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2009-10 syllabus

EN213: U.S. Writing and Culture, 1780-1920

Nick Lawrence (module convenor):

Please get only the editions listed below (note: pay special attention, particularly with Little Women, to getting the proper unabridged edition). Each unit’s introductory reading packet will be available for pickup at the English Department office; these are required readings, just as much as the primary texts. Those primary texts marked as handouts will be also be available at the office; in addition, they can be downloaded from the module’s forum page as a pdf file: see

Summer tips: The syllabus includes texts of varied lengths and reading difficulty; among the primary texts, the longer ones include The Portrait of a Lady, Pudd’nhead Wilson, A Hazard of New Fortunes and The Virginian, so you might want to get an early start on these.

Term 1

Week 1: Introduction to C19 US Writing and Culture

Unit 1: Desperate Housewives

Week 2: Gender and the Ideologies of Private Life [handout]:

• Carol Smith Rosenberg, “Bourgeois Discourse and the Age of Jackson”
• Barbara Welter, “The Cult of True Womanhood, 1820-1860”
• Alexis de Tocqueville, “Education of Girls in the United States”
• Nancy F. Cott, “On ‘Woman’s Sphere’ and Feminism”
• Raymond Williams, from “Base and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory”
• Emily Dickinson, “My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun –”

Week 3: Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (Penguin)

Week 4: Louisa May Alcott, Little Women (Penguin Popular)

Week 5: Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady (Penguin)

[Week 6: Reading Week]

Unit 2: Shadows of Race

Week 7: Introduction: Slavery, Race, Emancipation [handout]:

• W. E. B. DuBois, from The Souls of Black Folk
• Illustrations of slaveship cargo holds
• Noel Ignatiev, “Immigrants and Whites” from Race Traitor
• “Abolish the White Race – By Any Means Necessary” from Race Traitor
• “When Does the Unreasonable Act Make Sense?” from Race Traitor
• Valerie Smith, “Form and Ideology in Three Slave Narratives”

Week 8: Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave-Girl (Dover)

Week 9: Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson (Oxford World’s Classics)

Week 10: Herman Melville, Benito Cereno (Wordsworth Classics, Billy Budd and Other Stories)

Term 2

Unit 3: Social Hieroglyphics

Week 1: Introduction: Commodities, Class, Consumption [handout]:

• Karl Marx, “The Fetishism of the Commodity and its Secret”
• Howard Zinn, “Robber Barons and Rebels”
• Alan Trachtenberg, “Mysteries of the Great City”
• Henry James, from The American Scene
• Thorstein Veblen, “Conspicuous Consumption,” from The Theory of the Leisure Class

Week 2: Herman Melville, Bartleby the Scrivener; “The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids” (Wordsworth Classics, Billy Budd and Other Stories)

Week 3: Rebecca Harding Davis, Life in the Iron-Mills [handout]

Week 4: Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence (Oxford)

Week 5: William Dean Howells, A Hazard of New Fortunes (Penguin)

[Week 6: Reading Week]

Unit 4: Empire for Liberty

Week 7: Introduction: Individualism and the Imperial Imagination [handout]

• Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”
• C. B. Macpherson, “Possessive Individualism”
• Charles Alexander Eastman (Ohiyesa), from From the Deep Woods to Civilization
• Frederick Jackson Turner, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History”
• Richard Slotkin, “The Frontier Myth as a Theory of Development”
• Jane Kuenz, “The Cowboy Businessman and ‘The Course of Empire’: Owen Wister’s The Virginian

Week 8: Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (Oxford World’s Classics)

Week 9: Owen Wister, The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains (Oxford)

Week 10: John Rollin Ridge (Yellow Bird), The Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murieta [handout]

Other Required Texts: Inventing America: Volume I, ed. Pauline Maier et al. [NB: Get only Vol. 1, not the complete hardback]; The Craft of Argument (concise), Joseph Williams and Gregory Colomb (Longman) [NB: Get the cheaper concise edition]; and Writing with Sources: A Guide for Students, Gordon S. Harvey (Hackett).

Mode of Assessment: Two 3,000-word essays (50%) – due 30 November (Week 9 of Term 1) and 10 May (Week 3 of Term 3) – and a two-hour final examination (50%).