E440 – American Prose before 1900

Credit Hours:

Course Level:

Semesters Offered:
Fall Spring Summer

Prerequisite: One course in Literature.

Description: The range of prose writing in the United States before 1900 includes novels, short stories, diaries, journals, sermons, and autobiographies, and the quantity of writing in each category is nothing short of staggering. This course is an effort to sample this body of work by organizing several different kinds of prose writing under some general headings: religion, politics and social change, self and others, region and nation, and nature. In each case we will read fiction and non-fiction in an effort to understand and appreciate the different strategies prose writers use to write about similar topics. These formal strategies have much to do with other opportunities or constraints prose writers experience, such as race, gender, social class, regional location, and target audience. Texts include essays by Emerson, Frederick Douglass, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton; novels by Susanna Rowson, Mark Twain, and Harold Frederic; sermons by Jonathan Edwards and Charles Finney; and travel writing by William Bartram, Mary Austin and explorers Lewis and Clark. Course requirements include regular reading and participation; leadership of class discussion; midterm and final; and research/interpretive paper in draft and final form.

This course fulfills Category 1 for all majors.