This writing-intensive course for non-English majors is an introduction to the development of American literature from its beginnings to the contemporary moment through a wide variety of genres. This course concerns two types of knowledge: the knowledge gained by reading literature and the knowledge offered by deeper consideration of American literary and cultural development. Using close reading techniques, we will explore how texts differ from one another and how they interact with the larger society and its historical changes. You will be asked to apply your own skills of analysis to literary texts during our class discussions, in weekly reading response papers and frequent informal in-class writings, and in three formal academic essays. Through the semester we will expand our literary vocabulary, enabling us to evaluate a text critically, build arguments and make connections between works of literature, and communicate our ideas effectively. English 152W is a general education course that satisfies the Literature requirement for the Queens Core under the CUNY General Education structure called Pathways. Additionally, English 152W satisfies the Pathways Common Core requirement in the area of US Experience in its Diversity. You may use English 152W to fulfill either (but not both) of these Pathways requirements.

This section of 152W, specifically, will focus our analysis by examining what it is exactly that is meant by the idea of a “Great Work of American Literature” – in other words, we will be asking questions about the American canon, or the works that have historically been considered “great.” We will, together, ask what has determined the kinds of literature that are usually assigned in a course like this one and reevaluate those factors on our own terms, offering up our own ideas about what people in courses like this one should read, and why.



In this course, students will:

  • Develop close reading skills to interpret literary texts across different genres;
  • Develop familiarity with some conventional disciplinary language and its use to think about how texts work (for example, assessing literary works in terms of voice, tone, and structure);
  • Understand how context works with ideas to produce the meaning of a text;
  • Use both informal and formal writing as opportunities to discover one’s own ideas in conversation with the ideas of others;
  • Write thoughtful, analytical and coherent essays that are firmly grounded in the text and adhere to MLA guidelines.


You can find the course syllabus below:

f18 152-01 syllabus