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Topics in Nineteenth- Century American Literature

ENGL 283.401
instructor(s):
MW 3-4:30

A "citizen" is a disembodied political abstraction, but "Americans" always have bodies. American national identity, in other words, cannot be defined apart from stories of womanhood and manhood. This course will examine the way a range of nineteenth-century narratives helped to invent, and sometimes to challenge, distinct national identities for men and for women in the nineteenth century. We will explore the way primary issues of American nationhood -- law, race, slavery, sexuality, warfare, and mass culture -- were all complicated by what was often said to be the most basic of identities: the identity of sex. Issues of style and genre will also be a focus in our discussion of national themes. Authors will include Melville, Stowe, Douglass, Jacobs, Gilman, Chesnutt, Chopin, and Crane. Requirements: two papers, other informal writing assignments, and lively class discussion.