The novel as a newer literary genre was a powerful, even potentially dangerous force in the newly-formed American nation. One 1838 critic declared that “the object of novelists in general appears to be to seize the public mind, and hold it with a sort of enchantment.” What captivated and enchanted Americans about the novel? What about the novel form especially appealed to American women as the primary readers and producers of novels? Fifty percent of the bestselling books in the 1850s were by women authors, and by 1872 nearly three-quarters of American novels were by women. In our online course let's explore developments in the American novel over the nineteenth century, paying particular attention to the novel as a gendered literary form. How has the novel successfully represented women’s diverse experience? How has it been complicit in narrowly defining feminine identity? As we examine the possibilities and limitations of the novel to enchant readers and express American women’s lives, you will have opportunities to strengthen your critical reading and analytical writing skills. I invite you to learn the narrative elements of a novel and apply these along with knowledge of historical and cultural contexts to develop your literary interpretations. To pursue this inquiry we'll read four novels: Harriet Wilson’s Our Nig, Louisa May Alcott’s Work, Frances E.W. Harper’s Iola Leroy, and Kate Chopin’s The Awakening.
Arts & Letters (A&L) courses create meaningful opportunities for students to engage actively in the modes of inquiry that define a discipline. Courses are broad in scope and demonstrably liberal in nature (that is, courses that promote open inquiry from a variety of perspectives). Though some courses may focus on specialized subjects or approaches, there will be a substantial course content locating that subject in the broader context of the major issues of the discipline. Qualifying courses will not focus on teaching basic skills but will require the application or engagement of those skills through analysis and interpretation.
Literature, 1789 to the present courses focus on literary work produced over more than two centuries -- from the period of British romanticism and the early republic of the United States up to now -- in order to foster familiarity with key works in British and American literary history. Literary history illustrates how literary works reflect, address, and resist the social and political environments in which they are produced as well as other works that have preceded them.
English Minor courses offer students centuries of cultural experience and representation in poetry, prose, drama, film, TV, new media, and folk artifacts. The English minor can focus and extend the values of a liberal arts education, while also providing extensive training in writing, speaking, and critical thinking.