LITE 3519 XIX Century American Fiction

The course will explore the various forms in which American fiction develops during the nineteenth century, through readings from writers like Hawthorne, Melville, Poe, Cooper, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Twain. All of these writers are responding in different ways to the demands of the new republic, which is eager to consolidate its identity after Independence by constructing the historical narrative of the new nation, and establishing a literature able to compete with that of the Old World. The different ways in which American fiction-writers attempt to carry out (or question) this project involve conflicting relations with historiography, historical fiction and realist canons of writing, and with European literary traditions such as Romanticism and the Gothic novel; they also involve a critical reflection on the imperialist and utilitarian impulses of American society in its early stages. The semester’s readings (which will include shorter texts by Irving, Emerson, Hawthorne, Melville, and Poe, as well as novels by Hawthorne and Twain, and extracts from Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans, Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Melville’s Moby Dick) aim to provide a broad selection representative of American fiction-writers’ reactions to their context, thus seeking to foster in the students a better understanding of a key period in American political and literary history.



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