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This course explores the literature and philosophy of the American Renaissance. We will examine this movement’s evolution from the 1830s through the rest of the nineteenth century, and consider how it reshaped U.S. fiction, poetry, and aesthetic theory. We will focus on several authors—Emily Dickinson, Frederick Douglass, Herman Melville, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman—and study how they developed, conveyed, and revised their ideas across their careers. Throughout the semester we will pay particularly close attention to Romantic theories of experience; intellectual exchanges and influences; and the relation between literature and nature.
Students will write 5 essays throughout the semester. No midterm or final.
Emily Dickinson, Poems: A Reading Edition (Harvard)
Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom (Penguin)
Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (Norton)
Henry David Thoreau, Walden (Norton)
Walt Whitman, Poetry and Prose (Library of America)
Course Reader (containing pieces by Edgar Allan Poe, Margaret Fuller, Ralph Waldo Emerson, C.L.R. James, Sidney Lanier, and others)