War, Reconstruction and Transformation: American Literature 1860-1914

Course title: War, Reconstruction and Transformation: American Literature 1860-1914
Instructor: Dr Jelena Šesnić
ECTS credits: 6
Language of instruction: English
Semester: Spring 2012, Spring 2017
Status: elective
Form of instruction: lecture (1 hour) + seminar (2 hours)
Enrollment requirements: Introduction into the Study of English Literature
Course description: In the seminar we shall cover a period in American Literature variousy designated as the Age of Realism and Naturalism or the Gilded Age. Many scholars argue that it is during this period that the United States turned into a modern nation due, primarily, to their unprecedented industrial and economic growth. We shall look at the implications of these huge transformations and their reverberations in some of the exemplary literary and non-literary texts of the period. The four sections we shall be examining in greater detail are the echoes of the Civil War; the perils and pitfalls of post-war Reconstruction effort, and the question of race; economic relations and the way these affect social relations; and, finally, the emergence of new identities, both in the public and the private sphere.
Course requirements: Regular attendance; participation in class discussions; in-class and home assignments; continuous evaluation (a mid-term and a final test, mandatory for all students); seminar paper (6-7 pp, 2000-2500 words, MLA style). It is essential to observe the deadlines set down for particular assignments; if not, this can adversely affect your grade. Grade breakdown: tests—50%; seminar paper—35 %; the rest (see above)—15 %.
Readings (subject to change)
Primary texts
Section 1: the Civil War and its aftermath
Herman Melville: from Battle Pieces (1866; selection of poetry)
Walt Whitman: from Drum-Taps and Memories of President Lincoln (1891-92; selection of poetry)
Rebecca Harding Davis: Waiting for the Verdict (1868; novel; selected chapters)
Section 2: The question of race and Reconstruction
Mark Twain: Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894; novel)
Charles Chesnutt: „The Wife of His Youth“ (1899; short story); „What Is a White Man?“ (1889; essay)
Section 3: Matters of the economy
Elizabeth Stuart Phelps: The Silent Partner (1871; novel)
Upton Sinclair: The Jungle (1906; novel)
Section 4: Emergence of new subjects
Abraham Cahan: „Yekl“ (1896; novella)
Ezra Pound: „Hugh Selwyn Mauberly“ (1920; poetry, selection)
(Note: most of the texts are available in digital form, or can be checked out from the library.)
Secondary readings
Hofstadter, Richard. Social Darwinism in American Thought (1944), Boston: Beacon P, 1992. (selection)
Sundquist, Eric. To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature, Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1993. (selection)
Trachtenberg, Alan. The Incorporation of America: Culture and Society in the Gilded Age, New York: Hill and Wang, 1982. (selection)