Anne E Raine
A literary form in which America has found its distinctively American expression. Selected readings among important novelists from the beginnings until 1900, including Cooper, Hawthorne, Melville, Twain, Chopin, James, and Wharton.
Stories of Experience: Work, Writing and Selfhood This course explores the relationship between work, writing, and selfhood in nineteenth-century American literature, focusing on the increasingly fraught dichotomy between mental and manual labor in an industrializing society. We will gain a working familiarity with this important theme through an examination of literary texts in a variety of genres: the nature essay, the romance, sentimental fiction, and the naturalist novel. Theoretical and historical contexts for our inquiry will include writings by John Locke, Karl Marx, Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, Thomas Jefferson, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, and some historical and cultural texts. Questions we'll consider: How do nineteenth-century writers conceptualize the relationship between writing and other forms of work (agrarian, industrial, domestic)? What relationships to oneself, and to the material and social worlds, do these various forms of mental and physical work enable or restrict? How and why do nineteenth-century writers resurrect, reinvent, or reject the agrarian ideals of eighteenth-century writers like Crèvecoeur and Jefferson? How do experiences of work give rise to selfhood, and/or how do experiences of selfhood constitute a form of resistance to work? How can these nineteenth-century texts inform our thinking about our own work, scholarly and otherwise, in a post-industrial world?
Texts: Rebecca Harding Davis, Life in the Iron-Mills; Henry David Thoreau, Walden; Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Blithesdale Romance; Louisa May Alcott, Work: A Story of Experience; Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie; photocopied course packet.
This is a discussion-based seminar. Students should come prepared to approach the work of the course with vigor and curiosity. Active participation, both physical and mental, is required.
Class Assignments and Grading
Expect a substantial amount of reading; assignments will include several short reading responses, one short and one long essay, one group presentation, and a final exam.