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Proseminar: Critical Issues in the Literature of New England

ENGL 582.940
instructor(s):
W 5:30-8:10

This course will fill core and concentration requirements for the major: Qualified undergraduate majors will be admitted with permission of the instructor.

"Seeing New Englandly," is how one scholar described the peculiar vision of Emily Dickinson, whose work exhibits perspectives particular to New England writers and to what has been called the "New England Mind." In this course we will consider these perspectives and that mind. Looking at seventeenth through twentieth century works, we will follow certain New England habits as they mutate over time and across genres: novels, poems, essays, and even a few sermons. Thus, for instance, we will be interested in how orthodox habits of religious introspection can yield, on the one hand, Dickinson's cool definitions of white-hot inner states and, at the same time, various haunted forms of the provincial Gothic. We will be interested in a tradition of New Englanders bearing witness to injustice, particularly racial injustice, and in the complicated figure of the moral celebrity: Stowe, Thoreau, Robert Lowell. We will also be interested in various New England styles of regarding and charting nature--in New England surveys and New England chores, in herb gatherers and sail riggers and maps and orchards; in short, in the development in New England of what Lawrence Buell calls "environmental imagination."