Spring 2012 - Undergraduate Course Descriptions

Walsh, Dennis
Discipline and Number
LIT 3323 Section 501
R Time 7:00 PM - 9:45 PM
Course Title
The American Renaissance 1820-1865

Description of Course:


The American Renaissance, a period roughly stretching between 1820 and 1865, is the name given to an era during which there was a flowering of compelling and imaginative literary works. Located within the American Renaissance's parameters was a shorter period of literary development of about 25 years generally referred to as American Transcendentalism, a largely New England-centered movement that had at its center the question of humankind's relationship to Nature and Reality. Moreover, Transcendentalism often is synonymously titled American Romanticism because of its indebtedness to European Romanticism from which it borrowed many of its central concepts. Regardless of its title, Renaissance, Romanticism or Transcendentalism, it was an epoch of extraordinary textual production that marked the emergence a true American literary culture.

Beginning with a heady optimism captured in the flawed concept of Manifest Destiny, the American Renaissance ended with the fratricidal slaughter of the Civil War. Our course will introduce the student to a variety of 19th century authors, including Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, Margaret Fuller, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frederick Douglass, Henry D. Thoreau, William Apess, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, E.A. Poe, Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. Our readings comprise not only fiction but also overtly political polemics. Aside from the theme of Nature, we will visit the informing ideologies of the era as well as the divisive issues of slavery, Native American removals, and individual and women's rights that were searing social concerns of the day.

Required Texts:

The Norton Anthology of American Literature 1820-1865, 8th ed., vol B, Nina Baym, General Editor. N.Y.: W.W. Norton, 2011.

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

Students are required to write three formal, highly focused, research papers, each five to seven pages in length. The papers require at least three outside resources beyond the assigned textbook. Papers will be graded not only on the quality of content but as well on the clarity and correctness of presentation. Thee are likely to be spot tests on the readings. All grades will be averaged.

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