LITR 5431 Seminar in American Literature
Homepage & Syllabus

coursesite URL:

Fall 2016; Tuesdays 7-9:50 Bayou 1437

Dr. White's


terms index

Model Assignments


Instructor: Craig White      Phone: 281 283 3380.       Email:

Office: Bayou 2529-8      Office Hours: M 4-7, T 4-7, & by appointment

Course Policies

Attendance policy:
One free cut permitted without comment or penalty;
more than one absence jeopardizes your status in course.
If you continue to cut or miss, drop the course.
Even with medical or other emergency excuses,
high numbers of absences or partial absences
result in a lower or failing course grade.

Midterm & Research Proposal
(11 October)

Research Options

research essay (due 16 November)

research journal (due 16 November)

2 research posts
(19-24 October & 16 November)

Conference Proposal & Presentation
(due 16 November)

Final exam
(due 6-7 December)

Student Presentations

reading discussion leader

poetry reader / discussion leader

web / outside text review

Romanticism: My Reading


Reading & Presentation Schedule

Fall 2016

Tuesday,  23 August 2016: introduction


Walt Whitman, "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer"

Rita Dove, "Golden Oldie"

Emily Dickinson, [I Cannot Live with You]

Agenda: intro, schedule, discussion

syllabus, discuss Romanticism

midterm, presentations, model assignments

ID & preferences, assignments



lyric poetry (review poetry presentation)

preview next week's readings

Walt Whitman, 1819-92


Name? Degree or course of studies? What stage in graduate career? Professional or vocational application of studies?

What do you know (or guess) about Romanticism? American Romanticism? Which writers would you automatically associate?

Discussion Questions:

1. What is Romanticism & why does it matter? Where have you encountered the word before, with what associations?

2. What is Romantic about each poem? Presence of Romance narrative? Non-Romantic or anti-Romantic elements

Rita Dove, b. 1952

Tuesday, 30 August 2016: identifying Romanticism

Readings: Poe, Ligeia (1838, 1845) (gothic)

Emerson, selections from Self-Reliance (1841) & The Over-Soul (1844) (Transcendentalism)

reading discussion leader(s)Michael Osborne (Poe); Umaymah Shahid (Emerson)

poetry: Walt Whitman, "There was a Child Went Forth" (1855)

poetry reader / discussion leader: instructor

web / outside text review: Genesis & Letters of Columbus

reviewer: instructor 

Agenda: website, presentations (handouts)

course objectives, periods

Emerson: Umaymah (Self-Reliance)

Poe: Michael

review discussion-leader assignment > poetry-reader assgnmt


course arrangement, next week's assignments

Genesis & Columbus as Romanticism and Romance?

Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-83

Discussion Questions:

1. What conventions, subjects, narratives, and forms of Romanticism are identifiable in either or both texts?

2. What differences between Emerson and Poe? How may they both be Romantic writers or stylists?

3. What appeals to readers then and now? Why does Poe remain the most popular of American classic writers, while Emerson remains essential to the traditional canon of American literature?

4. How is Poe's or Emerson's Romanticism essentially American—or not?

5. Guidance: identify Poe with the gothic, Emerson with Transcendentalism, but look for the sublime & the romance narrative in both.

Question(s) for Whitman poem:

1. What familiar Romantic elements? Romance narrative? Where does Whitman exceed Romanticism or veer into Realism?

2. How does Romanticism affect poetic form? (Whitman as founder of free verse; effort to write poetry for common people)

Edgar Allan Poe, 1809-49

Tuesday,  6 September 2016: early American literature anticipating Romanticism


John Smith, from A General History of Virginia (1624)

Mary Rowlandson, Narrative of the Captivity & Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson (1682) (captivity narrative)

Jonathan Edwards, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God (1741), A Personal Narrative, & Note on Sarah Pierrepont (The Great Awakening)

Thomas Paine, from The Age of Reason (1794) (Enlightenment period) (Declaration, U.S. Constitution)

reading discussion leader(s)Jessica Myers (Edwards &/or Paine); instructor (Rowlandson &/or Smith)

poetry: Anne Bradstreet, "To my Dear and Loving Husband" (cf. E.B. Browning, "Sonnets from the Portuguese #43")

poetry reader / discussion leader: Caryn Livingston

Agenda: presentations, rationale


gothic and sublime

Edwards & Paine

Bradstreet: Caryn


captivity narrative

Discussion: on Smith and Rowlandson

Gothic in Smith (15), Rowlandson (0.3a; 7.1)?



terms: romance narrative, captivity narrative, Romantic rhetoric

fanciful depiction of
Mrs. Mary Rowlandson

Discussion Questions for Pre-Romantic texts:

1. What roots or prototypes for Romantic forms in today's readings? How may these prototypes evolve or develop in Romantic era and beyond? What resistance to reading these texts as proto-Romantic?

2. Compare Edwards (and Paine) to Emerson, Poe, Whitman, Dickinson of Romantic era (a century or more later). A common comparison-with-continuity is between Edwards as a late Puritan and Emerson as a Romantic Transcendentalist.

3. How does Paine's Deism anticipate Transcendentalism? (+- Unitarianism)

4. Smith's and Rowlandson's texts are genre-identified as captivity narratives, one of America's unique contributions to world literature. How may the captivity narrative conform to the romance narrative? (Or not?)

4a. How does the captivity narrative experience differ for a man (Smith) and a woman (Rowlandson)?

5. Re Pocahontas in Smith's History of Virginia, how has this legend been increasingly romanticized ever since, up to the Disney animovie? What elements in Smith's story encourage or resist romanticizing? In what cases is Romanticization a direct violation of factual truth? Or is Romanticism another kind of truth or reality akin to myth?

Mataoka a.k.a. Pocahontas
a.k.a. Rebecca Rolfe (c. 1595-1617)
(engraving by Simon van de Passe)

American Renaissance 1820s-1860s:
Romantic period in American Literature 

Tuesday,  13 September 2016: early Romantic fiction


Washington Irving, Rip Van Winkle & Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1819-20)

James Fenimore Cooper, Introductory materials + chapters 1-2 of The Last of the Mohicans selections

reading discussion leader(s)Peter Becnel (Irving)

web / outside text review: Classical Music & Romantic Music 

reviewer: instructor

web / outside text review: Enlightenment / Romantic visual art

reviewer: instructor

Agenda: midterm / research proposal

reading: Peter


assignments: guide to Mohicans; midterm & research options

 periods / visual art: instructor

Romantic music: instructor

antique mug of Rip Van Winkle in Dutch-American style

Discussion Questions: 1. Besides cartoons, TV, and movies, how and why does everyone know the stories of Rip Van Winkle and Legend of Sleepy Hollow, even if never read before? What about these stories is essentially American and appeals to American readers?

2. Irving's stories are early Romanticism, but what emergent Romantic themes or styles appear in Rip Van Winkle and Legend of Sleepy Hollow?

2a. Identify the gothic and the sublime in Irving's stories and chapters 1-2 of Mohicans—also romance & historical fiction.

2b. Rip Van Winkle & Sleepy Hollow share styles of the 18c Enlightenment (esp. satire & humor) as well as 19c Romanticism-—identify.

Terms / Periods backgrounds: Irving's stories (RVW & Sleepy Hollow) show a style in transition between the Enlightenment (satire, humor, wit, irony, reason, society) and Romanticism (the romance, adventure, Romantic characterization, outdoor adventure).

Except for some satire and (weak) humor associated with David Gamut, Last of the Mohicans is full-blown Romanticism: much more serious about itself and its characters, little humor, frontier instead of society.

1949 Disney animation of
Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Tuesday, 20 September 2016: Noble Savages: The Last of the Mohicans

Readings: conclude selections from The Last of the Mohicans (1826)

Iroquois origin story featuring the tortoise (Uncas's tattoo)

Mark Twain & D.H. Lawrence on Cooper & Leatherstocking Tales

reading discussion leader(s)Caryn Livingston (may also include Indian texts below)

poetry: James Wright, "A Blessing"

poetry reader / discussion leader: Stephen Defferari

web / outside text review: William Apess (Pequot), "An Indian's Looking-Glass for the White Man" (1833) & The Cherokee Memorials (1820s-30s); Trail of Tears

reviewer: instructor


assignments: chronology + range of Romanticism; next week's Tuesday office hours are 1-4

Romanticism; Historical fiction; French and Indian War

Cooper: Caryn

American Indian texts

poetry: Stephen?

Discussion Questions: 1. Written only 6-7 years after Sleepy Hollow & Rip Van Winkle, how is Mohicans more thoroughly Romantic? 

2. Discuss Twain's & Lawrence's post-Romantic revaluations of Cooper's Romanticism? What are Romanticism's shortcomings and virtues? Cooper's failings as a writer are many, but how may he still claim our attention and a place in American literature?

3. How does Mohicans use the gothic (esp. its color code) to explore American race relations and taboos? How does Cora fit the description of a tragic mulatto?

3a. How far may Cooper's representations of repressed identities like American Indians and the mixed-race Cora have advanced beyond Irving's Sentimental Stereotypes of African Americans?

3b. Mohicans turns the captivity narrative (Rowlandson, Smith) into fiction. How does the captivity narrative conform to the romance narrative—or not? (Compare slave narratives later in semester.)

4. How does Romanticism explore the unknown as Realism may not? What's socially desirable about escaping or exceeding reality?

American Indian texts:

1.What alternative realities or narratives emerge from texts representing repressed or marginalized voices? What mix of Romantic ideals & real conditions? (classic, popular, representative literature)

2. American dominant culture often wishes to romanticize the American Indian as either saint or sinner, God or dog, wise man close to nature or stone-killer terrorist. What different realities emerge when Indians speak (more or less) with their own voice? What light do these alternate realities throw on Romanticism?

tortoise as foundation of earth

Tuesday, 27 September 2016: psychological & puritan gothic

Readings: Edgar Allan Poe (1809-49), The Fall of the House of Usher (1839, 1840); William Wilson (1839)

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-64), The Minister's Black Veil (1836), Young Goodman Brown (1836) 

reading discussion leader(s)Stephen Defferari (Hawthorne), Michael Osborne (Poe)

Romanticism: My Reading: Umaymah Shahid

Agenda: midterm > research proposal + research options; assignments

Umaymah's Romanticism

Hawthorne: Stephen


Poe: Michael 

Scarlet Letter

young Nathaniel Hawthorne

Discussion Questions:  1. Compare-contrast Poe's & Hawthorne's use of the gothic. What common forms and purposes? What distinct backgrounds (or traditions) & purposes?

2. What is the psychological and moral significance of the gothic? Why does the gothic recur in various dimensions of popular literature and culture? What western values are implicit in the color code of the gothic? (Prepare for inversion in Harlem Renaissance.)

3. How does Poe's gothic conform more to European models of the gothic? How is Hawthorne's gothic more distinctly American, or how does he adapt the gothic  to early American Puritanism?

4. How might Hawthorne, Poe, or their characters be regarded as Byronic heroes?

5. What other "signature" styles for Hawthorne and Poe do these stories show?

6. How are Hawthorne & Poe both Romantic? How do they vary, complicate, or transcend Romanticism? How are both American?  

Poe 1809-49

Tuesday4 October 2016: Transcendentalism

Readings: Ralph Waldo Emerson, selections from Nature (1836) + Thoreau (1862) (Transcendentalism)

Henry David Thoreau, Resistance to Civil Government (1849) (historical backgrounds to civil disobedience)

Margaret Fuller, The Great Lawsuit (1843) (Transcendentalism)

reading discussion leader(s) Peter Becnel (Emerson &/or Thoreau); Liz Davis (Fuller)

poetry: Denise Levertov, "The Jacob's Ladder"

poetry reader / discussion leader: Stephen Defferari

web / outside text review: US-Mexican War; memoir of Juan Seguin

reviewers: instructor 

Agenda: assignments (American Renaissance), midterm

Transcendentalism > Peter

poetry: Stephen


Fuller: instructor


Thoreau: Liz

Mexican American War; Juan Seguin:

Henry David Thoreau

Discussion Questions:

1. How is Transcendentalism consistent with or distinct from Romanticism?

2. What formal, cultural or historical factors identify all three authors as Transcendentalists?

3. To what varying purposes does each author spin or vary the Transcendentalist style or forms?

4. Is Transcendentalism merely escapist Idealism, or does it have political and economic implications and consequences?

Discussion for US-Mexican War & memoir of Juan Seguin: The American literary canon expands and diversifies to include texts and voices representing different genders, races, and classes. Courses in Multicultural Literature and Contemporary American Literature frequently feature leading Hispanic and Mexican American Authors.

But the further back in American literary history we go, the more challenging inclusiveness of Latinos becomes. Why? What historical factors in American and Mexican literary history? What are the possibilities for including earlier Mexican American literature?

Margaret Fuller, 1810-50

Tuesday, 11 October 2016 midterm exam & research proposal—no class meeting; instructor keeps office hours

Email midterms due by Wednesday 12 October midnight.

First Research Post due week of 19-24 October (see research options)

Tuesday,  18 October 2016: slave narratives: romance or reality?

Readings: Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life (1845); Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861)

reading discussion leader(s): Brittney Wilson (Jacobs); Jessica Myers (Douglass)

poetry: Robert Hayden, "Those Winter Sundays"

poetry reader / discussion leader: Peter Becnel

web / outside text review: Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom (1855) & Life & Times of Frederick Douglass

reviewer: instructor on Frederick Douglass autobiographies < Jason Kimbrell, LITR MA 2013: Investigating Frederick Douglass: A Research Journal (2012)

Agenda: midterms, assignments, schedule (American Renaissance)

Liz on Fuller?

Douglass: Jessica


Douglass by instructor

poetry: Peter



Frederick Douglass, 1818-95

Discussion Questions:

1. What problems arise in discussing genres like slave narratives in terms of literary styles like Romanticism or Realism? What challenges, problems, or advantages from discussing such texts as literature rather than cultural or historical documents?

2. What may be inherently Romantic about the symbols and values of the slave narrative? How may its structure or sequence resemble the romance narrative?

3. What realities or realistic descriptions fall outside Romantic style or violate the romance narrative?

4. How to discuss slavery, esp. in a post-Confederate state like Texas? (Standard answers from dominant culture: "That was a long time ago"; "We wouldn't have done that.")


Harriet Jacobs, 1813-97
(photo from 1894)

Tuesday, 25 October 2016: American Renaissance of Women's Writing

Readings: Susan B. Warner, selections from The Wide, Wide World (1850) (read chs. 1, 2, 5, 6, 10)

Maria Susanna Cummins, selections from The Lamplighter (1854)

Harriet Beecher Stowe, selections from Uncle Tom's Cabin (1851-2) (chs. 1, 4, 7, 9) 

reading discussion leader(s):  (Warner &/or Cummins); Umaymah Shahid (Stowe)

poetry: Elizabeth Bishop, "The Fish"

poetry reader / discussion leader: Caryn Livingston

Agenda: conclude Jacobs?

Warner & Cummins: instructor


Stowe: Umaymah

poetry: Caryn



Discussion Questions:

1. Wide, Wide World (1850) was the USA's bestselling novel until Uncle Tom's Cabin (1851-2), and both were outsold by The Lamplighter (1854). How do these texts resemble or differ from modern popular literature?  What are the continuing attractions of domestic literature? What are these popular novels' strengths and weakness for critical study and teaching?

2. As with the slave narratives, where does Romanticism give way to Realism, with what literary satisfactions or frustrations?

3. Evaluate sentiment & sentimentality—how to react to scenes of tears, mothers' fears, etc.? How does Uncle Tom's Cabin combine domestic sentimentality with political activism? Compare Thoreau's Resistance to Civil Government; backgrounds to civil disobedience.

4. How does Uncle Tom's Cabin correspond in form and content to the slave narrative genre?

5. If you've read John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress (1678), how does Wide, Wide World resemble it, particularly as a type of spiritual romance?

6. All these texts were written in the context of the "Second Great Awakening" of American evangelism in the early 19th century. Evaluate the evangelical content in today's readings. How to teach such texts in a public school or university? How much do the texts succeed as cultural history or as literature? How do evangelical values correspond or not to Romanticism?

7. Compare Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl as an example of how domesticity and the slave narrative meet.

Post-Romantic American Literature: Realism & Modernism
Identify Romantic forms in later contexts

Tuesday,  1 November 2016: Romanticism in Realism

Readings: Henry James, Daisy Miller (1878): Part 1 & Part 2

reading discussion leader(s): Caryn Livingston

poetry: Theodore Roethke, "I Knew a Woman"

poetry reader / discussion leader: Stephen Defferari



periods as subject of literary studies (Realism)

Daisy Miller: Caryn

poetry: Stephen

Henry James, 1843-1916

Background: James (w/ Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, & William Dean Howells) is a leading author of the American period / style of Realism—in James's case "psychological realism." Realism as a movement reacted against Romanticism but retained features that may still seem residually Romantic..

Daisy Miller, James's most popular work, appears in 1878, a long decade after the Civil War. Culturally, Realism may appear as a period of comparative exhaustion or retrenchment following the enormous social movements and changes of the antebellum era and Civil War. Compare 1960s-1980s.

Discussion Questions: 1. How have setting, characterization, and narrative (incl. romance) changed since the Romantic era? Or not?

2. If both Romantic and Realistic elements co-exist, what is the effect of their mixing or friction? Consider irony, but other possibilities.

3. Note the story's repeated references to Lord Byron (1788-1824). How does the story manipulate elements of Romanticism and turn them to Realistic ends?

4. Consider the character Daisy Miller as a new American woman visiting Europe but uninhibited by gender or class traditions of the Old World. How does Daisy's image conform to styles or values of Romanticism? How does her voice challenge such descriptions or motives? What actions throw characterization of her as Romantic into question or doubt?

5. Henry James is critically regarded as one of the USA's greatest authors and inspires enormous quantities of scholarship yearly. What is his status in the literary canon? What appeals or detractions? How is Daisy quintessentially American? Why is Randolph surprised that Winterbourne is an American? (James's "International Theme.")

5a. Compare James's style and psychological content to Hawthorne?

5b. Daisy Miller as novel of manners?

6. Jessica's question: Why must Romantic heroines who rebel agains society invariably die? (e.g. Edna in The Awakening [1899])

Cybill Shepherd in Daisy Miller (d. Peter Bogdanovich, 1974)

Tuesday,  8 November 2016: local color / regionalism

Readings: Charles W. Chesnutt, "The Goophered Grapevine" (1887)

Sarah Orne Jewett, "The White Heron" (1886) & "The Town Poor" (1890)

reading discussion leader(s)Jessica Myers

poetry: Mary Oliver, "Wild Geese"

poetry reader / discussion leader: Caryn Livingston


Local color, Realism & Romanticism

discussion: Jessica:


poetry: Caryn

schedule > Modernism

Sarah Orne Jewett

Discussion Questions:

1. The Local Color movement, a.k.a. Regionalism, was concentrated in the Realistic period of the late 19th-early 20th centuries. Identify Realistic features of these stories' style, but what Romantic styles or values remain?

2. Local Color writers typically represent speech in dialect, which is now discouraged by editors, publishers, and creative writing teachers. Why the change? Why did dialect work then but not now?

3. Local Color writing is often appealing to readers but overlooked as a major movement. Why is it attractive but critically neglected?

3a. Women read and wrote much of the Local Color movement. What are its appeals to an audience of women, and how may it represent a feminist voice or tradition?

4. By this point in the semester, rehearsing period or style terms like Romanticism and Realism may seem obvious, but what usefulness do such broad terms serve for scholarship and teaching? Scholarship is so specific that broad terms like Romanticism and Realism or even Regionalism may rarely be examined in depth except in reference works like Handbooks, Encyclopedias, and Companions—but secondary scholarship often refers to such terms.


Tuesday, 15 November 2016: no class meeting (Tuesday meetings received an extra class meeting this semester.)

Instructor holds office hours 1-4pm, 7-10pm Tuesday 15 November.

Final research projects due midnight Wednesday 16 November (includes Essays, Journals, Conference presentations, or 2nd Research Posts)

Tuesday, 22 November 2016: Modernist Romanticism

Readings: William Faulkner, "A Rose for Emily" (1930)

Katherine Ann Porter, "The Grave" (1935)

Thomas Wolfe, The Lost Boy (1938)

reading discussion leader(s) Caryn Livingston

poetry: Sylvia Plath, "Blackberrying" (1960)

poetry reader / discussion leader: Liz Davis

terms: Modernism, Symbolism, symbol


schedule, final class preview

periods: Modernism



poetry: Liz




Katherine Ann Porter
1890-1980 (born at
Indian Creek, Texas)

Discussion Questions:

1. How has Romanticism been absorbed or transformed as Modernism? How does Romanticism recognizably survive by adaptation to Modernist needs? What does Modernism add to or subtract from Romanticism? What styles in these stories are identifiable as Modernism? (Consider stream-of-consciousness narration, symbolism, primitivism, sexuality.)

2. These stories retain Realistic elements or forms. Where do the styles of Modernism, Romanticism, and Realism (incl. Local Color) meet or separate? (These major styles also meet in Modernist fiction by Fitzgerald and Hemingway.)

3. Both "A Rose for Emily" and "The Grave" refer directly to African American characters. Are these references patronizing sentimental stereotypes, or meaningfully realistic and symbolic?

4. In what ways does Faulkner's writing here and elsewhere qualify as "Southern Gothic?" What other authors might be included in this category?

5. Overall, how has Romanticism changed across a century or more? Is Romanticism still recognizable in the heroic sprawl of Modernism? What parallels between Romanticism and Modernism? Is Modernism an evolution or a radical break from Romanticism and Realism? How may Romanticism appear in current literature, either as postmodern "literary" literature or as popular or genre literature?

William Faulkner

Tuesday,  29 November 2016: Jazz Age / Harlem Renaissance (continue Modernism)

Readings: F. Scott Fitzgerald, "Winter Dreams" (1922)

Claude McKay, "Harlem Dancer," "Harlem Shadows," "If We Must Die"

Langston Hughes, "Harlem" & "Dream Variations," "I Too Sing America," "Jazzonia," "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," "Night Funeral in Harlem"

Zora Neale Hurston, "How it Feels to be Colored Me"

reading discussion leader(s)Michael Osborne (Fitzgerald); Stephen Defferari (Harlem Renaissance)

poetry: Tracy K. Smith, "I Don't Miss It" poetry reader / discussion leader: Jessica Myers

web / outside text review: Countee Cullen, "Yet Do I Marvel"; "From the Dark Tower"; "For a Poet": instructor

Agenda: final exam

Harlem Renaissance: Stephen

Tracy K. Smith poem: Jessica

[break + evaluations]

Fitzgerald: Michael

Hughes, Cullen questions (exam C3, C4)

Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald

Discussion Questions:

Fitzgerald, "Winter Dreams": 1. If Fitzgerald is a Modernist with a Realistic surface, how do he and this text continue to represent a romance narrative or a Romantic perspective? How much is Fitzgerald's persona, mystique, or perspective not Romantic but merely American? How has Romanticism changed in the century since its peak?

2. How does Judy Jones resemble Daisy Miller as "the American Girl" and subject / object of romance? (Or Cora in Mohicans, Poe's Ligeia, Jacobs's slave girl, Sylvia in "White Heron," or Miranda in "The Grave?")

3. If Americans can't talk about class, how does Fitzgerald bring us near to the subject? Compare "class" as identity-determinant with race and gender?

Harlem Renaissance writers: 4. What is Modernist yet resiliently Romantic about these writers and their texts? How do they inherit, capitalize on, and transform Romantic styles or subjects in ways compatible with Modernism?

5. As with the slave narratives, how does including African American literature stress and test the limits of Romanticism? Should minority traditions be mainstreamed or separate but equal?

Tracy K. Smith poem: If Smith is a postmodern poet, how has Romanticism changed, attenuated, or revived?

Zora Neale Hurston

Tuesday,  6 December 2016: final exam (email deadline midnight Wednesday 7 December)

Grade reports will be returned 5-10 days after final exam submissions.

Course Objectives

Objective 1: Literary Categories of Romanticism

  Objective 1a. Romantic Spirit or Ideology

To identify and criticize ideas or attitudes associated with Romanticism, such as desire and loss, rebellion, nostalgia, idealism, the gothic, the sublime, the individual in nature and/or separate from the masses.

Romance narrative: A desire & quest for anything besides “the here and now” or “reality," a journey to cross physical, social, or psychological boundaries in order to attain or regain some transcendent goal or dream.

characterization: A Romantic hero or heroine may appear empty or innocent of anything
except readiness to change or yearning to re-invent the self or world;

the golden boy and fair lady; also their counterparts, the dark lady and the Byronic hero


Objective 1b. The Romantic Period

To observe Romanticism’s co-emergence in the late 18th through the 19th centuries
with the rising middle class, urbanization, industrial capitalism, consumer culture, & nationalism.


To observe predictive elements in “pre-Romantic” writings from earlier periods &
 residual elements in “post-Romantic” writings from later periods


Objective 1c: Romantic Genres

the romance narrative or novel (journey from repression to transcendence) with African American variants of slave narratives.

the gothic novel or style (haunted physical and mental spaces, the shadow of death or decay; dark and light in physical and moral terms; film noir)

the lyric poem (a momentary but comprehensive cognition or transcendent feeling—more prominent in European than American Romanticism?)

the essay (esp. for Transcendentalists—descended from the Puritan sermon?)


Objective 2: Cultural Issues:

America as Romanticism, and vice versa

2a. To identify the Romantic era in the United States of America as the “American Renaissance”—roughly the generation before the Civil War
(c. 1820-1860, one generation
after the Romantic era in Europe).


2b. To acknowledge the co-emergence and convergence of "America" and "Romanticism." European Romanticism begins near the time of the American Revolution. Subsequently Romanticism and the American nation develop ideas of individualism, sentimental nature, rebellion, and equality in parallel.


2c. Racially divided but historically related "Old and New Canons" of Romantic literature:

European-American: from Emerson’s Transcendentalism to Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age

African American: from the Slave Narratives of Douglass and Jacobs to the Harlem Renaissance of Hughes, Hurston, and Cullen

American Indian: conflicted Romantic icon in Cooper and Zitkala-Sa.

(Mexican American Literature is not yet incorporated into this course—seminar will discuss.)


2d.  Economically liberal but culturally conservative, the USA creates "Old and New Canons" also in terms of gender

masculine traditions: freedom and the frontier (with variations)

feminine traditions: relations and domesticity (with variations)

Also consider “Classical” and “Popular” literature as gendered divisions.


2e. American Romanticism exposes competing or complementary dimensions of American identity:
Is America a culture of sensory and material gratification or moral, spiritual, idealistic mission?


2f. If "America" and "Romanticism" converge, to what degree does popular American culture and ideology—from Hollywood to human rights—represent a derivative form of classic Romanticism?