Syllabus for Reading Historically



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Book List

Susanna Rowson, Charlotte Temple, (Oxford UP, 1987) ISBN 0195042387
Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, (Penguin, 2002) ISBN 0142437263
Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, (Harvard UP, 2000) 0674002717
Stephen Crane,  Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, (Modern Library, 2001) ISBN 0375756892
Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth, (Signet Classics, 2000) ISBN 0451527569
Toni Morrison, Sula, (Vintage Books, 2004) ISBN 1400033438
Susan Choi, American Woman (Harper Collins, 2003) ISBN 0060542217

The books required for this course are available at Amherst Books. Because we will be working so closely with the primary texts it is important that each student has his or her own copy. If we all use the same edition it makes it much easier to find passages, and a few of these editions include useful supplemental materials, so please do get the editions listed above.  I have asked Amherst Books to purchase used copies wherever possible.               

Most additional materials will be available through electronic reserve but there will also be a few additional handouts.


Wednesday, Sept. 3
    Introduction to the course
The Novel as an Historical Object

Monday, Sept. 8
    Susanna Rowson’s Charlotte Temple (1791, American edition 1794) Volume 1
Wednesday, Sept. 10
    Susanna Rowson’s Charlotte Temple, Volume 2
        Cathy Davidson,“The Life and Times of Charlotte Temple: The Biography of a Book” in Reading in America: Literature and Social History (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP,1989), 157-79.

Monday, Sept. 15
    Susanna Rowson’s Charlotte Temple

Assignment 1: Pick the article you will use for your Footsteps Project, and write a paragraph that explains what attracts you to this piece and how or why it interests you. I will ask for brief presentations on Footsteps Projects on the last class that deals with that novel (Charlotte Temple folks will go September 22nd). Your actual Footsteps Project papers generally are due one week after your presentation.

Wednesday, Sept. 17
    Meet in the Lane Room at Frost Library
    Internet Data Bases workshop
The Historical Novel

Monday, Sept. 22   
    Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter (1850), Custom House–Introductory
Assignment  2: Use one of the historical databases to find something that sheds light on a particular scene, character, passage, or image in The Scarlet Letter and bring it to class.  A group of you will be responsible for finding materials to accompany each day’s readings.

Wednesday, Sept. 24
    Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Chapters 1-8
Monday, Sept. 29
    Charlotte Temple Footsteps Papers Due
    Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Chapters 9-17

Wednesday, Oct. 1
    Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Chapters 18-24   
Monday, Oct.  6
    Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter

Wednesday, Oct.  8
Meet at Amherst College Archives and Special Collections
    Slavery and Anti-Slavery Documents
Paper 1: Write a paper that uses a text from a scholarly historical database to help you interpret a particular moment in Charlotte Temple or The Scarlet Letter (4 pages).
Fall Break

History and Genre

Wednesday, Oct. 15
    Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861), Preface-Chapter 13

Monday, Oct. 20
    Scarlet Letter Footsteps Papers Due
    Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Chapters 14-29
Wednesday, Oct. 22
    Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Chapters 30-41
Fiction and Social Critique

Monday, Oct. 27
    Stephen Crane,  Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893), Chapters 1-8
        Charles Loring Brace, “Street Girls: Their Sufferings and Crimes” in The Dangerous Classes of New York, and Twenty Years’ Work Among Them (New York: Wynkoop and Hallenbeck, 1872), 114-22.
        Jacob Riis, “The Problem of the Children” and “The Working Girls of New York” in
        How the Other Half Lives (New York: Charles Scribner, 1890), 179-86 and 234-42.

Wednesday, Oct.  29
    Stephen Crane,  Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, Chapters 9-19

Paper 2: Both Jacobs and Crane are writing in response to social and political dilemmas, and both make unusual decisions of style or genre in their efforts to address these issues. Write a  paper that looks at a particular aspect of literary style in one of these books, and speculates on how it relates to the author’s social concerns (5 pages) due Friday October 31st..

Realism and Material Culture

Monday, Nov. 3
    Incidents Footsteps Papers Due
    Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (1905), Book 1
Wednesday, Nov. 5
    Maggie Footsteps Papers Due
    Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth, Book 2, Chapters 1-7

Assignment 3: Pick an object described in The House of Mirth and bring to class a period  image of or advertisement for a similar object.  Learn as much as you can about the production and distribution of your object.

Monday, Nov. 10
    Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth, Book 2, Chapters 8-14
Narration and Memory       

Wednesday, Nov. 12
    Toni Morrison, Sula, Part I, Prologue - 1921
Assignment 4:  Morrison titles the chapters of Sula with dates. During these two weeks each of you will be responsible for one of these chapter dates, you will need to discover some of the salient events of that year and be prepared to talk about how/why they might matter for this chapter.

Monday, Nov. 17
    Sula Footsteps Papers Due
    Toni Morrison, Sula, Part 1, 1922-1927       

Wednesday, Nov. 19
    Toni Morrison, Sula, Part 2

Thanksgiving Break


News is Novel

Monday, Dec. 1
    House of Mirth Footsteps Papers Due
    Susan Choi, American Woman, Part 1

Assignment 5: American Woman is closely based on the Patty Hearst kidnaping. For each class a group of you will be responsible for bringing us articles from the mainstream and alternative press that refer to events depicted or discussed in this day’s readings.

Wednesday, Dec. 3
    Susan Choi, American Woman, Part 2

Monday, Dec. 8
    Susan Choi, American Woman, Parts 3 and 4

Wednesday, Dec. 10

Paper 3: Write a paper on a topic of your choice about The House of Mirth, Sula, or American Woman. In your work you need to draw on at least one of the historical tools we have worked with this semester. You are welcome to write a paper based on your material culture, year, or Patty Hearst assignments, or to do something new. (4 pages)


Footsteps Project (in the Footsteps of Renée Bergland)

    Choose a work of historically engaged literary criticism on one of the books we have read this semester. Below is a list of essays I think would work well for this project, but if you are interested in a particular topic not covered here, or have stumbled upon an essay that interests you more, just let me know– it should be fine. In this assignment you will trace the author’s research exhaustively, following in his/her footsteps as closely as you can, so be sure you choose an essay that really interests you.  Begin your work by trying to find every single source.  Use Inter Library Loan, on-line data bases, and get help from Amherst’s wonderful Reference Librarians. Collecting materials can take time so START EARLY. You need to come as close as possible to examining a physical copy of everything your author had, and to skim as much of it as you can.  Once you’ve traced out your author’s research, re-read the essay.  Write a brief paper (about five pages) that describes your experience of finding the books, and discusses your author’s choices… What did this essay leave out?  What did it emphasize?  What did it notice that you would have overlooked?  Now that you know what this author was working with, what would you do differently with the same materials? You will each briefly present the argument of this critical essay on the last class meeting on the relevant novel, and your Footsteps paper is due approximately one week later.

Suggested Essays for Footsteps Project.
I have put these essays on Electronic Reserve, with the exception of the Hawthorne and Wharton essay collections which are on the regular Reserve shelves in the library.

Desirée Henderson, “The Imperfect Dead: Mourning Women in Eighteenth-Century Oratory and Fiction,” Early American Literature, (2004) 39 (3) 487-509.

Marion Rust, “What's Wrong with Charlotte Temple?” William and Mary Quarterly, (January 2003) 60 (1) :99-118.

Elizabeth Barnes, “Seductive Education and the Virtues of the Republic” in States of Sympathy: Seduction and Democracy in the American Novel (New York: Columbia UP 1997), 40-73.

Any of the essays that take up The Scarlet Letter  in Hawthorne and the Real: Bicentennial Essays, edited by Millicent Bell, (Ohio State UP, 2005).

Jennifer Rae Greeson, “The 'Mysteries and Miseries' of North Carolina: New York City, Urban Gothic Fiction, and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl,” American Literature (2001 June) 73 (2): 277-309.
Christina Accomando, “‘The Laws Were Laid Down to Me Anew’: Harriet Jacobs and the Reframing of Legal Fictions”  African American Review (Summer 1998) 32 (2): 229-45.   

Lauren Berlant, “The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Harriet Jacobs, Frances Harper, Anita Hill” in American Literature (September 1993) 65 (3) 549-74.
Andrew  Lawson, “Class Mimicry in Stephen Crane's City,” American Literary History (Winter 2004) 16 (4): 596-618.

Howard Horwitz, “Maggie and the Sociological Paradigm,” American Literary History (Winter 1998) 10 (4): 606-38.
Bill Brown, “American Childhood and Stephen Crane’s Toys,” in The Material Unconscious: American Amusement, Stephen Crane, and the Economics of Play (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1996), 167-198.       

Any of the essays that focus on the House of Mirth in, Memorial Boxes and Guarded Interiors : Edith Wharton and Material Culture edited by Gary Totten, (Tuscaloosa : University of Alabama Press, 2007).               

Lawrence Buell, “Downwardly Mobile for Conscience's Sake: Voluntary Simplicity from Thoreau to Lily Bart” American Literary History (Winter 2005) 17 (4): 653-65.

Amy L. Blair, “Misreading The House of Mirth,” American Literature (March 2004) 76 (1): 149-75.       

Amy Kaplan, “Crowded Spaces in The House of Mirth” in The Social Construction of American Realism (Chicago: Chicago UP, 1988), 88-103.   

Chuck Jackson, “A 'Headless Display': Sula, Soldiers, and Lynching” Modern Fiction Studies (Summer 2006) 52 (2): 374-92.
Roderick Ferguson, “Something Else to Be: Sula, the Moynihan Report, and the Negations of Black Lesbian Feminism” in Aberrations in Black: Towards a Queer of Color Critique (Minneapolis : Minnesota UP,2004), 110-37.

Katy Ryan, “Revolutionary Suicide in Toni Morrison's Fiction” African American Review, (Fall 2000) 34 (3): 389-412.

Patricia McKee, “Spacing and Placing Experience in Toni Morroson’s Sula” in Toni Morrison: Critical Approaches, Nancy Peterson ed. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1997), 37-62.

Houston Baker, “When Lindbergh Sleeps with Bessie Smith: The Writing of Place in Sula” in Toni Morrison: Critical Perspectives Past and Present, Henry Louis Gates Jr. and K. A. Appiah eds. (New York: Amistad, 1993), 236-261.