American Literature and Crisis 1850-1870

L351 — Fall 2021

Jonathan Elmer
Days and Times
9:25a - 10:40a TR (3 CR)
Course Description

Our present historical moment is marked by racial violence, white supremacist ideology, religious fervor, partisan ruthlessness, and unprecedented fascination with media technologies.

This sounds like a pretty good description of the nineteenth century in the United States too, especially in the years leading up to, and immediately after, the Civil War.

This class will think about literature in relation to social crisis. We will consider issues of belief and spirituality (novel revelations and new religions, prophetic voices, the democratization of Christianity, visions of apocalypse and holy war, spiritualism, communications with the dead) as well as media technology (print, telegraphy, photography, and channeling). And we will ask questions about how culture responds to and provokes social crisis.

It is likely that we’ll read a wide range of shorter texts rather than focus of the big tomes. We will read some material from some of the following authors: Louisa May Alcott, Martin Delany, Emily Dickinson, Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Julia Ward Howe, Harriet Jacobs, Abraham Lincoln, Herman Melville, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Edgar Allan Poe, Harriet Prescott Spofford, Elizabeth Stoddard, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry David Thoreau, Henry Timrod, and Walt Whitman.

Requirements: Two papers of 7 pages and two take-home midterm quizzes.


Interested in this course?

The full details of this course are available on the Office of the Registrar website.

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