Spring 2018

The Unprinted Page:  Working with Manuscripts

Listed in: American Studies, as AMST-365  |  English, as ENGL-415


Karen J. Sanchez-Eppler (Section 01)


(Offered as ENGL 415 and AMST 365)  This course will focus on the manuscript culture of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America, using manuscripts as a means of thinking about the act of writing, the implications of audience and publication, and the relations between the private and public word.  We will study the private forms of diaries and letters.  We will look at the traces of the writing process in manuscripts of ultimately published works–-the window into the literary creation that manuscripts provide.  We will also confront the problems raised by literary work that was never published during its author’s lifetime, heedful of the questions of social propriety and power that often inform what can and can’t be published.  Texts will include Julia Ward Howe’s The Hermaphrodite, a closeted manuscript of sexual indeterminacy written in the 1840s and only published in 2004; Hannah Crafts’ The Bondswoman’s Tale, a manuscript novel probably written in the late 1850s by a fugitive slave and first published in 2002; the manuscript books of Emily Dickinson; the posthumous publication process of Sylvia Plath’s Ariel poems; and works like Edgar Allan Poe’s “MS. Found in a Bottle” and Henry James’ The Aspern Papers that tell anxious tales about manuscripts. The heart of the course, however, will be independent research with students drawing on rich local archives to do some manuscript recovering of their own.  As part of the preparations for the Amherst College bicentennial, research this semester will focus on materials written by Amherst students over the past two hundred years.  A core aspect of coursework will be developing an online exhibition to analyze and share these materials.

Open to juniors and seniors.  Limited to 15 students.  Spring semester.  Professor K. Sánchez-Eppler.

If Overenrolled: Preference given to junior and senior majors.


Attention to Research, Attention to Writing


2017-18: Offered in Spring 2018