This course will survey several of the greatest literary hits of nineteenth-century America, including poetry, short fiction, nonfiction, and the novel. Some of these works only later became “hits;” others were only ever hits with nineteenth-century readers; and a few have hardly ever been considered anything else. In the process we will attend closely to these works’ literary forms as well as to their philosophical and political dimensions, especially as their authors worked to represent and come to grips with slavery, colonialism, increasing urbanization and industrialization, and other pressing issues.
With the help of likely authors to be studied such as Kate Chopin, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Sarah Orne Jewett, William Wells Brown, Henry Thoreau, and Zitkala-Ša, in addition to sharpening your interpretive and writing skills, this course is guaranteed to enable you to answer the burning question, “What’s so great about nineteenth-century American literature?”
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.