Reading List for PhD Major Exam on 20th Century American Literature

In June 2010, I will take my three PhD exams in the Kent State University English Literature PhD program.  For these exams, I convened a committee of trusted professors, each administering one exam. I choose to take my exams in these areas: 20th Century American Literature (administered by Kevin Floyd), Postmodern Theory (administered by Tammy Clewell), and the Philip K. Dick Canon (administered by Donald “Mack” Hassler). Below, I have included my 20th Century American Literature reading list. Go here to read my Postmodern Theory exam list, and here to read my Philip K. Dick exam list.

PhD Major Exam Area:  Twentieth-Century American Literature

Director:  Kevin Floyd



  1. Chopin, Kate. The Awakening (1899).
  2. Cather, Willa. O Pioneers! (1913).
  3. Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper”
  4. TS Eliot: “The Waste Land,” “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock”
  5. Anderson, Sherwood. Winesburg, Ohio (1919).
  6. William, Carlos Williams. Spring and All (1923).
  7. Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby (1925).
  8. Faulkner, William. The Sound and the Fury (1929).
  9. Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying (1930).
  10. Langston Hughes: “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”; “Epilogue”; “Harlem”; “Same in Blues”; “Theme for English B”; “Mother to Son”; “Song for a Dark Girl.”
  11. Countee Cullen: “Yet Do I Marvel”; “Heritage”; “Incident.”
  12. Hemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms (1929).
  13. Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937).
  14. Dos Passos, John. The Big Money (1936).
  15. Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath (1939).
  16. Hemingway, Ernest. For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940).
  17. Wright, Richard. Native Son (1940).
  18. Williams, Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire (1947).
  19. Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman (1949).
  20. Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye (1951).
  21. Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man (1952).
  22. Baldwin, James. The Fire Next Time.
  23. Edward Albee, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf
  24. Eugene O’Neill, Long Days Journey Into Night
  25. Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
  26. Ginsberg, Allen. “Howl” and “Kaddish.”
  27. Kerouac, Jack. On the Road (1957)
  28. Burroughs, William S. Naked Lunch (1959).
  29. Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun (1959).
  30. Kesey, Ken. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962).
  31. Plath, Sylvia. Ariel.
  32. Pynchon, Thomas. V. (1963).
  33. Sam Shepard, True West
  34. LeRoi Jones, Dutchman (1964)
  35. O’Connor, Flannery. “A good man is hard to find”; “everything that rises must converge”; “revelation”; “good country people”
  36. Le Guin, Ursula K. The Left Hand of Darkness (1969).
  37. Reed, Ishmael. Mumbo Jumbo (1972).
  38. Delany, Samuel R. Dhalgren (1975).
  39. Silko, Leslie Marmon. Ceremony (1977).
  40. Gibson, William. Neuromancer (1984)
  41. DeLillo, Don. White Noise (1985).
  42. Morrison, Toni. Beloved (1987).
  43. Gloria Naylor, Linden Hills
  44. Roth, Philip. American Pastoral (1997).
  45. Updike, John.  Rabbit, Run
  46. Butler, Octavia. Kindred (1979).
  47. Eugenides, Jeffrey. Middlesex (2002).
  48. Vonnegut, Jr., Kurt. Slaughterhouse-Five (1969).


  1. Asimov, Isaac. I, Robot (1950).
  2. Bradbury, Ray. The Martian Chronicles (1950).
  3. Kornbluth, Cyril M. and Fredrick Pohl. The Space Merchants (1953).
  4. Ellison, Harlan.  “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” (1967).
  5. Tiptree, James Jr. (Alice B. Sheldon), “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” (1973).
  6. Delany, Samuel R. Tales of Nevèrÿon (1979)
  7. Sterling, Bruce ed. Mirrorshades:  The Cyberpunk Anthology (1986).
  8. Stephenson, Neal. Snow Crash (1992).
  9. Powers, Richard. Galatea 2.2 (1995).
  10. Di Filippo, Paul. Ribofunk (1996).
  11. Cunningham, Michael. Specimen Days (2005).

Published by Jason W. Ellis

I am an Associate Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY whose teaching includes composition and technical communication, and research focuses on science fiction, neuroscience, and digital technology. Also, I coordinate the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, which holds more than 600 linear feet of magazines, anthologies, novels, and research publications.