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Topics in Literature & Society

ENGL 293.301
instructor(s):
TR 10:30-12

This course focuses on the relationship between the novelistic form, representations of history, and nation-formation in nineteenth-century American literature. We will discuss the development of the novel in America and analyze a variety of forms popular at different times during the nineteenth century, including gothic, Romance, sentimental, realist, and naturalist novels. Why did so many authors turn to the novel to imagine an emerging national identity? How do these writers envision America's history as part of the project of creating the present?

We will discuss key moments in literary history, such as: antebellum American Renaissance efforts to establish a national literature as a young nation tried to define itself; later sectionalist novels that debated the very possibility of nation; postbellum realist novels that grappled with changing definitions of America and its citizens during a period of rapid social change. Authors studied may include Hawthorne, Melville, Stowe, Brown, Twain, Dreiser, Chopin, Howells, Chestnutt. We will conclude the course by looking at Toni Morrison's novel _Beloved_ , bringing our concerns up to the present day by looking at how a recent novel imagines the nineteenth century itself as foundational American history. Course requirements include lively participation in class discussions, several brief response papers, and a longer final essay.