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19th-Century American Literary Radicals

ENGL 253.301
instructor(s):
TR 1:30-3:00
fulfills requirements:
Sector 5: 19th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Pre-1900 Seminar Requirement of the Standard Major

Many types of appeared radical in the 19th century in the United States:  some texts were politically extreme, some stylistically innovative and others violated literary standards of taste.  Many texts did all three.  This class will investigate the connection between innovations in style and content as well as messages that demanded social change.  To do so, we will look at innovators such as Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson and Henry James and place them into the political, social and literary context of political radicals like Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Edward Bellamy as well as many more sensationalist radicals including George Lippard, Martin Delany and Victoria Woodhull.  As we do so, we will examine the ways that the 19th Century, American authors searched for a way to make literature "American" -- in some way different from literature in the "old world" -- while at the same time they confronted the failure of the American revolutionary war to reach the full promise of equality and liberty many assumed independence would usher in.  Students will write weekly response papers, two short papers that will develop into a semester-long research project.