E 379S • Producing American Literature
9:30 AM-11:00 AM
As part of our University-directed self-assessment project, the English Department has initiated an ePortfolio program for English majors. You will be asked to submit, in electronic form, two documents--a one page essay on the English major and a copy of your final paper for the seminar. Additionally, you will be asked to complete a brief four question survey. During the semester, you will receive details from your instructor or from the English Department on completing the survey and submitting the documents on your senior seminar's Blackboard website.
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 agents - printers, publishers, booksellers, reviewers, and teachers - take actions and make decisions that affect and establish a text's meaning as well as its 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 availability of reliable reading texts for modern scholars and students.
In addition to the readings, there will be a series of exercises that are designed to help students locate and analyze primary materials, both printed and manuscript, and related reference sources. These exercises will lead to the preparation of four short (2 page) response paers. Attendance in class is required, and students are expected to come to class having completed both readings and exercises and prepared to participate in class discussion. As a final project, students will prepare a paper (8 pages) that explores the production of an American literary text, drawing on original documents, where available, as well as multiple editions in the collections of the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center and other libraries. This research will be the basis of a class presentation and a term paper. Grades will be based on class participation (20%), the response papers to the exercises (20%) and the final paper (60%).