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19th-Century Now

Historical perspective is one “that makes the present, as revolutionary 'now-time,' its vanishing point'
–Susan Buck Morss

One of the arguments underpinning this module is that understanding the 19th-century is crucial for understanding the rise of Trump. Throughout the module, we have looked at a number of texts – Charles Chesnutt’s Marrow of Tradition (1901) for instance – that I have argued help elucidate the “revolutionary ‘now-time’” of Trump.

For the last week of Term 2, you will choose a reading or set of readings that you think help illuminate the present. Starting in Week 3, you will form groups of 5-6 and collectively nominate a text (or set of readings) that you think we should read.

During the final lecture of the term in week 10, every group will have 5 minutes to argue for why their text(s) should be chosen by the class. At the end of that class, we will all vote, in order, for our top three texts. The one with the most points wins. You can choose any novel, short story, poem or series of poems, or essay that you wish. It does not need to be an “American” text. Below is a list of suggested texts. Please feel free to find texts not on this list.

Some Possible 19th Century Texts

Louisa May Alcott Little Women (1868)
Ambrose Bierce Tales of Soldiers and Civilians (1892)
Charles Brockden Brown Wieland (1798)
James Fenimore Cooper The Last of the Mohicans (1826)
Hannah Crafts The Bondwoman’s Narrative (1861)
Stephen Crane Red Badge of Courage (1895)
John W DeForest Miss Ravenel’s Conversion from Secession to Loyalty (1867)
Martin Delany Blake: or the Huts of America (1861)
Frederick Douglass Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845)
Theodor Dresier Sister Carrie (1900)
Ralph Waldo Emerson Self-Reliance (1841)
Charlotte Perkins Gilman Yellow Wallpaper (1892)
Nathaniel Hawthorne The House of Seven Gables (1851)
Helen Hunt Jackson Ramona (1884)
Washington Irving The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820)
Henry James The Bostonians (1886)
Thomas Jefferson Notes on the State of Virginia (1785)
Touissant L’Ouverture Memoir of General Touissant L’Ouverture. Written by Himself (1863)
Frank Norris The Octopus: A Story of California (1901)
Frank Norris McTeague (1899)
Edgar Allan Poe The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838)
E.D.E.N. Southworth The Hidden Hand (1888)
Harriet Beecher Stowe Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852)
Harriet Beecher Stowe Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp (1856)
Henry David Thoreau Civil Disobedience (1849)
Henry David Thoreau Walden (1854)
Mark Twain Huckleberry Finn (1885)
Susan Warner Wide, Wide World (1850)
HG Wells War of the Worlds (1897)
Phyllis Wheatley Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773)
Walt Whitman Song of Myself (Leaves of Grass) (1855/1892)
Harriet Wilson Our Nig (1859)
Owen Wister The Virginian (1902)