What is the course about?
This course offers a rich encounter will seminal works of 19th century American literature, exploring texts that reflect diverse elements of the American experience of the 19th century. It treats classic texts in detail and also allows students the chance to establish a range of political, cultural and literary associations between various writers from the canon of 19th century American literature.
Richard Niland has published widely on Joseph Conrad and a range of other 19th and 20th century writers. He taught for many years at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow and is interested in the various intersections of literature, culture, politics, music and film in different global contexts.
What will we cover?
The course will cover a number of interrelated topics in the context of 19th century American literary culture: namely, the emergence of a distinctive American literary identity in the early 19th century, the evolution of the short story, the philosophical movement of Transcendentalism, the writing of masterpieces of American poetry and fiction in the 1850s and 1860s; before exploring the subjects of history and race in American narrative through major figures such as Frederick Douglass and Mark Twain.
Texts for Reading:
Second-hand copies of paperbacks published by Penguin and Oxford World’s Classics are recommended and are very cheaply available. I’ve also included links to free online copies of the texts below. Apart from Huckleberry Finn, the other works are short.
• Washington Irving, “Rip Van Winkle” (1819) https://archive.org/details/ripvanwinkle00irvi/page/n8
• Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845) https://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/douglass/douglass.html
• Herman Melville, “The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids” (1855) https://resources.saylor.org/wwwresources/archived/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/SAYLOR-ENGL405-5.2-PARADISE.pdf
• Emily Dickinson, Selected Poems (1860s) (Individual poems will be suggested by the tutor ahead of class) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Emily_Dickinson_poems
• Walt Whitman, “A Passage to India” (1871) https://poets.org/poem/passage-india
• Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Adventures_of_Huckleberry_Finn
• Ambrose Bierce, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (1890) https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Collected_Works_of_Ambrose_Bierce/Volume_2/An_Occurrence_at_Owl_Creek_Bridge
• Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper” (1892) https://www.nlm.nih.gov/theliteratureofprescription/exhibitionAssets/digitalDocs/The-Yellow-Wall-Paper.pdf.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
• Have developed their literary, historical, and critical knowledge and expression, through varied reading on 19th century American literature.
• Students should develop understanding of key 19th century American works and varieties of literary expression, and a knowledge of the main historical, literary and political contexts of nineteenth century American literature.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
No particular skills are needed other than an interest in literature, reading and discussion.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
The class will be held in two-hour sessions over ten weeks. The first hour will be an interactive lecture on the text, writer, themes and contexts. The second half will be a round table and small group discussion of the texts in detail.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
No other costs. Just bring along a copy of the relevant text for discussion each week as listed in No.2.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Look up other courses in Literature under Humanities in the prospectus or under History, Culture and Writing at www.citylit.ac.uk.
General information and advice on courses at City Lit is available from the Student Centre and Library on Monday to Friday from 12:00 – 19:00.
See the course guide for term dates and further details