ENG 407: Advanced Studies in American Literature. Mind and Body in 19th Century America

Dr. Rebhorn 3 credits
Spring 2013
TTh 12:30-1:45pm

          In nineteenth-century America, there was a tremendous amount of debate about the relationship between the mind and the body, debates often advanced by the scientific and medical communities.  Some physicians stole bodies from graves to perform autopsies and bled patients to cure them, while others prescribed drinking water, eating cayenne pepper, or sleeping in drafty rooms to maintain health.  At the core of these debates was a contest about whether the mind controlled the body, or the body had a “mind” of its own.  This course takes up these debates not only within their historical contexts, but also in the way they affected the kinds of literature being produced in this period.  In reading well-known texts by Emerson, Poe, Melville, and Whitman against lesser known texts about grave robbing, racial miscegenation, and phantom limbs, we will see how these debates inflected what authors chose to explore and how they chose to write about these events.  What this course ultimately hopes to reveal, therefore, is not only how nineteenth-century American literature reacted to the mind/body debate, but also how these works became American literature by taking up this debate.  NB: While a previous knowledge of the period is not required, GENG 247 is highly recommended.  This course fulfills the requirement for a 400-level seminar AND the pre-1900 overlayfor the English major.    

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