English R1B

Reading and Composition: Lost Literature: Recovering and (Re)discovering Hidden Texts of the Nineteenth Century

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
4 Spring 2015 Sirianni, Lucy
MWF 12-1 225 Wheeler

Book List

Alcott, Louisa May: A Long Fatal Love Chase; Bennett , Paula Bernat: Nineteenth-Century American Women Poets: An Anthology; Jacobs, Harriet: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Other Readings and Media

A course reader containing primary texts by Lydia Maria Child, Rebecca Harding Davis, Emily Dickinson, Phillis Wheatley, Constance Fenimore Woolson, and others, as well as a selection of critical readings.


This course takes as its starting point the novel idea that academic writing is more than the frantic attempt to submit a paper on time.  In it, we will both think about and practice literary criticism as a dynamic process of discovery.  In order to explore this notion of discovery, we'll consider the phenomenon of literary recovery.  We will look, that is, at a number of texts that have long been ignored by literary scholars but that are now coming to be seen as deserving of critical attention.  Some of these texts were at first wildly popular, out-selling the works we read and remember today only to be relegated to obscurity in later eras.  Others were never allowed the chance to be appraised at all as they languished unread in attics and private collections before finding their way into the hands of appreciative scholars.  Some have been denigrated, some have been suppressed, and many contain a perceived element of danger, troubling the status quo in ways that have kept them from attaining an uncontested place in the so-called "canon" of universally admired literary works.  Though we will begin with a group of late eighteenth-century texts and end with a recent murder mystery that dramatizes the pleasures and perils of recovery-based literary research, our primary focus will be on the American nineteenth century, a period in which both forgotten bestsellers and newly-found manuscripts abound.  We will read works by marginalized and silenced figures ranging from early feminists to fugitive slaves, and as we do so, we will consider, with the help of leading critics, the aesthetic and political forces that led them to be first overlooked and subsequently (re)discovered.

As we consider this array of texts and the scholars who have resuscitated their critical reputations, students, too, will engage in exciting critical projects.  The course is designed to help you prepare for future writing and research at Berkeley and beyond, so over the course of the semester, you will outline, draft, workshop, write, and rewrite a series of papers, refining along the way your ability to read meticulously and write persuasively.  Your work will culminate in the writing of a substantial research paper based on the issues central to the course as they relate to your own interests.


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