English 246J

Graduate Proseminar: American Literature, 1855-1900

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2008 McQuade, Donald
McQuade, Donald
TTh. 2-3:30 103 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

P. T. Barnum, The Colossal P. T. Barnum Reader; Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward; Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage; Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie; William James, The Writings of William James: A Comprehensive Edition; Frederick Winslow Taylor, Principles of Scientific Management; Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court; and Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth. Short fiction, essays, and contextual material will be drawn from such writers as Henry Adams, John Dewey, W. E. B. DuBois, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, William Dean Howells, Alice James, Henry James, Jack London, Bernarr McFadden, Herman Melville, John Muir, Frank Norris, Charles Sanders Pierce, Jacob Riis, Theodore Roosevelt, Josiah Royce, George Santayana, Sui Sin Far, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Gertrude Stein, W. G. Sumner, Thorstein Veblen, Lester Frank Ward, and Anzia Yezierska, along with selected patent medicine and other late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century advertisements as well as other expressions of popular culture.


"We will read widely in prose from the mid-nineteenth through the early-twentieth century, with particular attention to the ways in which pragmatism functioned as a seam for American literature and popular culture. We will begin - and - end the course by considering William James's essay, ""What Pragmatism Means"" (1907) as an articulation of an American cultural temperament rather than as an epistemology-centered philosophy. We will explore how the pragmatists' interest in consequences rather than propositions, provocation rather than instruction, invention rather than tradition, and personality rather than community, offered a set of interpretations, a cultural commentary, that sought to explain America to itself - during a period in which public discourse seemed caught in the whirlwinds of ideological polemics as well as of class, racial, and gender conflicts."

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