English 260 - Fall, 2019

American Literature: Civil War to 1914

Class Information

Instructor: Freeman, Elizabeth
CRN: 63240
Time: W 11:00-1:50
Location: 120 Voorhies
Breadth: Later American
Focus: Genre, Interdiscipline, Theory


    Kinship and U.S. Empire

    Dominant antebellum Anglo-American culture was shaped by the seemingly smooth fit of the middle-class family, a liberal-democratic polis, and the novel as a genre that bound these things together. Yet during the rise of a United States empire after the Civil War, this alignment was troubled. On the one hand, kinship law helped imperialist projects remake the subjects of the territories they conquered. On the other, exploration, occupation, and annexation of territories exposed Anglo-Americans to kinship norms that threatened to denaturalize their own. While the kinship practices of Native Americans and the experiments of the Second Great Awakening had certainly outraged many Anglos, new postbellum developments such as the Westward movement, Reconstruction, the annexation of Hawaii, Chinese immigration, and the Spanish-American war exposed them to even more kinship forms that rendered their own families merely “relative.” And meanwhile, by about 1870, the discipline of anthropology had found its home in the U.S., such that educated Americans were aware that kinship itself was an object of study, while fictional genres such as local color and naturalism emerged as a kind of lay anthropology. This course, then, will explore U.S. literature through the lens of kinship studies, asking how, in the years 1865-1900, encounters with new forms of family threatened Anglo-Americans, offered them possibilities, and triggered remakings of both American and New World cultures. What effect might these encounters with New World kinship have had on literary genre and form? What role might literature have had as a successful or failed part of any particular imperialist remaking of kinship?

    Other possible readings: historical documents including Sir Henry Maine, Ancient Law (1861, selections), Darwin, The Descent of Man (1871, selections); Lewis Henry Morgan, Ancient Society (1877, selections); Elizabeth Cady Stanton, "The Need for Liberal Divorce Laws" (1884); Dyer D. Lum, Social Problems of Today, or, The Mormon Question in its Economic Aspects (1886, selections); the Dawes Act (1887); Francis Galton, “Eugenics: Its Definition, Scope, and Aims” (1904); Freud, Totem and Taboo (1913); theoretical works from Judith Butler, Mel Y. Chen, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, David Eng, Sadiya Hartman, Carole Pateman, Elizabeth Povinelli, Hortense Spillers, and Michael Taussig.

    Book list is a bit of a work in progress; I may substitute something else for the Wakefield and/or the James, and/or drop one novel. But I may not.


    TBA, likely a short presentation or paper and a long paper, or two conference-length papers, plus discussion.


    A Modern Instance, William Dean Howells
    Pudd’nhead Wilson, Mark Twain
    The Country of the Pointed Firs, Jewett, Sarah Orne
    Six Weeks in the Sioux Teepees , Wakefield, Sarah
    The Spoils of Poynton , James, Henry
    Imperium in Imperio , Griggs, Sutton
    Of One Blood, Hopkins, Pauline
    Riders of the Purple Sage , Grey, Zane
    Herland, Gilman, Charlotte Perkins
    Course Packet