Writers and scholars of the American novel have for some time denigrated sentimentalism by affiliating it with a weak, weepy sense of femininity. But sentimental novels were critical vehicles for social protest in nineteenth-century America, and women from a variety of backgrounds found activist potential in its ability to force readers’ discomfort, sympathy, and ethical engagement. This class examines how women writers from different ethnic backgrounds adapted the same tradition to advance different—sometimes restrictive—conceptions of agency and citizenship for women, people of color, children, and other marginalized groups.
Major texts for the course are: Lydia Maria Child’s Hobomok (1823), Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), Harriet Wilson’s Our Nig (1859), Maria Ruiz de Burton’s The Squatter and the Don (1887), and S. Alice Callahan’s Wynema: A Child of the Forest (1891).
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.