Seminar in 19th-c American Lit: American Romanticism

American Romanticism
ENGL 8310
John Evelev
Course Description

The period of American Romanticism (traditionally spanning from 1819-1865) contains the literary production of many of the most famous American authors including Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Stowe, Melville, Douglass, Whitman, Dickinson, Poe.  These authors and many others contributed to what is arguably the construction of a modern America: one that was increasingly urban, engaging seriously with slavery and racial injustice, confronting gender inequality, and coming to terms with its future as a polyglot nation of immigrants. It was also a time when Americans began to consider their effect upon the environment, meditating upon the manipulated landscape and relations between its human and animal inhabitants. This was a time of literary experimentation, as a range of writers sought to match literary form to changing forms of American life.  This course is intended to explore that range of literary expression, the history it engaged with, and critical approaches that have shaped the field.  

This course is also intended as an experiment in graduate pedagogy.  For most of the history of graduate education, especially in the humanities, we have worked from an “apprenticeship” model in which the professor sets the terms of the object of study, selecting what are deemed ‘essential’ primary and second works. In this model, students produce scholarship that emulates professional publication models.

For this course, after an initial stretch of introductory material selected by the instructor, we will open up the act of selection of primary and secondary work, asking you the students to choose the texts, contexts, and scholarship that most interests you, giving you the responsibility for presenting the material and leading discussion (I will meet with each student individually at the beginning of term to help select materials that suit their interests and before their class to discuss pedagogical strategies or approaches to the material), and opening up the possibility of multiple kinds of scholarly work: not just the traditional research paper, but also developing a thematic and/ or form-based course (in-person or online), or developing a comprehensive bibliography on an author, topic or form. We will also work as a class to determine how the different work should count toward the total and rubrics for the different assignments.