The Nineteenth-Century American Novel

Course title: The Nineteenth-Century American Novel (A, 19)
Mon, 8.45-9.30 (A-105); Wed, 9.30-11.00 (A-105)
Instructor: Dr. Jelena Šesnić
Language: English
Duration: Semester 3 to 6
Status: elective
Requirements: Introduction into the Study of English Literature 1 & 2

Course description: The novel figures as one of the key literary genres in the development of US national literature. The course proposes to chart a development and diversification of the American novel in the nineteenth century as it sustains the idea of American specificity on one hand, while, on the other, reflects derivation from and postcolonial cultural dependence on the European (English) literary models. The growing sense of American cultural consciousness will be traced on the exemplary novels that are still important cultural landmarks. In addition, the development of the novel suggests changes of literary styles and periods ranging from neo-classicist to romantic to realist and beyond. At the same time, these novels exemplify the most common sub-genres of the American novel at the time.
The proposed primary texts include: Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851; romance/ the philosophical novel; with some omissions); E . A. Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838; the adventure/ gothic novel); Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852; the sentimental novel); and William Dean Howells’ The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885; the realist novel).
Syllabus (alterations possible)
Week 1: American literature as a postcolonial form (Buell); Emerson’s idea of an American author in “The Poet”
Week 2: Jehlen, the novel and the middle class; Chase, the romance and the novel, the idea of an “American tradition”; Melville: Moby-Dick
Week 3: Moby-Dick (cont.); Melville in the context of his times (letters to Hawthorne; “Hawthorne and His Mosses”); Moby-Dick as the great American novel (Buell)

Week 4: Moby-Dick (cont.)
Week 5: Edgar Allan Poe: The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym; the romance and the gothic tradition; Hawthorne’s prefaces
Week 6: Pym (cont.); Goddu: the gothic, whiteness and blackness
Week 7: Pym (cont.)
Week 8: Mid-term test.
Week 9: Harriet Beecher Stowe: Uncle Tom’s Cabin; the sentimental intervention; reform and politics vs art and literature?; the American novel and slavery
Week 10: Uncle Tom’s Cabin (cont.); Jane Tompkins and the “other” American Renaissance
Week 11: Uncle Tom’s Cabin (cont.)
Week 12: WD Howells: The Rise of Silas Lapham; the problem of “American realism” (Howells, Twain)
Week 13: The Rise (cont.); Henry James’s selected prefaces; from James’s The American Scene
Week 14: The Rise (cont.)

Week 15: Final test. Student evaluation.

A. Primary readings:

Herman Melville: Moby-Dick (with some omissions)
E.A. Poe: The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym
Harriet Beecher Stowe: Uncle Tom’s Cabin
William Dean Howells: The Rise of Silas Lapham

Prefaces, manifestoes, criticism, reviews:
W. Emerson: “The Poet”

Nathaniel Hawthorne: Prefaces (selection)
William Dean Howells: “A Call for Realism”
Henry James: The Art of the Novel (selection); The American Scene (selection)
Herman Melville: “Hawthorne and His Mosses”
Mark Twain: “James Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses”

Buell, Lawrence. “The Unkillable Dream of the Great American Novel: Moby-Dick as Test Case”. American Literary History 20. 1-2 (Spring-Summer 2008): 132-55.
Chase, Richard. The American Novel and Its Tradition. New York: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1957. 1-28.
Goddu, Teresa. Gothic America: Narrative, History, and Nation. New York: Columbia UP, 1997. (selection)
Hamilton, Geordie. “Rethinking the Politics of American Realism Through the Narrative Form and Moral Rhetoric of W.D. Howells’ The Rise of Silas Lapham”. American Literary Realism 42.1 (Fall 2009): 13-35.
Jehlen, Myra. “The Novel and the Middle Class in America”. Ideology and Classic American Literature. Eds. Sacvan Bercovitch and Myra Jehlen. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1986. 125-44.
Tompkins, Jane. Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction, 1790-1860. New York, Oxford: Oxford UP, 1985. 122-46.

B. Supplementary readings:

Buell, Lawrence. “American Literary Emergence as a Postcolonial Phenomenon”. American Literary History 4.3 (Autumn 1992): 411-42.
Castronovo, Russ. Beautiful Democracy: Aesthetics and Anarchy in a Global Era. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2007. (selection)
Fisher, Philip. Hard Facts: Setting and Form in the American Novel. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1986. (selection)
Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1957. (selection)
Marx, Leo. The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1964. (selection)
Pease, Donald E., ed. New Essays on The Rise of Silas Lapham. New York: Cambridge UP, 1991.

Requirements: regular attendance and active participation in the seminar (10% of the grade); in-class and home assignments (10 %); written tests (mid-term and final: 50 %; continuous assessment, mandatory); seminar paper (6-7 double-spaced pages, MLA style, 30 %)