Narrating the Republic
This course examines the function of narrative in helping Americans embrace a national liberal consensus in the nineteenth century, a consensus based, not on a republican ideal of rational debate, but on shared sentiments of the kind interpolated by mass reading culture. This sounds more complicated than it is. Beginning with readings by Benjamin Franklin and Hannah Foster, we will identify how reading helped Americans imagine and organize themselves as a democratic society. Short essays by Benedict Anderson and Jurgen Habermas will provide the theoretical basis for discussion. In the second part of the course, we will read a variety of nineteenth-century narratives forms, including fiction, slave memoirs, and travel books.