|AMERICAN LITERATURE: THE 19th CENTURY
Years 3A & 3 B
Lecturer: Dr. Anca Peiu, Associate Professor
The main focus of this survey course is American literature of the 19th century. It has been conceived as part of an ampler program of American literary and cultural studies, bridging the gap between the survey course in American civilization – preceding this – and the survey course of American literature of the 20th century – following it. This double relationship with specific notions for an American cultural context – on the one hand, and significant literary moments and personalities of the 20th century – on the other hand, will be continuously highlighted. Various aspects of literary theory and criticism have contributed to shaping the pattern of this literary history approach.
Lecture attendance is strongly recommended, seminar attendance is mandatory. Students are encouraged to take active part in class discussion.
Each student has to write a seminar essay and present it. This paper will be defended by a set of 10 questions, related to the essay theme and reflecting the author’s attitude towards the problem chosen for discussion. These questions will be addressed to the student’s colleagues – thus providing a pattern of discussion. The audience participation to the seminar discussion will be graded. No seminar essay shall be accepted without the 10 question set. Thus, each student will get two seminar grades: one for the essay and one for the participation to the discussions.
There is also a mid-term test paper, representing (another) 25% of the final assessment. The final test amounts thus to 50% of the final mark.
Week 1: Introduction. Some key-notions of cultural and literary American tradition
Week 2: American myths and their makers: (I) Washington Irving; (II) J. F. Cooper
Week 3: From horror to “ratiocination”: human mind polarity in E. A. Poe
Week 4: Transcendentalism revisited and romantic visions of nature:
R. W. Emerson
H. D. Thoreau
Week 5: Between novel and romance; American symbolism and allegory in:
Nathaniel Hawthorne and
Week 6: (II) Herman Melville: the dark sense of nothingness
Week 7: Romantic harbingers of modernism in American poetry:
Walt Whitman and
Week 8: (II) Emily Dickinson – or, the metaphor of the blank
Week 9: Mark Twain – the all-time master of the American tall-tale tradition
Week 10: Henry James: at the crossroads of cultural traditions: (Anglo-)American
Modernism in fiction. Defending American realism: W. D. Howells
Pragmatism and modern realistic fiction: William James
Week 11: American Naturalism as the work of a poet: Stephen Crane. Theodore Dreiser
– Speaking Plainly in True Art.
Week 12: Feminine insight in matters literary: Kate Chopin.
Gertrude Stein and the spirit of Modernism.
Week 13: Making It New – Ezra Pound, the Rebel Teacher. From Imagism to
Objectivism: William Carlos Williams.
Week 14: Wallace Stevens: poems of reality in (cool) style.
Washington Irving, “Rip Van Winkle” - mandatory; “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” –
only referred to in the lecture.
J. F. Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans (the fragments in the Norton Anthology)
E. A. Poe, “The Fall of the House of Usher”, “The Purloined Letter”,
“Annabel Lee” - mandatory; “The Raven”, “The Philosophy of Composition” –
referred to in the lecture.
R. W. Emerson: “Nature”, “Self-Reliance”; “Good-Bye”
H. D. Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods “On Civil Disobedience”: only mentioned
in the lecture.
N. Hawthorne: The Scarlet Letter - mandatory; “The Gentle Boy”, “Young Goodman
Brown”, “The Minister’s Black Veil”, “My Kinsman, Major Molineux”: only
referred to in the lecture.
Herman Melville, from Moby Dick: just the fragments in the anthology; “Bartleby the
Scrivener”, “Hawthorne and His Mosses”: only referred to in the lecture.
Walt Whitman, from “Song of Myself”: 1 & 52; Preface to Leaves of Grass (1855),
“Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking”.
Emily Dickinson,  “Because I could not stop for Death”,  “Success is counted
sweetest”,  “There’s a certain Slant of light”,  “I felt a Funeral, in my
Brain”,  “Much Madness is divinest Sense”,  “The Soul selects her own
Samuel Clemens, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady – mandatory for English Major, 2nd series /Daisy
Miller- mandatory for English Minor, British Studies; “The Real Thing”, “The
Tree of Knowledge”and “The Art of Fiction”: all just in the lecture.
William James, “Pragmatism”: only mentioned in the lecture.
W. D. Howells, “Novel-Writing and Novel-Reading”.
Stephen Crane, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets – only mentioned in the lecture;
The Red Badge of Courage: mandatory; fragments from “The Black Riders” &
fragments from “War Is Kind” – see the Norton Anthology.
Kate Chopin, The Awakening.
Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie (only the Chapters I & III in the Shorter Norton
Gertrude Stein: fragments from The Making of Americans and/or fragments from Tender
Buttons (see the anthology); “If I Told Him (A Completed Portrait of Picasso)”.
Wallace Stevens, “The Idea of Order at Key West”, “The Snow Man”: both mandatory;
“A High-Toned Old Christian Woman”, “The Emperor of Ice-Cream”,
“Disillusionment of Ten’O Clock”, “The World as Meditation”, “The Well
Dressed Man with a Beard”- all optional.
Ezra Pound, “Portrait d’une Femme”, “A Pact”, “In a Station of the Metro”.
William Carlos Williams, “Portrait of a Lady”, “Spring and All”, “The Red
Wheelbarrow”, “This Is Just to Say”.
Recommended Critical Bibliography
Baym, Nina et al., The Norton Anthology of American Literature, W.W. Norton & Co.,
Vols. 1 & 2, Oxford Univ. Press, 1994
Baym, Nina et al., The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Shorter Seventh
Edition, W.W. Norton & Co., Vols. 1 & 2, 2008
Bercovitch, Sacvan, The Puritan Origins of the American Self, New Haven & London,
Yale Univ. Press, 1975
Bercovitch, Sacvan, The Rites of Assent, Routledge, New York, London, 1993
Bloom, Harold, The Western Canon: the Books and the School of the Ages, Harcourt
Brace & Co., 1994
Brooks, Cleanth et al., American Literature: The Makers and the Making, Vols. 1 & 2,
St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1973
Dumitriu, Geta, American Literature: The Nineteenth Century, EUB, 1985
Dumitriu, Geta, Tangled Selves. A Study of American Fiction in the 1890s, EUB, 1998
Matthiessen, F. O., American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson
and Whitman, Oxford Univ. Press, 1968 (1941)
Ruland, Richard and Malcolm Bradbury, From Puritanism to Postmodernism: a History
of American Literature, Penguin Books, 1992
Peiu, Anca: “After the Final No”: The World of Wallace Stevens, EUB, 2001