Introductory seminars or lectures about American literature all too often still introduce a white male-dominated literary canon, specifically when it comes to early American literature and the 19th century. Hence, in the course of your studies, you would then choose elective courses with a specific focus on various social (minority) groups and their literary achievements such as women, African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, working class women, etc. In this class, we will attempt an integrated approach, that is, we will discuss and study white male canonical authors alongside the writings of their white and black female peers. In doing so, we will re-consider processes at work which have historically shaped the making of literary canons. Guiding questions will be: How did the 19th century construct the literary category of “women’s literature” and what values/lack of value was attached to this category? How do we construct “women’s literature” today and what values do we assign to it? Who had access to the necessary social and cultural capital in order to be published? What literary conventions were necessary – and which were taboo – to become an author of “high” literature? How did authors resist and circumvent those conventions? What about questions of aesthetics, i.e. what principles were/are used to produce beauty and “artistic greatness”? What feelings and sensations do our reading materials elicit and how do they achieve that? Are questions of aesthetics still relevant today, and how so?
Please note: This course will include an online student exchange (ca. 5 study meetings and 1-2 more interpersonal ones) with a class by Prof. Dr. Ginzburg from Oranim College in Israel (http://en.oranim.ac.il/
). Because we could not get the same time slots, our joint meetings will probably be scheduled for week day evenings from 18.00-20.00. Students who participate in the sessions with Oranim in the evening meetings can, of course, skip our session in the afternoon. The first meeting with Oranim is anticipated for the second week of the semester/last week of October. Please check the "news" on Stud.IP for the exact day and date.
Please also note that this course takes place online. The schedule and reading materials for each session will be made available at the beginning of the semester. Please purchase and read the following primary texts, preferably in the critical Norton edition:
- Nathaniel Hawthorne. The House of the Seven Gables. 1851. New York: W.W. Norton, 2020: https://wwnorton.com/books/9780393679465/about-the-book/product-details.
- Harriet Jacobs. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. 1861. New York: W.W. Norton, 2018: https://wwnorton.com/books/9780393614565/about-the-book/product-details.
The other reading materials are online sources and/or will be made available on Stud.IP:
- Edgar Allan Poe. “The Purloined Letter.” Tales. New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1845. 200-218. https://archive.org/details/tales00poee/page/218/mode/2up.
- Anna Katharine Green. “XYZ: A Detective Story.” New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1883. EBook. Gutenberg Project: https://archive.org/details/xyz-a-detective-story-1883/page/1/mode/2up.
- Henry James. “A Landscape Painter.” Stories Revived. London: Macmillan and Co, 1885. 376-428. https://archive.org/details/storiesrevived0000jame/page/n9/mode/2up.
- Harriet Prescott Spofford. “Desert Sands.” The Amber Gods and Other Stories. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1883. 173-216. https://archive.org/details/ambergodsandothe00spofrich/page/174/mode/2up.