Sunday, February 15, 2009


One of my favorite courses at Yale was "The American Novel Since 1945" taught by Amy Hungerford. The course traced the formal and thematic developments of the novel, fiction's engagement with history, and the changing place of literature in American culture. Professor Hungerford--Amy--was never less than inspiring, and you always felt excited and ill-prepared as you slipped into place before her watchful eye.

1st Class: The American Novel Since 1945, with Amy Hungerford

You probably didn't go to Yale. Odds are you attended a crowded state school where getting a class on Registration Day was like grabbing the last chopper out of Saigon. You probably missed Yale, and never lugged books across its autumn leaf-strewn quad, never screamed your lungs out at the Yale-Harvard game, or burned a hole in its residential college system modeled after Oxford where even the phone booths look like Neo-Gothic confessionals. You probably never studied late at the SML, or took a date to Pepe's on Wooster for the white clam pizza.

More importantly, you probably didn't get a first-rate education from the greatest minds of your time. That would have been Harvard. Even so, you missed Yale. Now you have a chance to breathe that rarefied air, smell the chalkdust, rustle into place with all the other beaming students and listen to Amy--dear Amy, well-scrubbed Amy, radiant Amy, hard-grader Amy, sensibly-dressed Amy--Hungerford, as she walks you through the post-war novels of Richard Wright, Flannery O'Connor, Vladimir Nabokov, Jack Kerouac, J. D. Salinger, Thomas Pynchon, John Barth, Maxine Hong Kingston, Toni Morrison, Marilynne Robinson, Cormac McCarthy, Philip Roth and Edward P. Jones.

Review for the Final Exam: American Novel Since 1945, with Amy Hungerford

Okay, I didn't really go to Yale either. Big deal. I can pretend, and so can you, with the help of this wonderful online lecture series. In fact, we can soak up the same education Yalies paid a fortune for, and more importantly, we can impress our shallow friends with the sheer snob appeal of having attended one of the finest schools in the land. Watch the video. Afterward, puff on your Meerschaum in a darkly wooded study and drift down memory lane through the tables at Mory's to the place where Louis dwells, hoist a frothy pint with the assembled Whiffenpoofs and sing the songs we loved so well: "Shall I, Wasting" and "Mavourneen" and the rest. Raise your glass, old bean, and let us never forget those halcyon hours we spent online at Yale, we poor little lambs who have lost our way.

For the entire wonderful course, please click here.

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