American Studies
American Studies

Gretchen Murphy

Affiliate FacultyPh.D., 1999, University of Washington

Gretchen Murphy



US literature and culture to 1914, nationalism and imperialism, sentimental domestic writing


AMS 391 • Kinship In Amer Lit: 1789-1867

30105 • Fall 2015
Meets F 1200pm-300pm MEZ 1.104
(also listed as E 395M, WGS 393)

This class examines the impact of liberalism and the US market revolution on social and literary constructs of kinship.  With the rise of liberalism, historians have identified a shift from kinship defined as blood lineage to kinship defined as contract.  With this shift came significant changes in practices of marriage, adoption, divorce, and inheritance.  However, like all social change, this shift occurs unevenly, as seen in flashpoints of contestation around issues of blood and property.  Presuming that conflicts and attendant anxieties and are registered and managed in literary narratives, this course examines the role of literary and cultural representation in this broad sociological process, and it attends to political, sociological and psychoanalytic meanings of kinship in American fiction.  Our secondary reading will include liberal political philosophy taking family as a metaphor for the state, legal texts legislating kinship, anthropological theories of kinship, psychoanalytic theories of family romance, as well as recent literary criticism exploring phenomena such as adoption, marriage, incest, divorce, inheritance, parenthood, informal kinship, and queer family structures in nineteenth-century US literature.

Primary reading will include some of the following: William Hill Brown, The Power of Sympathy; Susana Rowson, Reuben and Rachel; Caroline Sedgwick, Redwood: A Tale; James Fenimore Cooper, Wyandotte, or the Hutted Knoll;  Maria Susana Cummins, The Lamplighter; E.D.E.N. Southworth, The Deserted Wife; Hannah Crafts, The Bondwoman’s Narrative; Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables; Herman Melville Pierre; Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Pearl of Orr’s Island; Lydia Maria Child, The Romance of the Republic.

Secondary reading will include some of the following: John Locke, Second Treatise of Government; Frederick Engels, Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State; Juliet Mitchell, Siblings: Sex and Violence; Jeffory A. Clymer, Family Money: Property, Race, and Literature in the Nineteenth-Century; Brian Connolly, Domestic Intimacies: Incest and Liberal Subject in Nineteenth-Century America; Cindy Weinstein, Family, Kinship, and Nineteenth-Century American Literature; Holly Jackson, American Blood: The Ends of Family in American Literature; Carol J. Singley, Adopting America: Childhood, Kinship and National identity in Literature; Elizabeth Barnes, States of Sympathy Seduction and Democracy in the American Novel; Amy Dru Stanley, From Bondage to Contract: Wage Labor, Marriage and the Market in the Age of Slave Emancipation; Pamela Haag, Consent: Sexual Rights and the Transformation of American Liberalism; Elizabeth Dillon, The Gender of Freedom: Fictions of Liberalism and the Literary Public Sphere

Course work will consist of a 20-page seminar paper (with proposal) and a presentation.





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