Recent work in American studies has recognized that the topics of kinship and sexuality cannot be separated from the US history as a settler society that permitted slavery. This seminar, which will focus on 19th- and early 20th-century writing, will examine three areas of concern: 1) literature and American indigeneity; 2) the legal “kinlessness” of African diasporic subjects as it shaped the development of American novels, and 3) the role of letters in articulating new kinds of sexual subjectivity. We will focus mostly but not exclusively on US literature.
How did the history of the United States as a settler society in close contact with Native Nations shape the way writers depicted kinship? How did the legal “kinlessness” of African diasporic subjects shape the development of American novels? How did the emergence of regionalism and urban fiction matter for the way fiction articulated ways of dwelling and desiring? We will pursue these and other questions to investigate the ways that novels articulate forms of biopolitics, social renewal and belonging.
Primary texts may include: Cooper, Last of the Mohicans, Sedgwick, Hope Leslie, Hawthorne, short stories; Victor Séjour, “The Mulatto”; William Wells Brown, Clotel, Avellaneda, Sab, Chesnutt, Marrow of Tradition, Ruiz de Burton, The Squatter and the Don, Wakefield, Six Weeks in the Sioux Teepees, Sui Sin Far, Mrs. Spring Fragrance, Jewett, Country of Pointed Firs, Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom. Theoretical texts may include Foucault, Spillers, Berlant, Butler, Rifkin, Puar, and Povinelli. Students will have the option to write research paper (15-pages), an annotated bibliography, or an archival project.