21:352:338 American Literature of the Nineteenth Century
Ehrlich, Course Description, Spring 2009

Scope:This is part two of a year-long course in American literature in the period 1800-1900, or in historical terms, roughly the decades between the Early National period and the Spanish-American War. The period is marked by the coming of age of American poetry (Whitman, Dickinson) and American fiction (Mark Twain, Henry James, Stephen Crane, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Kate Chopin).

Texts: To keep costs down, several of the authors (Whitman, James) will be read in online versions. For most of the others, simple editions have been assigned so we can share page references. In two cases, Gilman and Crane, critical editions are required so that assignments can include critical and background materials. Texts have been ordered in both the University Bookstore in Bradley Hall and New Jersey Books. Keep in mind that bookstores return unsold books at some point in the semester, so do not delay purchasing what you require.

The semester will consist of approximately seven units of two weeks each (a few a little longer or shorter). We will begin with texts by Walt Whitman (available online for the first few classes) so you will be able to make purchasing arrangements.

Charlotte Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper is a story based on an actual experience by a patent of an inappropriate medical diagnosis and treatment. Ironically, Gilman's doctor was himself a famous psychological novelist. We will be using the Bedford Critical Edition, which has useful research resources. Gilman was also an important feminist.

Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee starts out humorously as a medieval burlesque but becomes a late 19th century nightmare of how technology might be used in warfare, anticipating World War I. Although better known as a humorist, Twain was also an important social critic.

Henry James is America's premier psychological novelist, exploring the subtleties and nuances of the self and of the social interactions between people. By treating members of the upper classes, James was able to release his characters from economic and practical needs in order to explore their mental and social interactions under conditions of usual freedom.

Stephen Crane (born in Newark, NJ) burst upon the journalistic scene in the 1890s with an extraordinary visual talent to depict life not only realistically but also in a spirit of philosophical naturalism, depicting characters in the grip of physical and social environments and circumstances. Maggie is a groundbreaking urban expose; The Red Badge of Courage is often regarded as the definitive treatment in literature of the American Civil War. We will be using the New Riverside critical edition with important background materials for research use.

Kate Chopin had difficulty publishing some stories she wrote in the 1890s about the sexuality of women, a subject she addressed more indirectly with emblems, motifs, and psychological insights in The Awakening, a novel that was rediscovered during the women's movement of the 1960s.

Requirements: Course grades are based on each student's overall level of written work, quizzes and exams, attendance, and class participation.

Keep up with the readings and participate actively in class discussions. if the material is unfamiliar, please ask questions. Silence is never an indication of the mastery of course work but of the opposite .

Attendance is required. Please submit documentation for necessary absences; more than three unexcused absences will lead to a reduced course grade.

Papers, quizzes and exams will be based on each student's readings and intelligent responses to those readings. Echoing the class discussions or repeating summaries of commonly available knowledge are not acceptable evidence.

Please read papers aloud before submitting them. Please do not repeat what everyone in the class already knows. Support your comments and arguments with evidence from the texts. Keep such quotations short and concise. When you have nothing further to say, stop. Ordinarily, it is not necessary to spend an entire first paragraph in approaching your subject or to spend the entire last paragraph repeating what you have said. Needless to say, college level grammar, spelling, and punctuation are helpful!

If you wish, do revise papers by sharpening and clarifying your arguments and by strengthening or integrating your evidence. Please make revisions in hand on the original sheets -- do not print out again unless you are writing an entirely new paper.

Conferences: Please discuss your work in the course in a conference during my office hours or at an appointment at a time to be arranged.