The History and Paradigms of American Studies 2 (Šesnić, 2012)

Dr Jelena Šesnić

Literary Seminar (MA Level): The History and Paradigms of American Studies 2

Spring 2012

Course description:
This is a companion course to the History and Paradigms of American Studies 1 which thus continues to examine the changes in the methodology of American Studies since the 1970s. Major developments in this respect are poststructuralist theory, new historicism, feminist and gender studies (from Marxism to psychoanalysis), ethnic, postcolonial and border studies, transnational turn and cultural studies. These approaches will be exemplified by representative scholarly essays and tested in turn on the appropriate primary texts. The course is obligatory for American studies majors (8th semester); elective for all other MA students.


Course requirements: regular attendance; participation in class discussion; in-class and home assignments; oral presentation (10 min); 2 seminar papers (6-7 pp./ ca 2000-2500 words each + bibliography); final test (mandatory, non-negotiable, continuous assessment). Grade break-down: Seminar papers 50 %; final test 30 %; the rest 20 %.


Readings (alterations possible):


Primary texts

1. Thomas Jefferson: Notes on the State of Virginia (1781-2; selected chapters)

(E-text centre, U of Virginia Library)

2. Lenora Sansay: Secret History, or The Horrors of St. Domingo (1808)

3. Edgar Allan Poe: The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838)

(American Studies at the UVa)

4. Henry David Thoreau: Walden (1845; selected chapters)

(American Transcendentalism on the Web)

5. Herman Melville: „Benito Cereno“ (from The Piazza Tales, 1856)

6. Harriet Prescott Spofford: „Amber Gods“ (1863)

7. Sandra Cisneros: „Woman Hollering Creek“ (1991)

Syllabus (alterations possible)



Week 1: Introduction: European vs US Americanists; perspectives, focus and methods:

Chenetier, Fluck, Pease

Week 2: from national to imperial American studies (Aravamudan)

Week 3: Poststructuralism: Thoreau, Walden (Benn Michaels)

Week 4: Thoreau, Walden; towards New Historicism (Michael Gilmore)


Week 1: New Historicism: text and contexts; Bercovitch and the American Renaissance

Week 2: New Historicism and the “New Americanists”: EA Poe: Pym (D. Pease)

Week 3: New Historicism: EA Poe, cont.

Week 4: New Historicism into transnational American studies: Herman Melville: “Benito Cereno” (Sundquist, Warren)

Week 5: De-centring American studies: ethnic studies; Jefferson, Notes (Erkkila)


Week 1: Jefferson, Notes (cont.)

Week 2: Feminist criticism and the canon: Baym; Harriet Prescott Spofford: “Amber Gods”

Week 3: Feminist into gender studies; border studies: Anzaldúa; Cisneros

Week 4: Is there a transnational American studies? Leonora Sansay: Secret History, or The Horrors of St. Domingo


Week 1: Transnational American studies: Sansay, cont.

Week 2: American Studies and cultural studies: is there a method? Guest lecturer: Dr. Sven Cvek (American Studies Program, Zagreb)

Final test.


Relevant Internet sources:

EAAS web-site (European Association for American Studies): see links

ASA web-site (American Studies Association): see links

ALA (American Literature Association): see links

MLA (Modern Languages Association): see links

MELUS (US-based) and MESEA (European-based): see links

American Studies Journals on the Web

Full-text journal databases: J-stor, Project Muse, EBSCO, Oxford Journals, Blackwell, etc.


List of journals:

American Literary History; American Quarterly (ASA); American Literature (ALA)


European Journal of American Studies (e-journal, EAAS; see other national AS associations)

New Literary History; Boundary 2; Representations


The Transnational Journal of American Studies (e-journal)

The 49th Parallel (e-journal)

Neo-Americanist (e-journal)