English | American Literature 1800-1865
L351 | 2214 | Nordloh

L351 2214 NORDLOH
American Literature 1800-1865

1:25p-2:15p MWF (30) 3 CR.

Writing skeptically in 1820 about the ambitious national experiment
being undertaken by those former English colonists across the
Atlantic Ocean, an English critic put his disdain for the
possibility of significant American achievement as a series of
questions: “In the four quarters of the globe, who reads an American
book? Or goes to an American play? Or looks at an American picture
or statue?”  American artists of that same period were asking
themselves the same questions.  Among these artists, American
writers increasingly answered with works of substance and influence,
works whose distinctiveness lay in the utilization of uniquely
American materials and the expression of emphatically American
social and political values. This course will examine major writers
most prominently identified with this literary response–Cooper,
Hawthorne, Poe, Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, and Melville–as well as
writers of lesser stature but of great significance to the
development of a fuller, more democratic American nation–Frederick
Douglass and Harriet Jacobs with their contributions to the growing
anti-slavery movement, and Fanny Fern with her assertions on behalf
of women’s rights.

The chief activity of the course will be the reading of selected
short stories, poems, essays, and longer works, including Cooper’s
The Pioneers, Hawthorne’s The Blithedale Romance, The Narrative of
the Life of Frederick Douglass, Fanny Fern’s Ruth Hall, and
Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, 1855 edition.  Class meetings will
emphasize discussion rather than formal presentation.  Participants
will submit a series “reflections” on the reading over the course of
the semester (submitted online through Oncourse), organize a group
teaching assignment, write two short essays, and take midterm and
final exams.  Rigorous attendance, but much intellectual benefit.