Aspects of American Romanticism (2015/16)

Course Title: Aspects of American Romanticism (A, 19. st.)
Instructor: Dr  Jelena Šesnić
ECTS credits: 6
Language: English
Status: elective
Duration:   3rd or 5th semester

Fall 2015/2016
Mon, 8:45-9:30 (A-105)
Wed, 9:30-11 (A-105)

Course description: The period spans the decades from the 1820s to approximately the 1860s marked by the flowering of national literature in post-revolutionary times; the adoption and americanization of European ideas in so-called New England Transcendentalism, and the emergence of alternative (women, African Americans, commoners) voices. Alternatively called the American Renaissance, the period testifies to the coming-of-age of American literature. The texts are a representative selection of the unprecedented surge of creative energy that left no aspect of social and personal life untouched (from religion, education, women’s rights to politics and abolition), and will thus guide is in our examination of the past to which the American present owes so much.

Requirements: regular attendance; participation in class discussions; in-class and home assignments; seminar paper 6-7 pp. (ca 2000 words); mid-term + final test (continuous assessment, mandatory, non-negotiable)

Selected works:

R.W. Emerson: selection of essays

Walt Whitman: Leaves of Grass (selection)

Henry David Thoreau: Walden (selection); selection of essays

Margaret Fuller: Woman in the Nineteenth Century; selection of essays

Catharine Maria Sedgwick: Hope Leslie (novel)

Frederick Douglass: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

Herman Melville: Typee (novel)


Weekly Readings (alterations possible)


October 2015

Week 1: Introduction: key concepts; lit-historical context

Emerson: selected essays („The American Scholar“, „Self-Reliance“)

Week 2: Emerson: „The Poet“; Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (selection)

Week 3: Thoreau: Walden (selected chapters)

Week 4: Thoreau: Walden, cont.


November 2015

Week 1: Thoreau: „Civil Disobedience“, „A Plea for Captain John Brown“

Week 2: Fuller: „Autobiographical romance“, „Self-definitions“ (excerpts)

Fuller: Woman in the Nineteenth-Century

Week 3: Fuller: Woman (cont.)

Week 4: Sedgwick: Hope Leslie (intro) *Mid-term.

December 2015

Week 1: Sedgwick: cont

Week 2: Sedwwick: cont.

Week 3: Douglass: The Narrative

Week 4: Douglass: cont.


January 2016

Week 1: Melville: Typee (intro)

Week 2: Melville, cont. *Seminar paper submission.

Week 3: Melville, cont. Evaluation. *Final test.


Secondary readings:

  • Additional reading material will be provided in digital form on Omega.


Bercovitch, Sacvan. The American Jeremiad, Madison: The U of Wisconsin P, 1978. (selection)

Pease, Donald. Visionary Compacts: American Renaissance Writings in Cultural Context, Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1987. (selection)

Pease, Donald, ed. National Identities and Post-Americanist Narratives, Durham: Duke UP, 1994. (selection)

Rowe, John Carlos. At Emerson’s Tomb: The Politics of Classic American Literature.

New York: Columbia UP, 1997. (selection)

Warren, Joyce, ed. The (Other) American Traditions: Nineteenth-Century Women Writers. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers UP, 1993. (selection)