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19th Century American Literature

ENGL 053.001
instructor(s):
MWF 12

Over the course of the nineteenth-century, American literature developed from a romantic engagement with nature to a naturalism of failed aspirations and broken ideals. We will follow this trajectory through texts that correspond with the social and historical developments of the era. Beginning at the century’s opening, we will take up the writings of the new nation, texts that in the wake of the Revolution sought to shape the identity of the United States. From the middle of the century we will read a set of classic American authors alongside some of their now forgotten contemporaries, taking stock of the influence nationalism, reform movements (especially anti-slavery), and westward expansion exerted on the literary sphere. Our readings from the latter half of the century will reflect and interpret the events of the Civil War and Reconstruction, the nation’s changing demographics, and imperialism. Authors may include Washington Irving, Lydia Sigourney, Edgar Allan Poe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Herman Melville, Frederick Douglass, Emily Dickinson, Henry James, Mark Twain, and Charles Chesnutt. Requirements will include three short essays, a final exam, careful reading, and lively participation in course discussions.