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19th Century American Literary Radicals

ENGL 2052.301
MW 1:45-3:14pm


Many types of texts 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, Henry James, and Gertrude Stein and place them into the political, social, and literary context of political radicals like Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Edward Bellamy as well as many more sensationalist radicals including George Lippard, Sutton Griggs, and Victoria Woodhull. 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 would result from US independence.


English Major Requirements
  • Literature Seminar pre-1900 (AEB9)
  • Sector 5 19th Century (AE19)
English Concentration Attributes
College Attributes