American Literature in the Nineteenth Century

American Literature in the Nineteenth Century Spring 2010

Course Title: American Literature in the Nineteenth Century
Course Number: 2201334
Semester: Spring 2010
Time of Class: Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday (10-11 a.m.)
Meeting Place: Humanities 6
Instructor: Prof. Rula Quawas
Office Hours: Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday (12:-1:00 p.m.)
I am available for consultation during scheduled office hours and by appointment.  Do not hesitate to make an appointment.  If you are having any difficulties at all, see me; don’t wait until it is too late to improve the situation.  My office is located in the English Department at the Faculty of Arts.
Telephone: 5355000 (Ext. 24768)

Course Description:

This course gives an overview of American literature in the nineteenth century with major emphasis on the American Renaissance, realism, naturalism, and the local color movement. Key readings are associated with the major American authors of the nineteenth century, including writings of Hawthorne, Melville, Emerson, Thoreau, Poe, Whitman, Dickinson, Chopin, Fuller, and Truth. Speeches, essays, short stories, and poems are selected to study the significant influences and movements of that period.


  1. To introduce students to a variety of fictional works by American writers
  2. To examine the particular constraints that women–and women writers in particular–were subject to
  3. To develop analytical and interpretive skills in literature
  4. To focus on women in relation to themselves, to others, to institutions, and to society
  5. To compare the similarities and differences between male and female experiences
  6. To develop critical awareness of feminist issues in literature
  7. To develop persuasive writing skills

Learning Outcomes:

Students are to gain an understanding of literary, historical developmental features in the Unites States during that period, the texts’ historical context, and the characteristics of various genres. The course is to develop students’ critical and analytical capabilities and train them in writing.

Methods of Teaching:

A variety of methods will be used;

  1. Lectures on the development of the American Renaissance
  2. Group discussion of critical ideas or significant literary texts

The class will be conducted as a seminar in which each person assumes responsibility for sustaining class discussion.  It is, therefore, crucial that you come to class having read and thought about the assigned texts.  Students are encouraged to initiate/guide discussion of any given text.  To this end, generate a list of questions and issues for the class to focus on.

Attendance Policy:

Regular and punctual attendance is valuable and desirable.  Unexcused absences will automatically lower your grade.


Students will be required to read extensively on the literary texts assigned for this course, to familiarize themselves with the major studies of the American Renaissance, and to contribute to discussion every time we meet.  The student’s semester grade will be the average of four grades: the Mid-Term Exam, the Final Examination, Assigned Projects, and class participation.  50% of the grade goes to the final Examination, and 50% for the mid-term exam, projects, and class participation.  The final exam will require essay-type responses.  On essay questions, the student will be evaluated on clarity of argument, critical thinking, use of evidence, and stylistic presentation.  At the beginning of the essay, state your thesis or argument in response to the question or topic, and then structure the essay clearly to establish your points. Use topic sentences to show where the essay is going and avoid over-generalizations.

Reading Assignments:

All reading assignments must be completed by the beginning of the class period on which they have been assigned.  It goes without saying that the student is encouraged to read as widely as possible in the field, over and beyond the assigned material.

Study Plan:

  • Week 1: Course Plan and Orientation
  • Week 2: Course Introduction, pp 105-108; pp. 199-203; 291-293
  • Week 3: Transcendentalism: Maxims of Emerson, 205; from “Self-Reliance,” pp. 208-210; from “The American Scholar,” pp. 211-212.
  • Week 4: Transcendentalism: Thoreau, from Walden, pp. 218-223; from “Civil Disobedience,” pp. 224-228.
  • Week 5: Visiting Irving: “The Devil and Tom Walker,” pp. 110-118.
  • Week 6: Visiting Hawthorne: “Young Goodman Brown,” pp. 237-246.
  • Week 7: Visiting Melville: “What Redburn Saw in Launcelott’s-Hey,” pp. 249-252.
  • Week 8: Visiting Poe: “The Cask of Amontillado,” pp. 151-158.
  • Week 9: Poetry: A Great Poet: Whitman, “There Was a Child Went Forth,” and “I Hear America Singing.”
  • Week 10: Poetry: The Myth of Amherst: Dickinson: “I Heard a Fly Buzz when I Died,” “Faith Is a Fine Invention,” and Because I Could Not Stop for Death”
  • Week 11: Scribbling Women? Louisa May Alcott, from Hospital Sketches, pp. 255-258.
  • Week 12: By, for and about Women: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Speech to the First Women’s Rights Convention, pp. 283-287.
  • Week 13: Women and Political Literature: Sojourner Truth, “Ain’t I a Woman?”
  • Weeks 14 + 15: Anti-Slavery Literature: Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, pp. 260-264; Frederick Douglass, from What the Black Man Wants, pp. 266-269;
  • Week 16: Wrapping Up