English | American Literature 1800-1865
L351 | 2024 | Cherniavsky
4:00p-5:15p TR ( 30) 3 cr
This course will address not only a literary content (specific works of
American literature), but the category of "American literature" itself.
What is the rationale for reading nineteenth century literature written on
United States soil as the products, or examples, of a specifically
national literary tradition? How are issues of nationality at stake in
these literary texts? Our reading will focus on selected works of early
national and antebellum literature, with emphasis on the way this writing
participates in a series of ongoing public debates on the delineation of
American identity, the rights and requirements of citizenship, and the
limits of enfranchisement.
While we explore the organization of literature into a national canon, we
will also explore how writers of the early national era define the concept
of "literature." What characteristics are seen to give a written text its
specifically literary quality? We will examine how ideas of democractic
nationhood give rise to specific criteria of literary value.
The provisional selection of reading includes Susanna Rowson, CHARLOTTE
TEMPLE; Lydia Maria Child, HOBOMOK; short fiction by Nathaniel Hawthorne,
Edgar Allan Poe, Fanny Fern, and Elizabeth Stuart Phelps; William Wells
Brown, CLOTEL; Fredrick Douglass, THE HEROIC SLAVE; Herman Melville,
BENITO CERENO; Harriet Wilson, OUR NIG; as well as a number of secondary
historical and critical materials.
Written work for the course will include several short essay assignments;
a midterm exam; a longer critical essay; and a final exam. All class
members are expected to participate regularly and actively in discussion.