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Spring 2013 Course Descriptions

English 5009 - Emerson

Section 001   CRN 35728
Studies in 19th Century American Literature: Emerson      1530-1800 W

Ralph Waldo Emerson stands at the center of many U.S. literary traditions. At one time, Emerson was revered as the progenitor of a national literature who called for U.S. writers to cast off the influence of Britain, who provocatively envisioned a poetry formed not of “meters, but a meter-making argument,” and whose call for individualism and self-reliance channeled the egoism of Jacksonian America (and possibly its expansionist mentality as well). More recently, in an institutional context shaped by transnationalist as well as anti-imperialist critical frames, Emerson is read in terms of his engagement with scientific discourse, Atlantic intellectual culture, abolitionist endeavor, and liberal dissent. In this course we will track such shifting conversations about Emerson by reading others of his readers including Stanley Cavell, Ronald Bosco, Joel Meyerson, Martha Schoolman, Andrea Knutson, Susan Castillo, Ian Finseth, Neal Dolan, Len Gougeon, and Robert Habich. We’ll get the chance to examine Emerson’s manuscripts, finding ways to formulate the problematic relationship between what Emerson initially composed and what he eventually published; and we will learn much about the historical contexts that shaped both. Most of all, we will read Emerson, penetrating beyond the quotable sage whose words make for good Nike commercials, encountering the challenge he still represents to citizens and readers in this our consensus democracy. Multiple written projects, a ton of great reading, and curious, informed participation required.