Professor Karen Weyler
English 564-01: American Prose Writers to 1900
Office: McIver 109
Office hours: Tuesdays
Alcott, Louisa May. Work. Penguin.
Davis, Rebecca Harding. Life in the Iron Mills. Bedford/St. Martin's.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Prose and Poetry. Norton.
Fern, Fanny. Ruth Hall. Penguin.
Fuller, Margaret. Woman in the Nineteenth Century. Norton.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Blithedale Romance. Bedford/St. Martin's.
Jacobs, Harriet. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Norton.
Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom's Cabin. Norton.
Thoreau, Henry David. Walden and Resistance to Civil Government. Norton.
Wilson, Harriet. Our Nig. Vintage.
Additional readings will be placed on reserve.
English 564 is a graduate-level course in American literature for students seeking the M.A., M.F.A., M.Ed., and Ph.D. degrees; it is also open to advanced undergraduates with permission of the instructor or director of graduate studies.
Our objective in English 564 is to acquaint you with important prose by American writers before 1900. In this particular course, we're going to look at some of the key issues of nineteenth-century American cultureindividualism, and more specifically self-culture, and the relationship of individualism and self-culture to labor, both intellectual and physical. How are the tenets of individualism complicated, challenged, or undone by the necessity of work? by gender? by race? by slavery? by citizenship status? Further, what roles do affect, sentimentality, and sympathy play in self-culture?
We'll begin our class by reading several important essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson, the apostle of the nineteenth-century self-culture movement. From there, we'll consider how writers both canonical and non-canonical wrestle with these issues.
Student Learning Goals
By the end of the semester, students will be able to write and speak clearly, coherently, and insightfully about the challenges that labor, gender, race, and class presented to the discourses of individualism and self-culture in nineteenth-century America. Students will also be familiar with some of the major critical work in nineteenth-century studies.
Course Requirements and Evaluation for Undergraduate Students
Course Requirements and Evaluation for Graduate Students
Office Hours and Conferences
At the beginning of the semester, I will schedule brief (10 minute) introductory conferences in my office so that we will have a chance to meet and speak individually. You are also welcome to visit my office at any point during the semester or to schedule an appointment outside of my usual office hours in order to discuss reading assignments, papers, etc.
Academic Integrity Policy
I expect every student to abide by the principles of the Academic Integrity Policy, which appears in the Student Handbook. Students will need to sign the Academic Integrity Pledge on all major work. In addition, you must properly document any use of another's words, ideas, or research; unacknowledged use of someone else's thoughts is plagiarism. Please use MLA style documentation to document any sources used in written work. Work that is not properly documented will receive a zero; further penalties may be assessed according to the criteria established under the Academic Integrity Policy. If you have questions concerning documentation, please consult me.
I expect students to attend class and arrive on time, unless due to unavoidable events such as illness or death in the family. Since this is a discussion class, your presence is important to the success of the class as a whole. I require students to attend at least 75% of the scheduled class meetings in order to pass this class. More than two absences, regardless of excuse, may negatively impact your grade. Four or more absences, regardless of excuse, will result in the student being dropped from the class.
What Can You Expect from Your Professor?
You can expect that I will treat you as an adult, encourage your participation in this class, listen carefully to what you have to say, and challenge your thinking. You can also expect me to evaluate your work fairly and to offer constructive criticism and praise of your written work and oral presentations.
Please note that this syllabus is subject to change. In the event of inclement weather, you should be guided by the UNCG adverse weather policy. If necessary, I will send out email informing you of any changes in our schedule of readings.
Th Jan. 17 Course introduction
Th Jan. 24 Emerson, "The American Scholar" 56-69; "Self-Reliance" 120-37; Gougeon, from Virtue's Hero 758-67; Joan Shelley Rubin, "Self, Culture, and Self-Culture in America," in The Making of Middlebrow Culture, 1-33 (reserve). Report: John Cawelti, Apostles of the Self-Made Man
Th Jan 31 Emerson, "Experience" 198-213; "Compensation" 137-49; Gilmore, "Emerson and the Persistence of the Commodity" 712-25; West, from The Emersonian Prehistory of American Pragmatism 742-58; Thoreau, Walden (to the "Ponds" chapter); Cavell, "Captivity and Despair" 390-405
Th Feb. 7 Thoreau: Walden (finish); "Resistance to Civil Government" 226-45. Report: Dana Nelson, National Manhood
Th Feb. 14 Fuller, Woman in the Nineteenth Century 1-136; skim early reviews 213-34; read Zwarg, "Fuller's Scene" 272-78. Report: read William Ellery Channing, Self-Culture; skim George L. Craik, Pursuit of Knowledge under Difficulties
Th Feb. 21 Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance 37-218; skim introductory material 3-36; Marx, "On Alienated Labor" 224-229; Owen, "On Individual Society vs. Cooperative Society" 350-52; Alcott and Lane, "On the Community at Fruitlands" 362-66; Alcott, "Transcendental Wild Oats" 366-81; Dwight, "On Life at Brook Farm" 440-43; Butterfield, from "Reminiscences of Brook Farm" 443-55. Report: Lauren Berlant, The Anatomy of National Fantasy: Hawthorne, Utopia, and Everyday Life
Th Feb. 28 Fern, Ruth Hall 3-272; Brace, from The Dangerous Classes of New York 226-44 (in Davis, Life in the Iron Mills). Reports: Karen Halttunen, Confidence Men and Painted Women: A Study of Middleclass Culture in America, 1830-1870; Kessler-Harris, Chapter 3 "Industrial Wages Earners and the Domestic Ideology" 45-72 and Chapter 4 "Why is it can a woman not be virtuous if she does mingle with the toilers?" 75-107 in Out to Work (on reserve)
Th Mar. 7 Wilson, Our Nig 1-140; skim introductory material. Report: Robyn Wiegman, American Anatomies : Theorizing Race and Gender. Midterm Essay due
Th Mar. 21 Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin 1-189. Report: Gillian Brown, Domestic Individualism
Th Mar. 28 Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin 190-388; skim nineteenth-century reviews and responses 459-89; Levine, "UTC in Frederick Douglass' Paper" 523-42. Reports: Tompkins, "Sentimental Power: Uncle Tom's Cabin and the Politics of Literary History" 501-22; Lori Merish, Sentimental Materialism
Th Apr. 4 Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl 1-158; skim contemporary responses 161-65; Spelman, "The Heady Political Life of Compassion" 353-64; Foster, "Resisting Incidents" 312-29. Report: William L. Andrews, To Tell a Free Story
Th. Apr. 11 Davis, Life in the Iron Mills 39-74; skim introductory material 3-37; Brownson, from "The Laboring Classes" 209-220; Emerson, from "American Civilization" 220-221; Beecher, from "Practical Hints" 221-226; Melville, "The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids." Report: Anne Ruggles Gere, Intimate Practices: Literacy and Cultural Work in U.S. Women's Clubs, 1880-1920
Th Apr. 18 Alcott, Work 5-344; skim introduction after you've read the novel. Reports: Glenn Hendler, Public Sentiments: Structures of Feeling in Nineteenth-Century American Literature; Tompkins, "But Is It Any Good?: The Institutionalization of Literary Value," in Jane Tompkins, Sensational Designs 186-201
Th Apr. 25 Class presentations
Th May 2 Class presentations
Final Papers due: Friday, May 3, 3:00 p.m.
Take-Home Final Examination due: Friday, May 10, 3:00 p.m.
Over the course of the semester, each student will be responsible for 3 oral presentations or reports. These presentations will be as follows:
1) Book/Article Reviews
These reviews are intended to introduce you and your classmates to some of the major studies of nineteenth-century American literature as well as to give you a chance to practice writing a book review. You will be responsible for summarizing for the class the main argument(s) of the book/article, along with the critic's general approach and supporting evidence. Consider how this argument might be useful to us, ways to extend this argument, the methodology, flaws or gaps in the argument, etc. Your review should be about three pages in length. A good rule of thumb for reviews is to aim for about 2/3 summary and 1/3 analysis. For models, you may look at recent reviews in American Literature.
You will turn in to me the written version of your review on the day you give it. For the oral portion of your report, you may read or you may choose to talk through your paper. You will have 10-12 minutes to review the book/article for the class. Afterward, be prepared to answer questions about your topic and how it relates to our readings.
2) Discussion Leading
Each student will lead class discussion for 30 minutes. You are in charge of directing discussion during this time. It's fine if the issues you raise continue to occupy us for somewhat longer than that time, but you are not responsible for doing more. In addition to discussing issues you find interesting, you should also frame for us the major critical issues surrounding your text. To prepare yourself to lead the discussion, you should, of course, have read the entire text. You should also spend some time looking at the MLA Bibliography, found in the Electronic Databases. You can access the MLA Bibliography either in the library or over the WWW from the Jackson Library web site using your UNCG ID.
3) Research presentations
These are scheduled on the syllabus for the end of the semester. During these presentations, you will deliver a short version of your essay to your classmates, with time allowed for discussion. Each student will also serve as a respondent to another student's paper.
UNCG's special collections will be unavailable while a new heating and air conditioning system is installed. This is especially unfortunate given our library's fine collection of self-culture materials. If special collections open on time (estimated April 15), we will try to schedule a visit to the archives at the end of the semester. In the meantime, there are a number of electronic resources that you will find useful for delving into rare primary materials. Other resources are identified on my website.
Wright's American Fiction, 1851-1875 (1,752 digitized texts)
American Antiquarian Society Exhibition: A Woman's Work is Never Done
Images from the society's collection of women at work, from the Revolution to the Industrial Revolution
The Making of America: Digitized primary sources from nineteenth-century America (esp. useful for searching periodicals)
Journal Finder: 10,500 electronic full-text academic journals, available by entering your UNCG identification number