ENG 322: Nineteenth-Century American Literature

Course Objectives

The authors we will read this semester lived in a century full of optimism and despair, of unbounded possibilities and intractable problems.  The new nation of America was a land of freedom and opportunity for people from all different parts of the Old World, and yet it was a place of slavery and oppression.  America was a new Eden, nature’s nation, where people in contact with the earth would be loosed from centuries of cultural baggage and set free to worship God and pursue true happiness.  Or was it?  Each of these authors addresses questions at the core of the American experiment: What is freedom?  What are we free for?  Over the course of this semester, we’ll explore the way various authors attempted to form democratic readers, readers free to participate in religious, political, and scientific interpretations of authoritative texts.

Ideally, as we read through these texts, we will accomplish three related goals: provide you with a historical and cultural framework through which to understand the particular, nineteenth-century American texts we read together; train you to read and interpret these texts; and teach you to make careful arguments about these texts. At the end of this course, you should have a historical paradigm, a set of analytical tools, and the rhetorical sophistication to read, analyze, and think about whatever literary works you encounter in the future.  Along the way, you just might discover why these skills are important, and why God used the forms of literature, stories and language, to tell us about himself.

In order to accomplish these objectives, you will need to carefully read the assigned reading before each class and turn in well-written reflection writings.  This should help you come to class prepared to discuss the text.  Your reflection writings and our class discussions should prepare you to craft a creative, insightful final project.

Course Documents

Please upload your pre-class reflections to the appropriate folder here. In order to upload files, you’ll need to select “Join folder to receive updates” on the right side of the screen. You can also find all of the assigned articles in this folder.

Grades

Texts

  • The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. ISBN: 9780393979534
  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, by Frederick Douglass.  ISBN: 9780345478238
  • Summer on the Lakes, by Margaret Fuller ISBN: 9780252061646
  • Walden, by Henry David Thoreau.  ISBN: 9780140390445
  • Moby Dick, by Herman Melville. ISBN: 9781586174163
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, by Mark Twain. ISBN: 9780140430646
  • Nineteenth-Century American Poetry. ISBN: 9780140435870

Course Calendar

Course meets MWF 8:55-9:55 in SDH 212. This schedule is subject to change.

Week 1

  • Friday 9/8: Introduction

Week 2

Week 3

  • Monday 9/18: Fuller 1-43; “Thanatopsis,” 10
  • Wednesday 9/20: Fuller 44-67; “77,” 354; “95,” 354
  • Friday 9/22: No Class

Week 4

Week 5

  • Monday 10/2: Hawthorne 36-67 (ch. 1-6); “The Spirit,” 128
  • Wednesday 10/4: Hawthorne 68-97 (ch. 7-11); “Overruled,” 92
  • Friday 10/6: No Class 

Week 6

  • Monday 10/9: Hawthorne 98-132 (ch. 12-18); “The Poet,” 26; Bell, Millicent. “The Obliquity of Signs: The Scarlet Letter.” The Scarlet Letter, ed. Leland Person. 451-463.
  • Wednesday 10/11: Hawthorne 132-166 (ch. 19-24); “Science and Poetry,” 163
  • Friday 10/13: Midterm

Week 7

Week 8

  • Monday 10/23: Thoreau 144-199; “Blight” 35
  • Wednesday 10/25: Thoreau 200-256 (through “Baker Farm”); “Some Keep the Sabbath
  • Friday 10/27: Thoreau 257-302 (through “House-Warming”); “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” 225

Week 9

Week 10

  • Monday 11/6: Melville ch. 16-25; “Misgivings,” 266
  • Wednesday 11/8: Melville chs. 26-36 (skip 32); “Immolated,” 265; Alexander, Robert. “Apocalyptic Readings of Moby-Dick: What Ishmael Returns to Tell Us.” Moby-Dick Mary R. Reichardt. 661-678.
  • Friday 11/10: Melville chs. 37-47; “Richard Cory,” 435

Week 11

Week 12

  • Monday 11/20: Discuss papers and catch up
  • Wednesday 11/22: no class – Thanksgiving break
  • Friday 11/24: no class – Thanksgiving break

Week 13

  • Monday 11/27: Melville chs. 111-127
  • Wednesday 11/29: Melville chs. 128-Epilogue; “Tartarus,” 124
  • Friday 12/1:  Twain 24-97 (chs. 1-9); “49,” 353; “622,” 372; “915,” 385; “1433,” 392; Poetry essay due

Week 14

Week 15

  • Monday 12/11: Twain 333-410 (chs. 36-end)

Friday 12/15: Final Exam 1:00-3:00; Final essay due