Stephen W. Potts
“Coming of age” marks the culmination of adolescence and the threshold of adulthood. It has been a recurring theme in the modern novel, beginning with the Bildungsroman (development or education novel) of the nineteenth century. In the twentieth century, coming-of-age stories reflect a number of obsessions of modernity: the role of the individual in society, struggles with personal identity and purpose, the meaning of life in a world of conflicting and evolving values. In the U.S., the coming-of-age novel often portrays the conflict between the myth of individualism and problems of class, race, gender, or social change. We will read and discuss half a dozen novels published in the U.S. from 1920 up to this century. Experience the youth rebellion of the Jazz Age through F. Scott Fitzgerald, the gendered quandaries of Salinger and Plath in mid-century, the more recent multicultural landscapes of Toni Morrison, Amy Tan, and Junot Diaz. The readings will feature journeys of discovery and self-discovery — ideally to entertain as well as enlighten.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise (buy it now from Amazon.com)
J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye (buy it now from Amazon.com)
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar (buy it now from Amazon.com)
Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon (buy it now from Amazon.com)
Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club (buy it now from Amazon.com)
Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (buy it now from Amazon.com)