The term “American Renaissance” is often used to describe a period of American literature written between the 1820s and the Civil War. Critics have described the writers of this period as outsiders who both developed a uniquely American literary style and questioned stifling convention at every turn. In this class, we will bring these forms of independence under close examination, focus on major movements within the “American Renaissance,” and investigate changing notions of democracy, gender, and racial identity. Among other works, we will read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Victor Sejour’s “The Mulatto,” poems by Emily Dickinson, and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.