English 305/605
Seminar in Earlier American Literature:  Novel History
Fall 2005
Michael Drexler


115 Vaughan Lit




Office Hours: Tues/Thurs 2:30-4



 "In the four quarters of the globe, who reads an American book?" - Sydney Smith, Edinburgh Review, 1820


Key Questions
Format and Procedures
Course Requirements
Grading Breakdown
Presentation Selections

I. Key Questions [return to top]

What is a novel? What is an American novel? Is there a difference? Scholars tend to yoke the rise of the American novel to the emergence of the American nation in the late 18th century. Why? What accounts for the coincidence of the novel, that peculiar type of imaginative writing in a radically continuous form, and nationalism? What does the novel or novel reading have to do with broader trends or conflicts in American culture. Does the novel produce, conserve, or subvert American cultural institutions? Why did novels become popular? Why did their consumption (often by young women) provoke so much anxiety in American moralists? When did the novel become art?  These among other questions have been grist for critics of the American novel for the past half century.  In trying out prospective answers we will continue to add to the list of questions as well. 


II. Aims [return to top]

The goals of this course are three-fold:  1) to read and study a selection of early American novels written between 1791 and 1852, 2) to develop a critical vocabulary through study of important theoretical arguments about the novel, and 3) to explore how contemporary critics of American literature work with/between/beyond novel and theory.


III. Format and Procedures [return to top]

English 305 meets once a week.  Students should expect substantial amounts of reading between meetings.  Generally, each class will consider one novel and two or three pieces of theoretical work or literary criticism.  Each week each participant will submit a journal online via Blackboard (more info below) by Tuesday at noon.  Each participant will give an oral presentation during the second half of the semester.  A final paper of 12-15 pages will be due during exam period.

IV. Course Requirements [return to top]

1. Class attendance is compulsory.  If you must miss class, please contact me in advance. 

2. Participation will count as 25% of your final grade.  If you miss no classes and never say a word, you will get a "C" for participation.  It is my expectation that you will be prepared each week.  That means complete the reading assigned and think about them, take notes, and prepare to engage your classmates on topics of interest.  Participation is more than having your 2 cents for thirty seconds each week.  It requires you to engage with the ideas of your classmates.  Be prepared to listen attentively and respond thoughtfully to what others contribute.  As you actively shape the discussion in class, try to solicit the participation of others.  If you are shy, focus on speaking more often.  If you are not shy, work hard to draw others into the conversation.  A good way to prepare for discussion is to use your journal appropriately.  Think of the journal as the opportunity to perform two tasks:  1) to state your views about what was insightful, problematic, complex about a particular reading of set of readings and 2) to formulate sincere questions about theoretical works or novels that will elicit responses from others.  An “A” for participation will be earned by regularly contributing to class in these ways.

3. JournalPlease logon to Blackboard and submit your journal each Tuesday by noon.  From our course page, select the “Journal” tab on the left-hand side of the screen.  Click on the link to add a new entry.  Extra consideration will be given to those who comment on classmates’ journal entries.

4. PresentationEach student will prepare a 20 minute presentation on a critical article or book chapter about the early American novel.  Sample selections are listed below, but you may find your own reading if you let me know in advance what you will be discussing.  For your presentation, you should assume that no one in class will be familiar with the work on which you will report.  Your task, therefore, is to offer the class an overview of the selection’s main points of discussion.  Consider the following questions:

1.      What is the topic of the selection?  What are its conclusions?

2.      Is the selection adding to an existing discussion/controversy?  If so, describe it succinctly as presented by the author.

3.      What contextual sources, other texts, or theoretical works does the selection reference?  What clues can you provide about the selection based on the type of evidence the author offers to support her point of view?

4.      Which readings from the semester seem most relevant to issues raised in your selection? 

It would be appropriate to provide a handout or prepare a Powerpoint presentation to give structure to your presentation.  Under no circumstances, however, should you simply read from your handout or Powerpoint.  A good presentation will solicit questions from the class and enrich our discussion for the afternoon.  Try to anticipate what might interest others in the class about your selection.  

5. Final PaperYou will write a 12-15 page paper on a topic to be developed in consultation with me during office hours.  I encourage you to develop a topic early in the semester.  You will be expected to draw on class readings to support whatever argument you want to make.  And you will be encouraged to find other secondary material as well by using the research databases and the library catalog. 


Please familiarize yourself with Bucknell’s policies on Academic Integrity and Plagiarism.  Enrollment in this course will constitute acceptance of these policies.

V. Required Texts [return to top]

Brown, Charles Brockden. Edgar Huntly. Penguin.

Brown, Charles Brockden. Ormond. Broadview.

Cooper, James Fenimore. The Pioneers. Penguin.

Davidson, Cathy. Revolution and the Word. Expanded Edition. Oxford UP.

Foster, Hannah Webster. The Coquette. Oxford UP.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Blithedale Romance. Bedford St. Martins.

McKeon, Michael. Theory of the Novel.  Johns Hopkins.

Rowson, Susanna. Charlotte Temple. Penguin.

Sansay, Leonora. Secret History; or the Horrors of St. Domingo and Laura (packet not at Bookstore)


VI. Assignments and Grading [return to top]



Weekly Journal




Final Paper



VII. Tentative Schedule of Reading Assignments [return to top]



Reading Assignments


Aug 24

Jurgen Habermas, from The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere
Raymond Williams, "Literature"
Stephanie Coontz, "From Yoke Mates to Soul Mates: Emergence of the Love Match and the Male Provider Marriage"


Aug 31 Northrop Frye, from Anatomy of Criticism (TN 5-13)
Robert, from Origins of the Novel (TN 57-70)

Claude Lévi-Strauss, selection (TN 94-121)
Ian Watt, from The Rise of the Novel (TN 363-381)


Sep 7

Cathy Davidson, Revolution and the Word, 59-120, 153-184 
Susanna Rowson, Charlotte Temple
“A Lesson on Sensibility” (Blackboard)  
“A New Way of Preserving a Wife” (Blackboard)


Sep 14

Walter Benjamin, "The Storyteller" (TN 77-93)
Sigmund Freud, selections (TN 149-159)
Lukacs, from The Historical Novel (TN 219-264)


Sep 21

Hannah Webster Foster, The Coquette
Mikhail Bakhtin, from The Dialogic Imagination (TN 325-353)
Michael McKeon, “Generic Transformation and Social Change” (TN 383-399)

Cathy Davidson, Revolution and the Word, (185-232)


Sep 28

Charles Brockden Brown, Ormond, or the Secret Witness
Ian Watt, from The Rise of the Novel (TN 441-466)
Nancy Armstrong, from Desire and Domestic Fiction (TN 467-475)

Cathy Davidson, Revolution and the Word, (306-337)


Oct 5

Fredric Jameson, from The Political Unconscious (TN 400-13)
Michael McKeon, from Prose Fiction (TN 600-612)
Charles Brockden Brown, finish Ormond


Oct 12 Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Huntly, Chapters 1-13
Krause, Sydney J. “Penn's Elm and Edgar Huntly: Dark "Instruction to the Heart” (JSTOR)


Oct 19

Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Huntly, Chapters 14-end
Robert Levine, “Race and Nation in Brown’s Louisiana Writings” (Blackboard)


Oct 26

Leonora Sansay, Secret History; or The Horrors of St. Domingo (CP)
Drexler, “Introduction” and Appendix C (CP)


Nov 2

James Fenimore Cooper, The Pioneers  


Nov 9

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance
Lance Newman,
Thoreau's Natural Community and Utopian Socialism(Project Muse)  


Nov 16

Studies in the American Novel circa 2005 Readings TBA  
Cathy Davidson, Revolution and the Word (3-56)


Nov 23



Nov 30

Research Forum  


VIII.Possible Presentation Selections (choose a chapter or article) [return to top]

Barnard, Phil, et. al. Eds. Revising Charles Brockden Brown.
Barnes, Elizabeth. States of Sympathy: Seduction and Democracy in the American Novel .
Burgett, Bruce. Sentimental Body: Sex, Gender, and Citizenship in the Early Republic.
Dauber, Kenneth. The Idea of Authorship in America: Democratic Poetics from Franklin to Melville.
Dillon, Elizabeth. The Gender of Freedom: Fictions of Liberalism and the Literary Public Sphere.
Fliegelman, Jay. Declaring Independence: Jefferson, Natural Language, & the Culture of Performance.
Goddu, Thereasa. Gothic America.
Levine, Robert. Conspiracy and Romance: Studies in Brockden Brown, Cooper, Hawthorne, and Melville.
Looby, Christopher. Voicing America: Language, Literary From, and the Origins of the United States.
St. George, Robert Blair, ed. Possible Pasts: Becoming Colonial in Early America.
Samuels, Shirley, ed. A Companion to American Fiction, 1780-1865.
Schueller, Malini, ed. Messy Beginnings: Postcoloniality and Early American Culture.
Stern, Julia. The Plight of Feeling: Sympathy and Dissent in the Early American Novel.
Tompkins, Jane. Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction, 1790-1860.
Warner, Michael. Letters of the Republic.
Ziff, Larzer. Literary Democracy: The Declaration of Cultural Independence in America.

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