Readings in 19th-Century American Literature and Culture

L632 — Spring 2018

Lindley Hall 019
Days and Times
11:15-12:30 MW
Course Description

Topic: Collectivity and American Literature; This class will ask after the different forms taken by the collective in nineteenth-century American writing, as a way into theorizing tensions within the notion of collectivity in a broader context. When abstractions such as "the social," "the people," "the public," "humanity," "life," or "the body politic" are employed in these texts and elsewhere, what forms the referent of such terms? How are they conceived to hold together, and what is their relation as aggregates to the individuals or individual entities of which they are composed? How do they relate to other understandings of collectivity, some of which may themselves be present within a given example? What is the relation between modes of theorizing collectivity and literary mode or genre? We will explore these and other related questions as well as congruent topics such as democracy, affect, attachment, the crowd, nationhood, sociability, and so forth. Our literary examples will be derived from such authors as Stowe, Hawthorne, Melville, Whitman, Chesnutt, and Hopkins, whom we will read together with theoretical writings both from the period and from contemporary scholarship in literary criticism as well as social and political theory. Instructor: Jen Fleissner

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