English 258 - Spring, 2022

American Literature: 1800 to the Civil War

Class Information

Instructor: Ziser, Michael
CRN: 62166
Time: R 12:10-3:00
Location: 120 Voorhies
Breadth: Earlier American
Focus: Genre, Interdiscipline, Method


Approaches to Antebellum Literature and Culture

This seminar is an advanced survey of recent critical work in American literature from approximately 1820 through the end of the Civil War in 1865. Emphasis will be put on secondary materials, but there will be some primary reading expected. The course is designed with several different kinds of students in mind. Those working centrally in antebellum literature will get a thorough appraisal of the most current research agendas in the field. Students working in adjacent or intersecting fields (e.g. early American, c18 British, postbellum US, non-Anglophone 19th-century, African American, Native literatures) will acquire enough familiarity with the material to allow them to plausibly claim it as a teaching field or field of future research interest. For students working in more distant subfields, the seminar will be arranged to highlight significant questions that may be relevant to their research, wherever it is located in time or space. In all cases, the intent is to leave everyone with a map of the territory and some fluency in the current critical idiom. Fulfills the Earlier National (American) historical breadth requirement for the English PhD.

Approaches may include: print history and literary infrastructures, digital humanities, history of forms and genres, religious feeling and practice, political theory and culture, racialized forms, science writing, early feminism, environmental humanities, transhistorical methods, disability studies, sentimentalism, and early regionalism. To manage this ambitious scope, our weekly meetings will be split between intensive group readings of an exemplary text and a very recent critical essay (in the first half) and collective digestion of the larger historical or theoretical context (in the second). Seminar participants should expect to contribute in both halves?and to help build a shared folder of resources for each to take beyond the end of the quarter. Term assignment will include a detailed teaching syllabus and either an extensive literature review or a draft conference paper (~10-12pp in length).

Readings will not be ordered through the campus bookstore. Many of the secondary texts will be available electronically through the library or Canvas website, and the primary texts may be purchased in various editions or downloaded for free. A more detailed list of readings will follow.


Weekly contributions: 50%
Detailed teaching syllabus: 20%
Lit review or conference paper: 30%