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2012-13 Syllabus

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

Stephen Shapiro (module convenor): s dot shapiro at warwick dot ac dot uk

Tutors: Nick Lawrence, Rhys Williams

Please get only the editions listed below. (If you can't get them new, then try,, or for used copies. If this fails, then get, as a last resort, another edition, but preferably one from a more established press like Oxford, Vintage, Modern Library, or Dover. Final last resort — all these texts should be available in the public domain from Project Gutenberg and several from copyleft pirate sites.)

Each unit’s introductory reading packet will be available for pickup at the English Department office throughout the year; 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 when announced; 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 (notably Moby-Dick) are in the second term, so you might want to get an early start on these.

Otherwise, please read during the summer: They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing and Writing With Sources. These texts will be taken as foundational for American Studies modules in the department and will help you do better in all your essays. It is fine to buy used or earlier editions of these texts. Additionally, it is a good idea to skim read Inventing America Volume 1. The links for these texts are below.


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”
• Nancy F. Cott, “On ‘Woman’s Sphere’ and Feminism”
• Raymond Williams, from “Base and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory”

Week 3: Susanna Rowson, Charlotte Temple (1791/4) (Penguin)

Week 4: Sarah Orne Jewett, The Country of Pointed Firs (1896) (Signet)

Week 5: Emma Goldman, Living My Life (1931) (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
• Toni Morrison, from Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination 
• 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
• Nat Turner, The Confessions of Nat Turner 

Week 8: Edgar Allen Poe, The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Writings (1830s-1840s) (Penguin)

Please read in this order:
"The Raven," pp 29-33
"The Black Cat," pp 271-280
"The Murders in the Rue Morgue," pp 142-176
"Hop-Frog," pp 317-326
"The Masque of the Red Death," pp 205-211
""Ligeia," pp 62-78
"The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar," pp 301-310

Week 9: Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass, an American Slave (1845) (Penguin)

Week 10: Jean Toomer, Cane (1923) (Norton)


Unit 3: The Whale; or, Capitalism at Sea

Week 1: Introduction: Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851) (Penguin)
Beginning – Chapter 19 (“The Prophet”) (Penguin edition until page 103)
David A. Karp, “The Dialectics of Depression” from Speaking of Sadness: Depression, Disconnection, and the Meanings of Illness (1996)

Week 2: Chapters 20-49 (“The Hyena”) (pp 104-249)
Charles Olson, “First Fact is Prologue” and “Part One is Fact” from Call Me Ishmael: A Study of Melville (1947)

Week 3: Chapters 50-78 (“Cisterns and Buckets”) (pp 250-377)
C. L. R. James, from Mariners, Renegades & Castaways: The Story of Herman Melville and the World We Live In (1953)

Week 4: Chapters 79-107 (“The Carpenter”) (pp 378-510)
Robert T. Talley, Jr., “The Whale in the World” (2008)

Week 5: Chapter 108 - End

[Week 6: Reading Week]

Unit 4: Capitalism on Land

Week 7: Introduction: Commodities, Class, Labour [handout]

• Karl Marx, “The Fetishism of the Commodity and its Secret”
• Stephen Shapiro, from How to Read Marx's Capital
• Howard Zinn, “Robber Barons and Rebels”
• Alan Trachtenberg, “Mysteries of the Great City”
• Jane Kuenz, “The Cowboy Businessman and ‘The Course of Empire’: Owen Wister’s The Virginian

Week 8: Rebecca Harding Davis, Life in the Iron-Mills (1861) (handout — click on title for pdf)

Week 9: Owen Wister, The Virginian (1902) (Oxford World's Classics)

Week 10: John Dos Passos, Manhattan Transfer (1925) (Penguin)

Other Required Texts

Inventing America: Volume I, ed. Pauline Maier et al. [NB: Get only Vol. 1, in paperback]

They Say/I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing, Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein (Norton)

Writing with Sources: A Guide for Students, Gordon S. Harvey (Hackett)

Mode of Assessment: Two 3,000-word essays (50%) and a two-hour seen final examination (50%).