Syllabus #3

English 381-31: American Renaissance 1830-1865
Fall 1991

Professor John Getz
Xavier University

Dr. Getz writes:

"Although I had earlier used Volume II of the Heath Anthology in my American Realism course, last fall was the first time I used Volume I in American Renaissance.

As in the realism class, response to the Heath last fall was overwhelmingly favorable. Students, especially those who had studied American literature before, welcomed the opportunity to read works by women and minorities along with canonical texts. When students were asked to create their own canons for the final project (instead of a final exam), three of the most popular choices were Douglass's Narrative of the Life of an American Slave, Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, and the Inuit poetry. Future teachers in the class were among the most interested in such alternative texts. The few supporters of the old canon also had a place in the course since I consistently presented the canon question as an open one, which the students would contribute to resolving throughout their reading lives."

To study writing from the period sometimes known as the American Renaissance, considered by many to be the coming of age of American literature. We will examine the origins and ponder the validity of the term "American Renaissance" and other issues relating to the formation and interpretation of the literary canon of this period. Essays, autobiographies, short stories, novels, and poems of this era will be studied for their formal qualities in interaction with the literature, history, and culture, of their time and ours.

Experimental and controversial. Our text is The Heath Anthology of American Literature, which elicited strong positive and negative responses when it was published last year. This anthology is the first one thoroughly committed to opening the American literary canon by region, race, class, and gender. It allows us to read established writers such as Emerson, Poe, and Hawthorne alongside a range of women and minority authors never before available. We'll consider how all these authors illuminate each other and how they make and respond to this fascinating period in which the United States grew dramatically while moving inexorably toward the Civil War. Opportunities for men and women writers from a range of ethnic groups grew with the population and literacy. The first few weeks we will study authors who focus directly on the major issues of the time: westward expansion and treatment of Indians and Hispanics in those areas, urbanization and industrialization of the Northeast (fueled especially by German and Irish immigrants), women's rights, and, of course, the issue that finally split the country: slavery. The remainder of the semester we will study canonical authors in the context of these voices and issues.

Premise for consideration:
That literature is written and read in history, not in a vacuum, and that aesthetic concerns cannot be separated from political and social issues. Accordingly, as we read texts, we remake them, so that our responses themselves become texts for us to study.

Classes will follow a discussion format, sometimes involving group work. Students should come to class prepared for thoughtful discussion of the readings. In-class writing and reaction papers will be one measure of this preparation, but I will also feel free to call on you even if you don't volunteer to answer.

Fri., Sept. 6:
Songs and Ballads, 2671-91 William Cullen Bryant, "To a Waterfowl," 2696-97 "To Cole, the Painter, Departing for Europe," 2697-98 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "A Psalm of Life" 2704-5

Mon., Sept. 9:
Introduction to Early Nineteenth Century, 1180-1213 Westward Expansion/The Frontier: James Fenimore Cooper, selections, 1280-1307 Catharine Maria Sedgwick, from Hope Leslie, 1308-22 Humor of the Old Southwest, 1427-43 Caroline Kirkland, from A New Home- Who'll Follow?, 2286-2307 Perspectives of Peoples Already in the New Territories: Native American, 1214-24, 1451-66, 1769-72, 1777-78, 2641-71 Hispanic, 1228-38, 1952-1964

Mon., Sept. 16:
Slavery and Abolition: 1825-71 William Lloyd Garrison, 1792-1795 Lydia Maria Child, 1795-1812

Fri., Sept. 20:
Slave Narrative: Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, 1637-1704 "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?" 1704-1723

Mon., Sept. 23:
Slavery and the Novel: Harriet Beecher Stowe, from Uncle Tom's Cabin and other selections, 2307

Fri., Sept. 25:
Slave Narrative: Harriet Jacobs, from Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, 1723-1751

Mon., Sept. 30:
*First essay due for undergrads
Industrialization in the Northeast;
Walt Whitman, "To a Locomotive in Winter," 2821 Sarah Grimke, 1886-1893 Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 1893-99 Fanny Fern, 1899-1908 Herman Melville, "The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids," 2447-2464 Sojourner Truth, 1908-1915 Stowe, 2377-2393

Fri., Oct., 4:
Transcendentalism: Ralph Waldo Emerson Nature, 1467-98 "The American Scholar," 1499-1511

Mon., Oct. 7:
Emerson, "Self-Reliance," 1511-28 "The Poet," 1536-51 "Experience," 1551-67 "Hamatreya," 1573-74 "Days," 1579

Fri., Oct. 9:
Transcendentalism: Margaret Fuller, 1580-1637, especially from Woman in the Nineteenth Century

Mon., Oct. 14:
Transcendentalism: Henry David Thoreau "Resistance to Civil Government," 1964-1981 "A Plea for Captain John Brown," 2016

Mon., Oct. 21:
Thoreau, from Walden. 1981-2016

Fri., Oct. 23:
Mid-Term Exam

Mon, Oct. 28:
Gothic Romance: Edgar Allan Poe Review of Hawthorne's Twice-Told Tales, 1412-17 "Ms. Found in a Bottle," 1322-32 "Ligeia," 1333-44 "The Fall of the House of Usher," 1344-57 "Eleanora." 1357-64

Fri., Nov. 1:
Poe,"The Purloined Letter," 1372-85 "The Cask of Amontillado," 1386-91 "Sonnet-To Science," 1391 "Israfel," 1395-96 "The Raven," 1403-1406 "The Philosophy of Composition," 1417-1425 "Ulalume," 1406-9 "Annabel Lee," 1410-1411

Mon., Nov. 4:
*Second undergrad essay due
The American Romance Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, 2132-2272

Fri., Nov. 8:
Scarlet Letter continued
Hawthorne, other selections, 2273-85

Mon., Nov. 11:
The American Romance-Herman Melville "Hawthorne and His Mosses" Moby-Dick

Fri., Nov. 15:

Mon., Nov. 18:

Fri., Nov. 22:

Mon. Nov. 25:
*3rd undergrad essay due
*Grad research-backed essay due

Open Form Poetry: Walt Whitman 1855 Preface to Leaves of Grass, 2709-27 "Song of Myself," 2727-78 "The Sleepers," 2778-86

Mon., Dec. 2:
Whitman, "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking," 2793-98 from Drum-Taps, 2804-10

Fri, Dec. 6:
"When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard article or chapter to your paper. Bloom'd," 2810-17 Closed Form Poetry: Emily Dickinson, 2838-75

Dec. 9:
Dickinson, 2875-2921

Fri., Dec. 13:
Toward Realism Alice Cary, "Uncle Christopher," 2596- 2613 Elizabeth Stoddard, "The Prescription," 2614-28

Wed., Dec. 18:
Final Exam/Project 8:30- or issue. 10:20 in this classroom

Essay Topics:
1. Identify and analyze key differences between two of these anti-slavery works: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Uncle Tom's Cabin, and Incidents in the Life Of a Slave Girl. In your analysis explain whether those differences strenghten or weaken the works you discuss. You are encouraged to use other anti-slavery works on our reading list as reference points or perspectives for your contrast.

2. Choose two of the folowing authors and show how a work in our text by one author sheds light on two works in out text by the other: Emerson, Fuller, Thoreau, Poe. You might highlight comparisons, contrasts, or both. If you suggest that one author influenced the other, make careful use of the dates their works were written and published.

3. Choose either Scarlet Letter or Moby-Dick for a paper that will have several sections:
a. Write a reaction to some continuing aspect of the book (e.g. a conflict, character, image, theme not restricted to one or two chapters or incidents). Avoid plot summary. The more focus this section has, the better your paper is likely to be.
b. Read a chapter from a critical book or an article on your novel that deals with the topic you choose in a. The article or chapter must have been published in the last ten years and be at least eight pages long. React to this article. Don't summarize; critique/evaluate. Attach a photocopy of your article or chapter to your paper.
c. Do some historical research and explain how it illuminates the book. Again, stay as close as possible to the topic you identified in a. You might look into how the Puritans punished adulteresses or goverened their congregations or what ethnic groups made up a typical New England whaling crew in Melville's day and how they got along. Look for ways your author may have altered the real situation and speculate about why or, if he's accurated, why he might have been drawn to that setting or issue. Name your source and attach a photocopy of it.
d. Present your current reaction to your topic in a., after having reflected on it for some time and gone through steps b. and c. Has your view of the character, theme, etc., changed during this process?

Final Project:
To be prepared for oral and written presentation during final exam period. Identify and justify your selections from works on our reading list for:
1. One noncanonical author or text that should be included in future versions of this course.
2. One canonical author or text that should be included.
3. One canonical author or text that could be omitted to make room for others.

If you can't justify an author or text for one of the categories, add a second author or text to one of the others and justify it. In your justification, be explicit about your criteria for inclusion or exclusion.

About five pages if typed.

Contents, No. VIII