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Topics in 19th Century Literature

ENGL 283.301
instructor(s):
W 2-5

From its inception, writers have imagined the United States as a nation through not only literature, law and science but also images. This course explores the intersection of visual art and literature in the nineteenth century United States. We will consider authors who present an American landscape, an American nation and its American citizens through appeals to sight, to art and to aesthetic ideals of the beautiful, sublime and picturesque. How did these appeals to vision address the social and political turmoil of the nineteenth century? We will consider how writers blended science and art together to illustrate the "self-evident" identity of the American individual. Through literature we will consider both the social history of images about America -- from landscape paintings and panoramas to phantasmagorias and film -- as well as the spaces in which images reached audiences -- novels, museums, world fairs and eventually movie houses.

Authors will include: Thomas Jefferson, de Crevecoeur, Benjamin Franklin, E. A. Poe, Washington Irving, R. W. Emerson, H. D. Thoreau, Louis Agassiz, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Francis Parkman, Walt Whitman, Henry James, Constance Fenimore Woolson, Helen Hunt Jackson, Charles Chestnut, and Willa Cather. We will also consider secondary critical and historical works. Requirements: active participation in class discussion, short response papers, two essays, a mid-term and final.