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Topics in 19th Century American Authors

ENGL 383.301
instructor(s):
TR 12-1:30

This course will examine some of the relations between American literature and American law. We tend to think of the novel as a genre of private experience and to view the law as a discourse of public regulation. In nineteenth-century America, however, these two domains each poached rather dramatically on one another's territory. Law increasingly became a discourse about human subjectivity (interior matters such as consent, individual will, gender identity, and racial feeling), and novels aspired to regulate social conflicts (slavery, citizenship, marriage and divorce, legal justice). We will examine ways that literary narratives articulated and challenged questions of American law and order. Authors will probably include Hawthorne, Melville, Stowe, James, Chesnutt, Chopin, and DuBois. We will also read some legal history and case law but the primary focus of the course will be on literary works and the distinctive linguistic twists and turns they give to legal and ideological abstractions. Requirements: two papers, other informal writing assignments, and lively class participation.