ENG L379 American Ethnic and Minority Literature: New American Frontiers

Frederick Jackson Turner famously proclaimed in 1893 the importance the frontier had played in sustaining the democratic spirit of American society. In this seminar we will rethink Turner’s thesis along cultural lines to explore how new sources of democratic dynamism have emerged on the frontiers opened up by ethnic and minority authors of American literature in the 20thand 21stcenturies. You will chart new American frontiers that exceed physical borders and that take the shape of boundary-expanding American cultural and racial identities. As we trace these new frontiers through multiple literary genres (novel, drama, poetry, short story, and essay), we will explore the politics and poetics of genre mixing, immigration, linguistic hybridity, and the cultural contact zones of a modern America.

ENG L350 Early American Writing and Culture to 1800: Reason, Rage, Revolution

What sparked the American Revolution? Plain old Common Sense,to borrow a phrase from Thomas Paine? Or throbbing passion and despair? Take this class to learn about the other, darker revolution of the United States—the one inspired by rage and heartbreak, the one that promised abstract “liberty” for “all men” at the expense of so many concrete freedoms. We will trace the origins of the self-made man through the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. We will uncover the revolt against marriage in Hannah Webster Foster’s novel, The Coquette. And we will compare first-hand descriptions of the Middle Passage and American slavery to contemporary films, like 12 Years a Slave. If you want to read some classic American literature, or if you hope to learn more about our political heritage, this is the class for you.

ENG L207 Women and Literature: Disturbed Minds

How has literature variously constructed the medical condition of insanity? In this course, we will examine famous madwomen in prose literature, from Charlotte Brontë’s imprisoned Bertha Mason and Henry James’ zealous governess, to Toni Morrison’s young Pecola Breedlove. Delving into the historical archive of psychological science, we will unpack the convoluted figures of insanity developed by physicians and literary authors, alike, to answer such questions as: What cultural and political work does the ailing woman perform in fiction? Do these literary madwomen suffer from diagnosable psychological ailments? Are they social rebels? As we trace the evolution of this popular figure through the literary traditions of the epistolary novel, sentimentalism, Gothicism, realism, and thebildungsroman, we will practice archival reading and interdisciplinary research in the history of psychology. Discussions will also consider the core principles of bioethics.

ENG L351 American Literature, 1800-1865: The Dream and the Nightmare




The American Dream took shape with the Declaration of Independence in 1776, proclaiming the Enlightenment ideals of human freedom and the hope for a better life. In this course, we will read foundational literature of the early nineteenth century, including such authors as Hawthorne, Dickinson, Melville, Emerson, Thoreau, Douglass, Stowe, and Poe, to trace the challenges and promises, the nightmares and possibilities, of post-revolutionary America. Focusing on such issues as democracy, slavery, gender, protest, frontier, individualism, and community, our discussions will survey major literary movements—the Gothic, Sentimentalism, Romance, and Transcendentalism—as well as diverse genres, from the novel, short story, and poem, to the essay and slave narrative. As we ground ourselves in the form and content of these texts, we will consider their complicated role in reflecting and constructing national identity and what it means to be an American.