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Race, Place and the Nineteenth-Century American Novel

ENGL 055.601
T 6-9

In the preface to The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne writes that "Human nature will not flourish, any more than a potato, if it be planted and replanted, for too long a series of generations, in the same worn-out soil." As much a justification for westward migration and the displacement of Native Americans as it is an apology for the piece of (fictional) local history this native of Salem, Massachusetts is about to relate, Hawthorne's comment offers a useful lens through which to read the nineteenth-century American novel more generally. This course will consider the American novel as an effort to put into narrative form the twin fascinations with new places and peoples on the one hand, and the horrors of past and present racial violence on the other. In addition to the Scarlet Letter, we'll read novels built on various localisms including the frontier, the south, and Hawthorne's own fraught site of Puritan New England. Texts will likely include: Charles Chesnutt, The Marrow of Tradition; James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans; Frances E. W. Harper, Iola Leroy; Caroline Kirkland, A New Home, Who'll Follow?; Herman Melville, Benito Cereno; Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Hope Leslie; Harriet Beecher Stowe, Dred; Frank Webb, The Garies and their Friends. Assignments will include two essays and occasional response papers.