Aspects of American Romanticism

Dr Jelena Šesnić
Literary Seminar (2nd/3rd year): Aspects of American Romanticism (A, 19th c.)
Winter 2019/2020
Mon, 8:45-9:30 (A-105)
Wed, 10:15-11:45 (A-105)
Office: B-018
Phone: 4092060

Office hours: Mon, 12:30-13:30; Thur 11-12

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)

Selected works:

R.W. Emerson: selection of essays
Walt Whitman: Leaves of Grass (poetry, selection)
Henry David Thoreau: Walden (selection); selected essays
Margaret Fuller: Woman in the Nineteenth Century (essay)
Catharine Maria Sedgwick: Hope Leslie (novel)
Frederick Douglass: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave
Herman Melville: Typee (novel; selection)

Readings (alterations possible)


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

Week 2: Emerson: selected essays („The American Scholar“, „Self-Reliance“)

Week 3: Emerson: „The Poet“; Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (selection)

Week 4: Thoreau: Walden (selected chapters)

Week 5: Thoreau: Walden (selected chapters)


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

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

Fuller: Woman in the Nineteenth-Century

Week 3: Fuller: Woman. *Mid-term.*

Week 4: Sedgwick: Hope Leslie


Week 1: Sedgwick: Hope Leslie

Week 2: Douglass: The Narrative

Week 3: Douglass: cont.


Week 1: Melville: Typee

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

Week 3: Evaluation. *Final test.*


Secondary readings: reading material will be provided in digital form on Omega.

Additional reading:

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)