I recently discovered an incredible (free) resource for learning more about some of the great novels in American literature from the last fifty years. I found this originally when scrolling through the options in “iTunes U” on my phone, but the link below is for the course online.
I have been listening/watching these courses for a few weeks now and I have only made it through the first two novels, but I am anxious to get through them all. The instructor provides a list of some of the most influential works in American literature since 1945, and helps the audience to understand the history and culture surrounding the work and the author.
For example: I learned that Black Boy by Richard Wright was intended to have two parts… but do to pressures from the publisher only the first part about growing up in the south was released in the 1940’s. The second half was not published until decades later. when you read the novel you will realize that the theme of his work is incomplete without that second half.
I did not really care for the second book on the list; Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor, but the lectures through this course added perspective, and created an interesting context for the work that I never would have appreciated if I hadn’t listened to the presentation.
I hope you find this resource as interesting as I have.