American Literary Radicals of the 19th Century
Many types of literature 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, Victoria Woodhull and Harriet Jacobs as well as more sensationalist radicals (and thrilling Philadelphians) such as George Lippard. 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.