Fall 2011 - Graduate Course Descriptions

Walsh, Dennis
Discipline and Number
HUSL 6308 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 (epics, 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 and Catherine Maria Sedgwick. 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.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Blithedale Romance . Ed. Richard Millington. New York: W.W. Norton, 2011.

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

Neal, John. Rachel Dyer. Literary Classics. Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1996.

Rowson, Susanna. Charlotte Temple. Ed. Cathy Davidson. New York: Oxford UP, 1986

Sedgwick, Catherine Maria. A New-England Tale. Ed. Victoria Clements. New York: Oxford UP, 1995.

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; or, each student will write a series of three short papers (two or three pages in length) on a topic assigned by the instructor. The oral report or three written papers will account for 20 percent on one's final grade, while the two oonger papers (or 20-page paper) will account for 80 percent of the final grade.

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 ask questions, share your insights, challenge the texts (and the instructor) in an enlightened, reasoned, judicious and novel manner.

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