English 137: Anglo-American Nonfiction (Topic for 1990: Sages and Satirists)

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University


Week 1 Wednesday and Friday, 5 and 7 September. Defining Genre or Mode -- What is nonfiction? Reading: Tom Wolfe, The Pump House Gang; Jonathan Swift, "A Modest Proposal" and "An Argument against Abolishing Christianity."

Week 2 Monday, 10 September, through Friday, 14 September. The Modern Sage as Exegete of the Real: Joan Didion, The White Album.

Week 3 Monday, 17 September, through Friday, 21 September. Wisdom Speakers: Michel de Montaigne, "Of Cannibals;" Samuel Johnson, Selected Essays from the "Rambler, Adventurer," and "Idler."

Week 4 Monday, 24 September, through Friday, 28 September. Victorian Sages (I): Thomas Carlyle and Florence Nightingale. Carlyle, "Signs of the Times," "Characteristics," Past and Present; Nightingale, Cassandra.

Week 5 Monday, 1 October, through Friday, 5 October. Victorian Sage (II): John Ruskin. Unto This Last, "Traffic," and selections from Praeterita.

Monday, 8 October: Columbus Day holiday

Week 6 Wednesday, 10 October, through Friday, 12 October. Victorian Sages (III): Thoreau. "Civil Disobedience," "Slavery in Massachusetts," "A Plea for John Brown," "The Last days of John Brown," "Life without Principle."

Week 7 Monday, 15 October, through Friday, 19 October. The Sage and Wisdom Speaker Parodied: Maz Beerbohm, "A Defence of Cosmetics," "Diminuendo;" Richard La Gallienne, "The Boom in Yellow;" Oscar Wilde, "The Decay of Lying;" Walter Pater, selections from The Renaissance, in Aesthetes and Decadents of the 1890s.

Week 8 Monday, 22 October, through Friday, 26 October. The Sage as Traveler, the Traveler as Sage: D. H. Lawrence, Twilight in Italy and Etruscan Places.

Week 9 Monday, 29 October, through Friday, 2 November. The Sage as Traveler, the Traveler as Sage: John McPhee, The Crofter and the Laird.

Week 10 Monday, 5 November, through Friday, 9 November. The Sage as Traveler, the Traveler as Sage: Bruce Chatwin, In Patagonia.

Week 11 Monday, 12 November, through Friday, 16 November. The Sage as (Mental) Traveler, the Traveler as Sage: Annue Dillard. An American Childhood.

Week 12 Monday, 19 November. No class.

Thanksgiving Vacation: Wednesday, 21 November through Sunday, 25 November:

Week 13 Monday, 26 November, through Friday, 30 November. The Autobiographer as Sage: Sara Soleri, Meatless Days.

Week 14 Monday, 3 December, through Friday, 7 December. The Sage as Traveler, the Traveler as Sage: Jonathan Raban, Coasting.


  1. Aesthetes and Decadents of the 1890s. Ed. K. Beckson. Academy, Chicago.
  2. Carlyle, Thomas. Selected Writings. Penguin.
  3. Chatwin, Bruce. In Patagonia. Summit.
  4. Didion, Joan. The White Album.
  5. Johnson, Samuel. Selected Essays from the "Rambler," "Adventurer," and "Idler." Ed. Bate. Yale (Y-207)
  6. Lawrence, D. H. Lawrence and Italy. Viking.
  7. Dillard, Annie. An American Childhood.
  8. McPhee, John. The Crofter and the Laird. Farrar, Straus, & Giroux.
  9. Raban, Jonathan. Coasting. Simon and Schuster.
  10. 10. Ruskin, John. Unto this Last and Other Writings. Penguin.
  11. 11. Soleri, Sara. Meatless Days. University of Chicago.
  12. 12. Wolfe, Tom. The Pump House Gang. Bantam.

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Last modified 1 January 2002