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AMCS 4231 - Topics In American Literature I: White American Masculinities

This course builds on the new interest in whiteness studies, which assumes that whiteness and masculinity are social constructions rather than "natural" identities. Moving from about 1830 to 1925, we will explore the development of a deeply contested discourse of "national manhood" in the United States, as it emerges in historically specific circumstances. How does whiteness intersect with related discourses of gender, sexuality, and social class? Beginning with the apocalyptic poetry and prose of Edgar Allan Poe, we will examine terrorized whiteness as an identifying feature of normative masculinity in the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Henry James, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Do these authors claim the power to resist threats to their individual autonomy? To what extent do they experience masculine self-reliance as a myth? How do they imagine meaningful communities? Addressing these social issues and related aesthetic questions, we will venture, as Whitman says, "in paths untrodden." During the senester, students will write two substantial papers of increasing complexity (in lieu of a miderm and a final exam), and there will be shorter writing assignments as well. There will also be at least one oral report to be developed in consultation with the instructor, and graduate students will have extra responsibilities. For all, class attendance and active participation are required, naturally! Satisfies the Nineteenth Century requirement.
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Fall 2019, Spring 2017
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