Syllabus for Reading Historically in Word

Submitted by Karen J. Sanchez-Eppler on Saturday, 1/23/2010, at 11:41 AM
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Syllabus for Reading Historically

Submitted by Karen J. Sanchez-Eppler on Saturday, 1/23/2010, at 11:37 AM

Professor Karen Sánchez-Eppler

Morgan Hall 101; phone 2186

Office hours: Monday 2-5

Class: Mon. & Wed. 12:30-1:50 in Chapin 101


 English 62: Reading Historically

Spring 2010


This course explores the relation between literature and history. How does fiction work to interpret and understand the past? Can literary texts serve as historical evidence, providing information about social conditions and beliefs in a particular place and time? In what ways might other sorts of historical documentation affect or amplify the reading of literature? We will address these questions through specific examples and through theoretical readings that address issues of narration, memory, and the continuance of the past. The theme varies from year to year: in 2010 we will focus on American Literature and in particular on writing that confronts the social Aproblem@ of the unmarried woman.



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, (Penguin, 2000) ISBN 0140437975

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.


Coursework papers and presentations:

Footsteps project: assignment 1, in class presentation, and paper.

Three essays on course readings due March 1, April 2, and May 10.

Four Research Assignments presented in class: everyone will do assignments 2 and 3 with a partner. You can choose between doing either assignment 4 or assignment 5.




Monday, January 25

Introduction to the course



The Novel as an Historical Object


Wednesday, January 27

Susanna Rowson=s Charlotte Temple (1791, American edition 1794) Volume 1


Monday, February 1

Susanna Rowson=s Charlotte Temple, Volume 2

Cathy Davidson,AThe 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.


Wednesday, February 3

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 February 10th). Your actual Footsteps Project papers generally are due one week after your presentation.


Monday, February 8 

Meet in Webster 102

Internet Data Bases workshop


Assignment 2: Working with a partner 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 pairs will be responsible for finding materials to accompany each day=s readings. Please post the links to your findings on our course webpage.



The Historical Novel


Wednesday, February 10

            Charlotte TempleFootsteps Presentations 

Nathaniel Hawthorne=s The Scarlet Letter (1850), Custom HouseBIntroductory



Monday, February 15

Nathaniel Hawthorne=s The Scarlet Letter, Chapters 1-8


Wednesday, February 17

Charlotte TempleFootsteps Papers Due

Nathaniel Hawthorne=s The Scarlet Letter, Chapters 9-17


Monday, February 22

Nathaniel Hawthorne=s The Scarlet Letter, Chapters 18-24 


Wednesday, February 24

            Scarlet Letter Footsteps Presentations

Nathaniel Hawthorne=s The Scarlet Letter



History and Genre


Monday, March 1  

Meet at AmherstCollege Archives and Special Collections

Slavery and the literary marketplace: a presentation of 19th century editions across a wide    range of narrative genres, focusing on abolitionist and pro-slavery materials.


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).


Wednesday, March 3

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


Monday, March 8

Scarlet Letter Footsteps Papers Due

Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Chapters 14-29


Wednesday, March 10

            Incidents Footsteps Presentations

Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Chapters 30-41


Spring Break


Fiction and Social Critique


Monday, March 22

Stephen Crane, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893), Chapters 1-4 

Charles Loring Brace, AStreet 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, AThe Problem of the Children@ and AThe Working Girls of New York@ in

How the Other Half Lives (New York: Charles Scribner, 1890), 179-86 and 234-42.


Wednesday, March 24

            Incidents Footsteps Papers due

Stephen Crane, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, Chapters 5-13 


Monday, March 29

            Maggie Footsteps Presentations

Stephen Crane, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, Chapters 14-19 


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 April 2nd.



Realism and Material Culture


Wednesday, March 31

Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (1905), Book 1, 1-8


Assignment 3: Working with a partner 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. Please post links on our course webpage.


Monday, April 5

Maggie Footsteps Papers Due

Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (1905), Book 1, 9-15


Wednesday, April 7

            Meet at the MeadArt Museum

Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth, Book 2, Chapters 1-7


Monday, April 12

            House of Mirth Footsteps Presentations

Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth, Book 2, Chapters 8-14



Narration and Memory


Wednesday, April 14

Toni Morrison, Sula, Part I, Prologue - 1921


Assignment 4:  Morrison titles the chapters of Sula with dates. Teams of you will be responsible for each 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, April 19

House of Mirth Footsteps Papers Due

Toni Morrison, Sula, Part I, 1922-1927                     


Wednesday, April 21

Toni Morrison, Sula, Part II

Sula Footsteps Presentations



News is Novel


Monday, April 26

            Meet at Archive and Special Collections to view the Bloom Alternative Press Archives

Susan Choi, American Woman, Part 1


Assignment 5: American Woman is closely based on the Patty Hearst kidnapping. 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, April 28

            Sula Footsteps Papers Due

Susan Choi, American Woman, Part 2


Monday, May 4

Susan Choi, American Woman, Parts 3 and 4


Wednesday, May 6



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. Due May 10 (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 knowB 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 choicesY 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 are available through the Amherst College library. 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.