ENGL6710: Am Writing 1820-65 (49628)

Marrs, Cody

M 1 :50 PM

Park Hall 61

This class has two related aims: (1) to study some of the major literary works of the mid-nineteenth century U.S., and (2) to examine the theories and methods that scholars use to understand these texts. Our readings will center around six writers who lived through this era and wrote very perceptively about it: Emily Dickinson, Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman. Over the course of the semester, we will read several examples of their writing composed at different moments in their careers. In doing so, we will seek answers to a range of questions: What defines their respective styles? What philosophical perspectives—on the environment, for example, or the human mind—do they cultivate? How do these authors conceive of literature’s relation to other forms, actions, and endeavors? To what extent, and in what ways, should we read these writers through one another? How and why do works like Moby-Dick and Walden continue to resonate in the 21st century? To answer such questions, we will read these authors slowly and carefully, and we will examine recent scholarship (as well as some older scholarship) in nineteenth-century U.S. literary studies, considering an array of interpretive approaches, from posthumanist criticism to historical poetics.  


Note: this class will be entirely in-person.


Required texts:

Emily Dickinson, Poems: Reading Edition

- - - - -. The Gorgeous Nothings, eds. Marta Werner and Jen Bevins

Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Essential Writings

Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom 

Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

Walt Whitman, Poetry and Prose 

Henry David Thoreau, Walden