English 246J

Graduate Pro-seminar: American Literature, 1855 to 1900

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2005 Best, Stephen M.
Best, Stephen
TTh 11-12:30 224 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Brown, W.: Clotel; Chesnutt, C: The Marrow of Tradition; Douglass, F. 1845 Narrative; Hawthorne, N.: The Scarlet Letter; Jacobs, H. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl; James, H.: The Golden Bowl; Norris, F. McTeague; Stowe, H.: Uncle Tom's Cabin; Twain, M. Pudd'nhead Wilson. Short fiction, essays, and contextual material will be drawn from such writers as Henry Adams, Henry Ward Beecher, William Jennings Bryan, George Washington Cable, John C. Calhoun, Lydia Maria Child, John Dewey, W. E. B. DuBois, Ralph Waldo Emerson, George Fitzhugh, William Lloyd Garrison, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Henry Grady, Nicholas St. John Green, Oliver Wendell Holmes (Sr. and Jr.), William James, Francis Lieber, Abraham Lincoln, Karl Marx, Herman Melville, S. Weir Mitchell, Charles Sanders Pierce, Josiah Royce, Georg Simmel, Joseph Story, Henry David Thoreau, Albion Tourg�e, Mark Twain, Booker T. Washington and Daniel Webster.


"In his 1987 ""Bicentennial Speech"" Justice Thurgood Marshall scandalized his audience (and much of the nation) when he proposed that ""[w]hile the Union survived the civil war, the Constitution did not""; the latter, he added, had been superceded by the Fourteenth Amendment--""a new, more promising basis for justice and equality."" This course will explore American prose fiction, autobiography, popular culture, political and literary essays from around the time of the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law (1850) to the end of the nineteenth century, keeping Justice Marshall's rebirth of the nation ever present to mind. We will try to draw connections between some late stages in the debate over slavery and the rise of antiestablishment, antifoundational, and skeptical styles of thought. The course will emphasize, as a literary and theoretical matter, the emergent emphasis in American letters on problems of interpretation and reference--on the interpretive postures of ""positivism"" and ""pragmatism"" as well as the literary styles of romance and realism. While the course will address some of the standard concerns of this period in American thought (i.e., the relation between intention (""original intent"") and institutions, rhetoric and consent, causation and history), it will also take up some of the terms that animate more recent scholarship on the American state (i.e., the genealogy of state form; the question of sovereignty; secularization and belief). We will be particularly concerned with the conception of ""nation"" as a hermeneutic - with a literature and criticism focused on interpretation (as opposed to either custom or sovereignty) as the foundation of both national institutions and national identity."

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