Spring 2011 - Graduate Course Descriptions

Walsh, Dennis
Discipline and Number
HUSL 6392 Section 501
R Time 7:00 PM - 9:45 PM
Course Title
Rise of Early American Novel

Description of Course:


The novel is a work of extended prose fiction representing character and action with some degree of realism. This suffices as a basic definition. However, it is hardly sufficient to explain the novel's historical development, cultural production and canonical adoption. In fact, the novel defies easy description. Its rise, tied closely to the emergence of the middle class and capitalism, was rhizomorphous, comprising sociological, political, philosophical, economic and religious concerns. Our seminar will investigate the interlocking issues of precursors (memoirs, histories, letters), types (Romance, Sentimental, Gothic, Satire, Picaresque), audience (male, female), class (elite, middle, lower), philosophy (Reason, Scottish Commonsense, Romanticism) and reader reception. We will read texts by Charles Brockden Brown, James Fenimore Cooper, William Gilmore Sims, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville. Also we will visit with representatives of those "d----d mob of women scribblers," including Hannah Foster, Catherine Maria Sedgwick and Rebecca Harding Davis. Ultimately, when asked about the Early American Novel, the student should be able to discuss, not only the novel itself, but the novel as a cultural artifact that is as much a participant in as a reflection of its culture and its dominant ideologies.

Required Texts:

Brown, Charles Brockden. Wieland, or the Transformation. Ed. Jay Fliegelman. New York: Viking Penguin, 1991.

Cooper, James Fenimore. The Pioneers. Ed. Donald Ringe. New York: Viking Penguin, 1988.

Foster, Hannah. The Coquette. Ed. Cathy Davidson. New York: Oxford UP, 1986.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The House of the Seven Gables. Ed. Robert Levine. New York: W.W. Norton, 2006.

Melville, Herman. Moby-Dick. Ed. Hershel Parker. New York, W.W. Norton, 2001.

Sedgwick, Catherine Maria. Hope Leslie. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers UP, 1987.

Simms, William Gilmore. The Yemassee. Ed. Joseph Ridgely. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003.

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

Students will write two formal and highly focused research papers, the first 8 pages and the second 12 pages in length. (For those students who are so inclined, they may elect to write a single paper that is 20 pages in length, viewing it as a possible precursor to the MA portfolio or doctoral dissertation.) Students should consult with the instructor before embarking on their papers regardless of the length. Additionally, each student will give an oral presentation (accompanied by handouts) on a particular author or problem associated with the works we are reading. Each assignment is valued at a third of the final grade. All grades are averaged.

It goes without saying that attendance and class participation are essential to the success of the seminar. More than one unexcused absence may result in a lowering of one's grade. Active participation in the seminar is not only welcomed, but is expected. Please share your insights in an enlightened, reasoned, judicious and civil manner.

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