LITR 4328 American Renaissance
lecture notes



Two contending or complementary trends in teaching / studying Literature


Study literature for formal style

Study literature for cultural / historical relevance (Historicism) (Obj. 3)


How do you see these trends play out in your Literature courses? Which side is emphasized?

Which approach relevant to teaching careers? Advantages or disadvantages of either approach?


text selection: style > fiction, poetry, drama

text selection for cultural studies: fiction, poetry, drama + historical knowledge, documents, nonfiction

also texts by marginalized or under-represented identities: women, people of color, non-Western, alternative genders


next 5 out of 6 classes, historical emphasis

Declaration of Independence 1776 + U.S. Constitution 1789

American Renaissance 1830s-1850s (Civil War 1861-65)

How does the American Renaissance extend or complete the American Revolution?


3. How may the romance narrative conform to the USA's national narrative of equality, liberty, progress by extension of rights? (Compare Declaration of Independence & U.S. Constitution.)

Enlightenment as freedom and equality for all men, but . . .

Fuller 20 infinite soul within limits


Margaret Fuller: How does Fuller use or vary the Transcendental style or themes developed by Emerson for gender analysis and women's equality? How does her style (content & technique) resemble Emerson and Thoreau but also differ from them?

7-14 dialogue

31-39 narrative + dialogue

83-85 social anecdote




Ask what students know about women's writing, expression, feminism before Romantic period

race, class, and gender

4 waves of Feminism, Separate Spheres



formal as decoding of symbols

division of society b/w those who develop and comprehend symbolic codes

and those operated on by symbolic codes

Compare with Emerson as Transcendentalism; preview Thoreau

Essay as Trans genre

Preview FD as Trans?


Transcendentalism as historical?

Romanticism as “spilled religion”

Deism > Unitarianism > Transcendentalism

(simultaneous Great Awakening)

Romanticism as age of Revolution



Fuller  (romance) 27   4, 7, 16 (limits), 25 (expansion), 27, 29



Fuller Historical

1 post-Revolutionary America cf. France

2 the red man, the black man

3 Romanticism / Transcendentalism

Organic metaphor

USA as great moral law

4 all men equal as ideal, guide, golden certainty

28 negro / woman

One law for all souls [Trans?]



Fuller Formal / Transcendentalism

examples of formal study: gothic conventions, light / dark (relocatable to different historical circumstances)

3 Romanticism / Transcendentalism

Organic metaphor

USA as great moral law

4 all men equal as ideal, guide, golden certainty

Spheres as inherited / transformed form: 7, 16, 27 divine ascend into nature

58 higher grade of marriage, the religious

63 obstructions removed

66 Trans




Reading notes:

1 post-Revolutionary America cf. France

2 highlight promise of heaven

2 the red man, the black man

3 Romanticism / Transcendentalism

Organic metaphor

USA as great moral law

4 all men equal as ideal, guide, golden certainty

5 abolition + women

7 lower-font businessman

Correspondence of national union / family union

Sphere; cf head-heart in 8

8 Have you asked her? (rhetorical question)

[11] "Am I not the head of my house!"

[12] "You are not the head of your wife. God has given her a mind of her own."  [pun, wordplay]

13 I am the head and she the heart

16 model-woman, woman’s sphere

mark out with due precision the limits of woman's sphere

18 cf. anti-slavery and pro-woman, property rights

19 private action in woman’s favor > legal protection

But if woman be, indeed, the weaker party, she ought to have legal protection

20 infinite soul in limits (repression, captivity)

Publicly represented by women

21 private influence, pen

22 inner circle

24 Quaker preachers [preview Mott]

25 expansion

27 every arbitrary barrier thrown down (Romanticism)

Regulate spheres > ravishing harmony

the Divine would ascend into nature to a height unknown  Transcendentalism

28 negro / woman

One law for all souls Transcendentalism

31 temple of immortal intellect

32 self-dependence; cf. Emerson self-reliance; cf. 34

Faith and self-respect

40 sexes correspond + prophesy

46 equality

47 household partnership

49 intellectual companionship

50 Trans form    Transcendentalism

54 partners in work and in life, sharing together, on equal terms, public and private interests

58 higher grade of marriage, the religious    Transcendentalism

63 obstructions removed

66 Trans      Transcendentalism

66 motherhood, but no limits

67 old maids

69-72 alternative genders, extended family relations

79 great radical dualism

82 Transcendental form: too much in relations, renovating fountains [Romantic individualism]


88 men do not look at both sides; women retire within themselves

90 woman belongs to man instead of forming a whole with him     Transcendentalism



Stanton, Declaration of Sentiments

[1] When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them

[2] We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal;

[3] The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world. [The original Declaration of Independence refers to the "tyranny" of "the present King of Great Britain"; Stanton shifts the accusation to "man."]

[5] He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice.


[style: plays with language of "man" and "mankind," turns it from meaning "humanity" or "all people" to "those people" or "guys."]




Truth, Ain't I a Woman

[1] I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon.

2 I could work as much and eat as much as a man—when I could get it—and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

[3] Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

4] Then that little man in black there [a clergyman?], he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.





Stowe, "The Libyan Sybil"

2 evidently a full-blooded African

3 sentimental stereotype

12 sentimental stereotype (nephew)

18 an audience was what she wanted

'm a kind o' preacher myself."

[21] "You are?" said Dr. Beecher. "Do you preach from the Bible?"

[22] "No, honey, can't preach from de Bible,—can't read a letter."

28 how my ole mammy would sit out o' doors in the evenin', an' look up at the stars an' groan.

[31] "Matter enough, chile! I'm groanin' to think o' my poor children: they don't know where I be, an' I don't know where they be; they looks up at the stars, an' I looks up at the stars, but I can't tell where they be. [sublime & Romantic]

[38] "At last I got sold away to a real hard massa an' missis.

ef I try to git away in the night, I can't see; an' ef I try to git away in the daytime, they'll see me, an' be after me.'

[40] "Then the Lord said to me, 'Git up two or three hours afore daylight, an' start off.'

44 Quakers

[45]  jest as soon as everything got a-goin' easy, I forget all about God.

[46] "Pretty well don't need no help; an' I gin up prayin.' I lived there two or three years, an' then the slaves in New York were all set free, an' ole massa came to our house to make a visit, an' he asked me ef I did n't want to go back an' see the folks on the ole place. An' I told him I did. So he said, ef I'd jes' git into the wagon with him, he'd carry me over. Well, jest as I was goin' out to git into the wagon, I met God! an' says I, 'O God, I did n't know as you was so great!' An' I turned right round an' come into the house, an' set down in my room; for 't was God all around me. I could feel it burnin', burnin', burnin' all around me, an' goin' through me; an' I saw I was so wicked, it seemed as ef it would burn me up. An' I said, 'O somebody, somebody, stand between God an' me! for it burns me!' [sublime + conversion narrative]

47 like the sun shinin' in a pail o' water, when it moves up an' down; for I begun to feel 't was somebody that loved me; an' I tried to know him.

47 says I, "This is Jesus! Glory be to God! An' then the whole world grew bright, an' the trees they waved an' waved in glory, an' every little bit o' stone on the ground shone like glass; an' I shouted an' said, 'Praise, praise, praise to the Lord!' An' I begun to feel sech a love in my soul as I never felt before,—love to all creatures

52 such a wild, peculiar power to the negro singing,—but above all, with such an overwhelming energy of personal appropriation that the hymn seemed to be fused in the furnace of her feelings and come out recrystallized as a production of her own.

[58] "'Poh! says she, 'what a fuss you make about a little nigger! Got more of 'em now than you know what to do with.'

62 Stowe gets beyond sentimental stereotyping

[76] "No, 'deed! My name was Isabella; but when I left the house of bondage, I left everything behind. I wa'n't goin' to keep nothin' of Egypt on me

77 "I journeys round to camp-meetins, an' wherever folks is, an' I sets up my banner, an' then I sings an' then folks always come up round me, an' then I preaches to 'em.

81 Ef women want any rights more 'n dey got, why don't dey jes' take 'em an' not be talkin' about it?' Some on 'em came round me, an' asked why I didn't wear Bloomers.*

92 [92] There was at the time an invalid in the house, and Sojourner, on learning it, felt a mission to go and comfort her. It was curious to see the tall, gaunt, dusky figure stalk up to the bed with such an air of conscious authority, and take on herself the office of consoler with such a mixture of authority and tenderness. She talked as from above,—and at the same time, if a pillow needed changing or any office to be rendered, she did it with a strength and handiness that inspired trust.

95 Douglass

98 Not another word she said or needed to say; it was enough.

99 One longs to know what such beings might have become, if suffered to unfold and expand under the kindly developing influences of education.

100 The African seems to seize on the tropical fervor and luxuriance of Scripture imagery as something native; he appears to feel himself to be of the same blood with those old burning, simple souls, the patriarchs, prophets, and seers, whose impassioned words seem only grafted as foreign plants on the cooler stock of the Occidental mind.





Mott, Discourse on Woman

3 recognition of her rights, her important duties and responsibilities in life.

[4] Free discussion upon this, as upon all other subjects, is never to be feared; nor will be, except by such as prefer darkness to light.

[6] In the beginning, man and woman were created equal. "Male and female created he them, and blessed them, and called their name Adam." He gave dominion to both over the lower animals, but not to one over the other.  . . .

8 Those who read the Scriptures, and judge for themselves, not resting satisfied with the perverted application of the text, do not find the distinction, that theology and ecclesiastical authorities have made, in the condition of the sexes. I

9 Numbers of women were the companions of Jesus,

13 we deny that the present position of woman, is her true sphere of usefulness: nor will she attain to this sphere, until the disabilities and disadvantages, religious, civil, and social, which impede her progress, are removed out of her way.

14 As it is desirable that man should act a manly and generous part, not "mannish," so let woman be urged to exercise a dignified and womanly bearing, not womanish. Let her cultivate all the graces and proper accomplishments of her sex, but let not these degenerate into a kind of effeminacy

14 But how has neglect and mismanagement increased this difference! It is our duty to develop these natural powers, by suitable exercise, so that they may be strengthened "by reason of use."

16 Public education is coming to be regarded the right of the children of a republic.

19 he is seeking not to be governed by laws, in the making of which she has no voice. She is deprived of almost every right in civil society

[20] There are large Christian denominations who do not recognise such degrading relations of husband and wife.

23 We require them to contribute their share in the way of taxes, to the support of government, but allow them no voice in its direction. We hold them amenable to the laws when made, but allow them no share in making them. This language, applied to males, would be the exact definition of political slavery; applied to females, custom does not teach us so to regard it."

24 Where is the justice of this state of things? The change in the law of this State and of New York, in relation to the property of the wife, go to a limited extend, toward the redress of these wrongs

27 We have as yet no high school for girls in this state. [<Pennsylvania?] . . .

[28] Women's property has been taxed, equally with that of men's, to sustain colleges endowed by the states; but they have not been permitted to enter those high seminaries of learning. Within a few years, however, some colleges have been instituted, where young women are admitted, nearly upon equal terms with young men; and numbers are availing themselves of their long denied rights. This is among the signs of the times, indicative of an advance for women. . . .





How much should Literature concern social or cultural criticism, compared to discussions of genres, forms, symbolism, etc.?

Is Literature automatically or predominantly liberal or progressive? What response for conservative students, or reaction by traditional schools?


How does a women's literary tradition begin within a male-dominant tradition?

One possibility later this semester: Women's storytelling traditions > women's romances, sentimental fiction

Harriet Beecher Stowe, other best-selling novelists of her and our time


But how about literature as public voice, political argument, moral guidance not just to private world but to public sphere (which is traditionally masculine)?

But avoid strict political edge. It's a Literature course. We inevitably open to such questions or issues, which will circulate, but they're not our main purpose--potentially liberating, potentially limiting.

> formal patterns, critical thinking

Instructor models:

error sometimes leads to insight, re-sensitizes

last class I tried to preview how Fuller's father taught Fuller and why, something about two older brothers dying . . .

p. 1692

cf. Stanton 2109

in both cases, a transfer not from mother to daughter or father to son but

father to daughter

interesting social pattern

Can it be extended into the texts?

Hypothesis: Both women writers revise or reform texts or styles originally written by men



unity / continuity / transition