What is and what was New England? How has this part of the United States—one of the most historically significant of all—been constructed in terms of its name, its image, and its legacy as, precisely, the new England; a recasting of an empire and worldview, the customs and cultural strictures of which were eventually discarded? What is specific about the literature and culture of and about New England, and who are its representative authors and artists?
This seminar offers a survey of North American literary history concerned with the large region of New England, from the sermons of the Puritans, via transcendentalism and the historical romance in the nineteenth century, late naturalism and modernist narratives, weird and pulp fiction magazines, all the way to confessionalist writing and postmodern poetry and prose. Focusing on a specific locale, this seminar considers a highly diverse group of authors, including John Winthrop, Anne Bradstreet, Cotton Mather, Phillis Wheatley, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Emily Dickinson, Edith Wharton, Arthur Miller, H. P. Lovecraft, Charles Olson, Sylvia Plath, Bret Easton Ellis, and Susan Howe. In addition to the literary trajectory of distinct visions and revisions of New England as a region and a cultural environment, the participants of the seminar will become familiar with the media practices and non-literary forms of expression, such as fine art, photography, and film (such as 'The Trouble with Harry' or 'The Witch: A New England Folktale'). On a theoretical level, we will contemplate the tension between the literary and cultural representation of spaces and places of a region such as New England, on the one hand, and, on the other, the historical and political circumstances at the time of a given representation or cultural form of expression. Aside from the short fiction, poetry, and theoretical texts, which will be made available at the start of the semester, the following novels need to be purchased by the participants:
- Nathaniel Hawthorne, 'The House of the Seven Gables'
- Edith Wharton, 'Ethan Frome'
- Bret Easton Ellis, 'The Rules of Attraction'