ENGL 13186-03: American Literature: Nation and the World

Instructor: Nan Da

Literature University Seminar

What can American literature before the 20th century teach us about the nation and the world? In this class we will explore America’s literary imaginary and its intellectual pleasures and difficulties. How did early American literature teach us to pay attention and think critically? What are the stakes of “mis-reading” for the average citizen? To answer these questions, we will move from text (close-reading) to context (broader geopolitical history) and in so doing uncover the relationship between the private crises of reading and the public crises of nationhood that has been so crucial to American literature since its inception. The writers and works we will study include: Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Frederick Douglass, Emily Dickinson, Herman Melville, Primary texts will be supplemented with appropriate secondary readings that help students become better writers and thinkers.

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