AMS 390 • American Romantics
7:00 PM-10:00 PM
This is an interdisciplinary research course dealing with ideas and emotions in mid-nineteenth century America that did not know that the Civil War was inevitable. While the dreadfully complex and conspiratorial term Romanticism hovers always in the background, this course will focus on some interesting romantics and the larger issues and themes they represent. Methodologically we will dip a bit into metaphysics, but much of the focus of the course will be on people whose work or personae were widely known beyond the confines of Concord and the Harvard Yard. Thus, one could conceivably term this intellectual history from the bottom upas the case may be. Some of the kinds of people and topics that we will be dealing with are: John James Audubon; William Bartram; Stephen Foster; the contrasting Utopians Stephen Pearl Andrews and Nathaniel Blithedale Hawthorne; Samuel Chamberlain; Jessie Benton and John Charles Frémont; the readable Herman Melville; Ned Buntline; Maria Monk; George Lippard; George Catlin; P. T. Barnum; Humbug; Josiah Priest; Martin J. Heade, Fred Church; John Howard Payne; William Walker; Horace Greeley; John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood; Louis Moreau Gottschalk; Joseph Smith; William Wells Brown; Martin Delany; Edmund Burke; Yellow Bird; Elisha Kent Kane; Jane McManus; Victoria Woodhull; riots; humor; popular culture; the romantic historians; magazines; folklore; the Ohio and the Mississippi before Mark Twain; explorers of South America; the South Seas and the Arctic; the melodramatistsand just a tad of the ever popular Ralph Waldo Emerson. The main task of the course will be the writing of a 20-page or article-length term paper hopefully of publishable quality on the cultural aspects of the figures or his/her or their works or themes stemming from them. Such papers will begin with class reports on these guests or themes by individual students at the appropriate sessions. The Dictionary of American Biography may be a starting point, but is no substitute for discussing what is romantic about individuals, works, or themes. Topics and papers will be discussed in and out of class, with the emphasis upon producing quality work and the potential inherent in the course topic. In your term papers you should consider the following: a) subject of the paper; b) relevance, both to the course and in general; c) sources used; d) strategies to be employed; and e) questions asked of the subject. The class will begin with selected reading for nine weeks. The class will suspend while students write their research papers. Then class will resume the last two meetings of the semester while we discuss one anothers papers. Two copies of each paper must be placed on reserve at the Undergraduate Library and one delivered to the instructor at 224 Geography Building, on the Friday before we discuss your paper on Monday night. The final grade will depend primarily on the research paper, but class participation will also be taken into serious consideration.