ahead, but after an affirmative click, a new error appears: “Word experienced an error trying to open the file. Try these suggestions. Check the file permissions for the document or drive. Make sure there is sufficient free memory and disk space. Open the file with the Text Recovery converter. (American-Literatures-After-1865-16755...)”. Space is not an issue. Possibly download permissions need to be reviewed or updated. That said, most teacher and student users would probably prefer the eBook and online versions, anyway.
The general introduction as well as the unit introductions appear to be thoughtfully composed and carefully edited.
The readings include a variety of works composed by key African-American authors and some LGBTQIA+ writers. Including even more variety –such as other diverse and immigrant voices, would strengthen the text, even further (such as Native American authors, Asian American voices, Latinx, etc.). While copyrights for more recent authors, like Amy Tan or Louise Erdrich, might be elusive, others such as Chief Joseph or Sui Sin Far, might be available on Project Gutenberg or other open and free sites.
American Literatures After 1865 offers a very solid option for an open education resource text for an American Literature 2 survey class.
American Literatures after 1865 offers various strengths, most notably: usability functions in eBook and Online versions; unit and some work introductions; and offered homework questions. Some drawbacks might be in the unexpected pairings of literary movements and in the potential to include more diversity among the included authors and texts.
American Literatures after 1865 could prove useful as a complementary text for a survey course. Its editorial content could help it to serve as a main text, but the professor might want to complement it with additional notes and sample readings.
Table of Contents
- I. Contemporary Fiction: Metamodernism 101 / Silko / Faulkner
- II. Contemporary Fiction: Hughes / Walker / Cather
- III. Late Romanticism: Whitman / Dickinson
- IV. Realism: Twain / Harte / Howells / Bierce
- V. Realism: James / Jewett / Chopin
- VI. Realism: Freeman / Chesnutt / Gilman
- VII. Naturalism & Modernism: Norris / Crane / London / Washington / Du Bois
- VIII. Modernism: Frost / Stevens / Williams / Pound / Moore / Eliot
- IX. Modernism: Millay / Cummings / Fitzgerald / Hemingway
- X. Modernism: Miller
- XI. Southern Renaissance and Harlem Renaissance: Glasgow / Welty / Fauset / Larsen / Cullen
- XII. Southern Renaissance: O'Connor / Williams
- XIII. Southern Renaissance & Postmodernism: Williams / Baldwin / Rich / Morrison / Plath / Ginsberg
About the Book
This book is an anthology of American Literatures After 1865, a reimagining of the open educational resource: Writing the Nation: A Concise Introduction to American Literature 1865 to Present.
About the Contributors
Scott D. Peterson, University of Missouri-St. Louis
Amy Berke, Middle Georgia State University
Robert Bleil, College of Coastal Georgia