English R1A

Reading & Composition: American Exposures

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
11 Spring 2012 Clinton, Daniel Patrick
TTh 12:30-2 222 Wheeler

Book List

Barnum, P.T.: The Life of P.T. Barnum, Written by Himself; Fern, Fanny: Ruth Hall; Franklin, Benjamin: The Autobiography and Other Writings; Jacobs, Harriet: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl; Whitman, Walt: Leaves of Grass


Dear reader, this is a course that thinks about Facebook while it is pretending to contemplate American literary history. Perhaps you can identify. This course worries that maintaining a fascinating individual identity comes with far too much baggage. It fears that even private thoughts are traceable to public institutions, but secretly believes that’s only true for other people. It wants to tell you all about itself, but worries about appearing self-serving in front of all these people…Or, to put it another way, this class will examine a series of autobiographical texts in order to frame a brief and incomplete history of social networking in antebellum America, during the historical emergence of modern mass culture. Each of the authors we will read thinks very carefully about the relationship of individual life to social customs, artistic codes, and systems of information. These authors do not merely record their lives, but turn to self-description as a means of deciphering the world and acting within it.

Throughout the semester, you will be working to find and hone your own critical voice. You’ll learn how to pose interesting and productive questions about the works we read – and how to shape those questions into an effective argument.  We will be writing a short diagnostic essay and three progressively longer papers. In addition, students will revise at least two papers.

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