4:00p-5:15p TR (70) 3 cr.
This course will focus on "the American Renaissance," the unusually rich period of literary creativity in the years before the Civil War. Many of the books now popularly regarded as classics of American literature--Moby-Dick, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Walden--were published in quick succession in the 1850s. Writers to be studied include Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Poe, Douglass, Stowe, and especially Whitman and Melville. Certain leading ideas of the Romantic movement in American literature (about organic art, nature, self-culture, the representative individual, etc.) will be given special emphasis. The course will trace the development of Transcendental idealism in the work of Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman, and its critique in the fiction of Hawthorne and Melville.
The reading list is substantial, and will include most or all of the following texts: Emerson, Nature and selected essays; Thoreau, Walden; Whitman, Leaves of Grass (especially "Song of Myself"); Hawthorne, selected tales; Melville, Moby-Dick and "The Encantadas"; Poe, selected tales; Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin; and Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. We will also read Jon Krakauerís Into the Wild, an account of a late-twentieth century experiment in Transcendentalist idealism that led to a young manís death by starvation in the wilds of Alaska. In addition to the final exam, there will be at least one hour exam, two papers, and various in-class exercises.