Keith M Feldman
Conflicting visions of the national destiny and the individual identity in the early years of America's nationhood. Works by Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, and such other writers as Poe, Cooper, Irving, Whitman, Dickinson, and Douglass.
“To articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize it ‘the way it really was.’ It means to seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger.” – Walter Benjamin
This course takes what Michael Rogin has called the “American 1848” as a critical historical flashpoint through which to understand the formation of and various contestations around U.S. imperial culture. Students will develop a worldly and comparative reading practice to address, interpret, and displace some of the central texts and terms of “American Exceptionalism.” What cultural formations can we seize upon when we read the literature of the early American nation for the anarchic in the resolutely ordered, the hemispheric in the stubbornly local, the colonial in the doggedly liberal? Primary readings may include texts by: Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Harriet Jacobs, Frederick Douglass, Lydia Maria Child, Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, Sojourner Truth, John R. Ridge/Yellow Bird, Bayard Taylor, Chief Seattle, and Margaret Fuller among others. Secondary readings will be drawn from a range of contemporary scholars on race, gender, class, and nation.
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