English 258 - Winter, 2018

American Literature: 1800 to the Civil War

Class Information

Instructor: Ronda, Margaret
CRN: 74429
Time: M 12:10-3:00
Location: 120 Voorhies


The Social Forms of Nineteenth-Century American Poetry

This course will examine a variety of verse cultures in nineteenth-century America, addressing the changing contexts of poetic reception and the social purposes poetry served, particularly in relation to questions of slavery, personhood, and the public sphere. We will focus careful attention on oral traditions and their remediation in print, pedagogical contexts, and poetry’s status as popular or mass form, considering the cases of Native American oral forms and slave songs as they are reframed in literary texts. Across the course, we will examine the profusion of poetic forms and genres in this period and ask what kinds of practices of reading and interpretation these approaches elicit—practices that diverge in significant ways from modernist and postmodernist hermeneutics. To consider these questions, we will turn to the emerging fields of lyric studies and historical poetics alongside works by poetics theorists and critical race scholars.

Authors will include Bryant, Whittier, Sigourney, Longfellow, Poe, Harper, Bell, Grimke, Emerson, Dickinson, Douglass, Whitman, Thoreau, Melville, Piatt, Rollin Ridge, Lanier, Muskrat, Dunbar, Du Bois.

Secondary sources will include readings by Baraka, Morrison, Kerkering, Jackson, Rubin, Cohen, Sorby, McGill, Russert, Coviello, Gates, Cameron, Petrino, Cavitch, Kilcup, Prins, Mill, Stewart, Johnson.


Response Papers 30%
Seminar Discussion Leading 20%
Final Paper & Class Conference Presentation 50%