English 233 - Winter, 2019

Problems in American Literature

Class Information

Instructor: Ziser, Michael
CRN: 33505
Time: T 3:10-6:00
Location: 120 Voorhies
Breadth: Earlier American
Focus: Method


    Literary History of the American Book to 1900

    This seminar surveys earlier American literature from the perspective of scholarship on print technology, publishing infrastructure, definitions of authorship, and reading practices, with the goal of familiarizing participants with the material and sociological bases of literary production in the period.

    Each week we will tackle a different topic through general readings, hands-on activities, and scrutiny of a specific literary case study.

    Topics may include: the role of print in disseminating (mis)information about North America in England and elsewhere; the role of differential literacy in native-settler relations; the nature of the transatlantic book trade in the 17th and 18th centuries; the rise of American journalism and its connection to revolutionary politics; the beginnings of the American novel tradition; the significance of literary magazines; copyright law as a factor in cultural change; regional and minority periodicals and publishing houses; the emergence of genre fiction; and the history of libraries, archives, and other institutions of literacy; etc. (I intend to adjust the content to student interest once the course roster is established.)

    Our attention will be split between theoretical and historical arguments on the one hand, and pragmatic exposure to research skills on the other. We will regularly visit Shields Special Collections during the quarter to view archival materials.

    In lieu of a term paper, students will submit a detailed research plan relevant to the themes of the course and their area of special focus. While almost all of our case studies will come from before 1900, students in later periods may complete a final project on materials from the 20th or 21st centuries with permission.

    Ironically enough, there will be no physical books for this course. Readings will mostly be provided in pdf form, and we will be consulting the first three volumes of David D. Hall’s A History of the Book in America, which is available through the UCD library as a free electronic book. We will get that good old book smell from our time in Special Collections, however.

    Earlier National (American to 1865); Focus: Method


    Participation, Contribution to Course Resources page, and final project.