Course Description

Many nineteenth-century American writers worried that the United States was not living up to its promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” for all Americans; they used their voices and the written word to imagine a more equal and inclusive nation. In this class, we will study how literature helped the nation think more deeply about slavery, women’s rights, and American Indian rights in the nineteenth century. Other issues addressed in the course will include temperance, anti-immigrant prejudice, and labor reform and worker’s rights. We will read several American women, African American, and American Indian authors along with canonical authors. We will analyze each work of literature as part of broader literary and artistic movements as well as for its role in changing American ideas and attitudes about some of the most contested social and political issues of the day.

Sample Reading List

Alcott, Louisa May. Work: A Story of Experience,  (1873).

Brown, William Wells. Clotel: Or, the President’s Daughter, (1853).

Chesnutt, Charles W. The Marrow of Tradition, (1901).

Child, Lydia Maria. Hobomok and Other Writings on Indians, (1824).

Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, (1845).

Hopkins, Pauline. Contending Forces A Romance Illustrative of Negro Life North and South, (1900).

Jackson, Helen Hunt. Ramona, (1884).

Phelps, Elizabeth Stuart. The Silent Partner, (1871).

Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, (1852).

Thoreau, Henry David. Walden; Or, Life in the Woods, (1849).

Winnemucca Hopkins, Sarah. Life Among The Piutes: Their Wrongs And Claims, (1883).

Zitkala-Sa (Lakota). American Indian Stories, Legends, and Other Writings.