19th Century American Literature

The extraordinary richness of nineteenth century textual production invites us to examine the intersections of various practical and theoretical approaches.  We analyze lifewriting and personal letters; notebooks; short stories and novels; plays and pageants; long and short poems; philosophical, political, and scientific discourse; genres that leap across boundaries to defy conventional categorization. We are interested in the effect of the Civil War and Reconstruction on imaginative literature and on the intersection of gender and race. We attend to the ways in which popular and elite writers negotiate the demands of their real and imagined audiences. Many of us specialize in highly individualistic writers such as Emerson and Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, Harriet Jacobs, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, William and Henry James. Others have a taste for foodways, for literary biography, and for scholarly editing. Our courses reflect canons old and new, well established and newer pedagogical practices. Whatever our animating passions, we engage in a disciplined consideration of the power of literature to unsettle conventional languages of nature, soul, and self, and consequent redefinitions of a distinctive sense of American dreams, nightmares, and possibilities.

Faculty Experts