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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Fall 2006


Unique Days Time Location Instructor
35795 MW
12:30 PM-2:00 PM
HRC 2.214

Course Description

How do we get the literary texts that we read? Who chooses them and who determines the ways that they are presented? No writer creates and no reader interprets in a vacuum. Between writer and reader a number of other agents - printers, publishers, booksellers, reviewers, and teachers - take actions and make decisions that affect and establish a text's meaning as well as it literary value.

This course, drawing on new work in the field of the history of the book, will examine the forces - cultural, economic, and historical - that have played a role in the creation, production, distribution, and reception of literary texts from 1776 to 1940. It will consist of a number of case studies that focus on major literary texts, exploring how an understanding of the ways that the texts were produced alters and deepens our present reading and interpretation. A variety of issues relating to this theme will be addressed: copyright and author's royalties; the creation of a "national" American literature; popular and high culture; the impact of technology and the introduction of cheap books; the growth of a national market for books and of a mass reading public; censorship and the importance of reviewers and other moral gatekeepers; the question of the availability of reliable reading texts for modern scholars and students.


Tentative list of case studies: Susanna Rowson's Charlotte Temple (1791)

Joel Barlow's The Columbiad (1807)

The Atlantic Souvenir (1826-32)

Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter (1850)

Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852)

Fanny Fern's Ruth Hall (1855)

Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass (1855)

Henry James's Daisy Miller (1878)

Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885)

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wall-Paper (1899)

Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927)


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