English 246J

Graduate Pro-seminar: The Literature of Civil War and Reconstruction

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2020 Otter, Samuel
W 3-6

Book List

Alcott, Louisa May: Hospital Sketches; Barrett, Faith: Words for the Hour”: A New Anthology of American Civil War Poetry; Chesnut, Mary: Mary Chesnut’s Diary; Chesnutt, Charles: Conjure Stories; Crane, Stephen: The Red Badge of Courage; De Forest, John W.: Miss Ravenel’s Conversion from Secession to Loyalty; Foster, Frances Smith: “A Brighter Coming Day”: A Frances Ellen Watkins Harper Reader; Griggs, Sutton: Imperium in Imperio; Higginson, Thomas Wentworth: Army Life in a Black Regiment; Hopkins, Pauline: Contending Forces; Melville, Herman: Battle-Pieces; Tourgée, Albion W.: A Fool’s Errand; Twain, Mark: Pudd’nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins; Whitman, Walt: Democratic Vistas; Whitman, Walt: Drum-Taps

Other Readings and Media

Course reader containing works by W. E. B. Du Bois, Emily Dickinson, Frederick Douglass, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Abraham Lincoln


We will read literature produced in the United States in the second half of the nineteenth century that engages issues having to do with the Civil War and Reconstruction and its aftermath—issues that reverberate in the present. Taking up matters of literature, politics, race, aesthetics, and temporality, we will consider works produced by a range of writers in various genres, including fiction, autobiography, essays, and poetry. We will attend to recent critical developments, especially the effort to come to terms with the voluminous literature about a War that for many years had been construed as “unwritten” and the recent interest in the cultures of Reconstruction. Articulating the relationships between “canonical” and “recovered” texts and between literature and war, social change, and retrenchment inevitably will lead us to questions about literary value, periodization, and literary history. Course requirements include two 8-10 page essays (linked or separate) and one or two oral presentations.  

Back to Semester List