English C136

Topics in American Studies: Boys and Girls in the Era of Mark Twain and Henry James


Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2012 Hutson, Richard
Hutson, Richard
TTh 3:30-5 56 Barrows

Book List

Alcott, Louisa May: Little Women; Aldrich, Thomas: The Story of a Bad Boy; Alger, Horatio: Ragged Dick; James, Henry: The Turn of the Screw and Other Short Novels; James, Henry: What Maisie Knew; Twain, Mark: Pudd'nhead Wilson; Twain, Mark: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; Wiggin, Kate : Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm

Other Readings and Media

I plan to screen a few films of the pre-World War I era.

Description

Historians often define the era after the Civil War and especially from 1880 to ca. 1915 as the “era of the child.”  Children became the heroes of popular  culture as well as major subjects for painters and intellectuals and cultural observers. This is a period in which ordinary citizens felt that an economic and social revolution was taking place with the rise of industrial capitalism and urban transformations, creating a crisis of major cultural/political/economic rapid change.  Such a historical trauma seemed to demand difficult and painful reconsiderations and redefinitions. Just as there developed an issue of defining masculinity and femininity in the period, there  developed a problem about children and adolescents. Questions about boys and girls might be not only about gender definitions but also about the development of an ethical consciousness, what might be called everyday ethical coping.  Children seemed to represent the last vestige of a world that was being lost.  In the aftermath of the elevation of the importance of children in the Romantic era earlier in the century, in the U.S.,  the narratives of boys and girls gave artists the opportunity to observe, scrutinize, critique, and entertain.  There will be two papers and a final exam.

This course is cross-listed with American Studies C111E.

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