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

Spring 2007

E 372L • The American Renaissance

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
34710 TTh
12:30 PM-2:00 PM
PAR 101

Course Description

F.O. Matthiessen's American Renaissance (1941) helped define American literature for generations of students and scholars. This course revisits and re-imagines the "extraordinarily concentrated moment of expression" that Matthiessen called the "first maturity" of American art and culture: 1845-1855. We will read the canon of "past masterpieces" defined by Matthiessen (i.e., Emerson's essays, Thoreau's Walden, Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Melville's Moby-Dick, Whitman's 1855 Leaves of Grass) but we will read it in relation to lesser-known, "popular" texts of the period (e.g., T.S. Arthur's Ten Nights in a Barroom, Martin Delany's Blake). In so doing we will consider the formation and function of literary canons and engage a series of issues central to the literature of the antebellum United States: slavery and social reform; nationalism and empire; sexuality, individuality, and community; originality and emulation.

Grading Policy

Students will be evaluated on the basis of in-class participation, an essay (5-7 pages), and midterm and final examinations.

Essay 30%
Participation (i.e., attendance, response papers, presentations, reading quizzes) 20%
Midterm exam 25%
Final exam 25%


Texts will be drawn from the following list:
Arthur, T.S., Ten Nights in a Barroom (Applewood; 1557095086)
Delany, Blake; or the Huts of America (Beacon; 080706419X)
Emerson, Ralph Waldo and Margaret Fuller, Selected Works (Houghton Mifflin; 0395980755)
Frederick Douglass, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Yale; 0300087012)
Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (Norton; 0393979539)
Matthiessen, American Renaissance [selections] (Coursepack)
Melville, Moby-Dick; or The Whale (Northwestern; 0810119110)
Poe, Selected Writings (Norton; 0393972852)
Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin; Or, Life Among the Lowly (Penguin; 0140390030)
Thoreau, Walden (Princeton; 0691096120)
Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1855) (Coursepack)


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