Course Description

Through archival recovery efforts, feminist and ethnic studies scholars in the past few decades have radically altered the canon of American literature that has been traditionally taught and studied. By returning to the archives of American literature, they have rediscovered the lost voices and stories of dozens of forgotten minority and women writers. As a result, slave narratives, captivity narratives, sentimental novels, American Indian literature, and women’s diaries are now regularly incorporated into the study of pre-1900 American literature and culture. We will read several of these formerly “lost” texts, discuss the process of their recovery, examine the literary traditions to which they are responding and contributing, and interpret these texts within their own historical and cultural moments. But there are still more stories out there waiting to be re-discovered and recovered. For this reason, we will engage in our own archival research—primarily through digital archives, but also through class visits to local archives. Each of us will develop our own archival recovery project in order to bring to voice another lost writer or forgotten story.  Throughout the semester we will read literary and cultural theory that will address the politics of whose stories get told and for what reasons and that will complicate the sometimes arbitrary distinctions we make between “high” and “low” literary culture.

Sample Reading List

Beasley, Gertrude. My First Thirty Years, (1925).

Collins, Julia C. The Curse of Caste; or The Slave Bride, (1865).

Garvey, Ellen Gruber. Writing With Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance, (2012).

Rowson, Susanna. Sincerity, (1803).

Sinor, Jennifer. The Extraordinary Work of Ordinary Writing, (2002).

Temple, Judy Nolte. Baby Doe Tabor: The Madwoman in the Cabin, (2011).

Wilson, Harriet E. Our Nig; Or, Sketches in the Life of a Free Black, (1859).

Whitman, Walt. Franklin Evans; or The Inebriate, (1842).