ENGLISH 471 - Nineteenth-Century American Literature
Section: 001 19th C American Literature: the Mutability of Value and the Value of Mutability
Term: FA 2018
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
Waitlist Capacity:
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

For Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Frederick Douglass, and many other 19th-century authors, the experience of change is central to the process of attributing meaning or value to existence. Emerson and Douglass praise literary or aesthetic experience for revealing the inevitability of revision in ethical and aesthetic judgment. 'Literature,' in Emerson's words, furnishes 'a point outside of our hodiernal circle through which a new one may be described.' For Douglass, literature, like nature, exemplifies the ceaseless process of 'Creating, unfolding, expanding, renewing, changing, perpetually, putting on new forms, new colours, issuing new sounds, filling the world with new perfumes, and spreading out to the eye and heart, unending scenes of freshness and beauty [and] all pervading and never resting life.' The flux of aesthetic experience, in Douglass' view, illuminates the fact that our lives are and should be a continuing process of transformation: 'Men talk much of a new birth. The fact is fundamental. But the mistake is in treating it as an incident which can only happen to a man once in a life time; whereas, the whole journey of life is a succession of them.' Of course, the horror of indeterminate and erratic conceptions of value haunts such endorsements of change. For many, a fluid conception of value threatens to produce monstrous innovations, such as Charles Brockden Brown's Edgar Huntly, who acquires the qualities of animals and savage on entering a metamorphic realm of shifting forms where the boundaries and nature of the self are constantly in question.

In this class, we will examine how poems, plays, and stories by Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Allen Poe, James Fenimore Cooper, Lydia Maria Child, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, Margaret Fuller, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frederick Douglass, Dion Boucicault, Henry James, Stephen Crane, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Charles Eastman variously address the mutability of value and the value of mutability.

Course Requirements:

There will be two papers, reading quizzes, a midterm, and a final exam.

ENGLISH 471 - Nineteenth-Century American Literature
Schedule Listing
001 (REC)
TuTh 1:00PM - 2:30PM
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