Proseminar: The American Renaissance

Dozentin: Christina Caupert M.A.
Termin: Di. 15.45-17.15 Uhr                 
Raum: 2127

American Renaissance is the title of a book in which literary critic F. O. Matthiessen explored a series of American literary works published between 1850 and 1855. His thesis was that these few years marked both the coming of age and the high point of American literature – and indeed, the mid-nineteenth century bears witness to a virtual explosion of American cultural creativity. While Matthiessen’s book became one of the founding texts of American literary studies, later generations of scholars nonetheless soon expressed their discontent with Matthiessen’s account of the period. Their main point of criticism was that his overview was far from complete, focusing as it did on a mere half-decade and no more than five writers (all of them white and male). Thus, over time, the term "American Renaissance" came to take on a much wider meaning than Matthiessen originally intended. Accordingly, in this seminar we will aim at a rather comprehensive understanding of this diverse and tension-filled literary period. Our focus will be on discussing selected works by a number of very important and influential American writers, but we will also examine their cultural-historical contexts as well as a variety of literary terms and critical concepts.

Teilnahmevoraussetzungen: Regular attendance, fulfillment of reading and homework assignments, participations in class discussions, short oral presentation.

Leistungsnachweis: Term paper

Modulsignaturen: siehe Digicampus

Participants are required to read all of the following texts, and to purchase their own copy of The Scarlet Letter. All other texts will be made available on Digicampus.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Nature" (1836), "The American Scholar" (1837), "The Poet" (1844)
Henry David Thoreau, Walden (1854) [excerpts]
Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself" (1855-1881)
Emily Dickinson, Selected Poems
Edgar Allan Poe, "The Fall of the House of Usher" (1839), "The Poetic Principle" (1848), "The Philosophy of Composition" (1846), "The Raven" (1845)
Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (1850)
Herman Melville, "Bartleby, the Scrivener" (1853)