In her seminal study, Revolution and the Word: The Rise of the Novel in America , Cathy N. Davidson states literature is not simply words upon a page but a complex social, political, and material process of cultural production (viii). Thus, the eighteenth- century sentimental novel serves to highlight a moment in history lodged among judgments, anxieties and controversies about the direction the newly formed American Republic would take at the end of the Revolution. Embedded within these narratives are questions about both men's and women's power and authority in the public and private spheres, the negation of the female self, the social function of romance and courtship, and the nature of women as moral, social, and biologic commodities. This course seeks to explore disjunctions between the sentimental structure of the early American novel and its contradictory attitudes toward liberty and self-expression. Questions that will guide our discussion include: How and why does the seduction plot of earlier novels reinforce American values and ideals distinct from European standards of morality? In what ways does the cult of true womanhood prominent during the first few decades of the nineteenth century suppress the plea for women's equality? How are these texts concerned with defining the new nation, its citizens, and boundaries? In what ways do these texts consolidate nationhood through the formation of a national literature and the narrative construction of a national history, culture, and consciousness? Do these novels construct, conserve, or subvert American cultural institutions?
Location & Meeting Time
Karp Hall-103+ M/W/F 09:15AM-10:20AM LEC