ENG 343: Antebellum American Literature

Dr. Rebhorn 3 credits

          In 1945, Harvard Professor F. O. Matthiessen coined the term “American Renaissance” to describe a set of authors including Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, and Whitman, who embodied, for him, the real “origins” of American Literature—a “re-birth” from previous representations.  While the term is still used to describe the florescence of literary creativity in antebellum America, we will be reading Matthiessen and the authors he singled out against the grain in an effort to understand not only why he dubbed the term “American Renaissance” when he did, but also how the authors he chose necessarily problematize the notions of “Americanness” that he takes for granted.  We will spend time reading the major works of each writer, as well as exploring these artists’ other essays, political writings, and short fiction in an effort to discover the way the issues of race, gender, sexual preference, class, and religion both illuminate and complicate what it means for this to be an American Renaissance.  NB: While a previous knowledge of the period is not required, GENG 247 is highly recommended.  This course fulfills the pre-1900 overlayfor the English major.

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