Seeking "The Great American Novel": 19th Century Reading List

Seeking "The Great American Novel": 19th Century Reading List

When readers refer to a book as “The Great American Novel,” they rarely attempt to articulate what they mean by the term.

I am going to read a dozen or so books that have often been referred to as “The Great American Novel” and consider what characteristics they share. From these individual examples, I think we’ll be able to derive a kind of working definition–a meaning that may well turn out to encompass other books, including some that have rarely if ever been proclaimed “Great American Novels.”

So, while the project begins by focusing on the “canon” of American literature, the result may be to accelerate the process by which newer or less recognized works are admitted to that canon.

I’ll be proceeding through the so-called “Great American Novels” chronologically. In this first phase of the project I am reading/rereading five works from the 19th century.

But I’ve also decided to pair each of these novels with a more contemporary work that invokes some of the same themes. I’m hoping that reading these works together may bring out dimensions of each that I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.

In recent years, actually, some of these more contemporary novels have occasionally been proclaimed “Great American Novels” in their own right.

So here’s the (still somewhat tentative) list of the ten novels I am planning to read in this first phase of the project:

“The Last of the Mohicans,” by James Fenimore Cooper (1826)
+ “The Round House,” by Louise Erdrich (2012)

“The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne” (1850)
+ “The Handmaid’s Tale,” by Margaret Atwood (1985)

“Moby Dick,” by Herman Melville (1851)
+ “People of the Whale,” by Linda Hogan (2008)

“Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1852)
+ “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” by James Baldwin (1953)

“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain (1884)
+ “Beloved,” by Toni Morrison (1987)

You can also find me on goodreads:

A classic American treasure evolved from a very humble
beginning. What was once known as a piece of a man’s undergarment has come a
long way since the 19th century. The T shirt has become a legend, with a very
large following.

Moms to be wear them to announce the impending arrival of a new life. Infants
wear them proclaiming that they are the cutest baby ever, and the apple of
their Grandparent’s eye. Young children are walking advertisements for their
favorite cartoon character. Teens show allegiance to their favorite bands.
College students wear them in support of their alma maters. Men and women of
all ages are wearing T’s to commutate an event, to promote their faith,
political views, or humorous slogans.

Many businesses revolve around this casual clothing article. The original
manufacturer, the shippers, the retailer and the consumer. The purchaser can
buy the shirt already decorated in thousands of different sizes, colors, and
with a large selection of preprinted material.

The purchasers can have a basic shirt, painted, embroidered, or air-brushed.
Photos can be embedded on a shirt, and many Grandparents wear the face of a
grandchild proudly.

With a bit of imagination and creativity, some prefer to decorate their own
apparel. The designs and variables are as large as the collective human

People keep and collect T-shirts for a variety of reasons, and for the same
reasons many things are collected.

Sentimental value, remembrances of events, to mark historical passages and to

Whether the collection is built from shirts worn by collector or bought from a
retailerScience Articles, t-shirt collection is a vibrant arm of the retail business.