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Undergraduate English Courses Spring 2018

358:206 Fictions of Violence in Antebellum America

01  TF2  CAC  14813  MAZZAFERRO  MU-114

Fictions of Violence in Antebellum America

In this seven-week, 1.5 credit introduction to literary studies mini-course we will read major works of early nineteenth-century American fiction concerned with violence. How did U.S. writers working during this vibrant period of literary creativity use the imaginative space of fiction to think through the physical confrontations that attended the settlement of the Americas, the founding of the new nation, and the mounting crisis over slavery that would soon culminate in civil war? What kinds of formal techniques did these authors use to represent the instances of environmental destruction, native dispossession, imperial warfare, mass enslavement, and coercive community formation that comprised the nation’s history? We will think through these questions by reading short stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe; selections from novels by James Fenimore Cooper, Catharine Maria Sedgwick, and Harriet Beecher Stowe; and longer works by Robert Montgomery Bird, Frederick Douglass, and Herman Melville. Finally, we will consider the legacy of violence in American fiction through selections from Cormac McCarthy’s 1985 novel Blood Meridian, set in the late 1840s U.S.-Mexico borderlands.