Course Info and Syllabi

OFFICE HOURS: TUESDAY 1-3 and by appointment


English 347-001: The American Novel

Spring 2017

Prof. Philip F. Gura                                                                            Greenlaw 426

Office Hours W 10-12 and by appointment



Charles Brockden Brown, Wieland

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Herman Melville Moby-Dick

Harold Frederic, The Damnation of Theron Ware

William Faulkner, Light in August



This course introduces you to the variety of the American novel, from the late eighteenth through the early twentieth century. We begin with one of the earliest American novels, Charles Brockden Brown’s Wieland (1798), to see how he uses the seduction plot to address complex emotional states well before there was a vocabulary to analyze them. Next, we tackle Nathaniel Hawthorne’s account of sin and guilt, The Scarlet Letter (1850), a story of a challenging, unexpected relationship working itself out in Puritan New England. We move on to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s best-selling Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), instrumental in galvanizing opposition to slavery and a classic of the sentimental mode. After that, we read Moby-Dick (1851), Herman Melville’s masterpiece, to understand how he transformed the adventure novel into profound metaphysical investigation. Next, we will read Harold Frederic’s scathing realist portrait of a fallen minister, The Damnation of Theron Ware (1896). We end with William Faulkner’s modernist experiment, Light in August (1932), a harrowing account of the search for and discovery of personal identity in the American South.


In no way is this course meant to be inclusive. The choices suggest various prose experiments that show how authors transformed earlier modes and genres into pioneering psychological and cultural investigations, specifically, how fiction related to the United States of America at different points in time. Thus, you will learn about the stylistic development of early American fiction as well as about its most compelling themes. In lecture, I will try to suggest more about the great range of novels which we do not have time to sample and as well to provide some cultural and historical background to each of the works we do read. You may think that six novels aren’t that many, but most of these are lengthy books. When you have spare time, read ahead.


There will be three tests, on January 26nd, February 28th, and March 23rd. There also will be a final examination at the assigned time, 8 a.m., May 5th. I reserve the right to change exam dates and will give you ample warning if I need to do so. The exams will require you to demonstrate how well you have read and grasped these novels. Attendance and class participation is expected. After your third unexcused absence, I will start deducting from your final grade. For example, if your grade on exams is an A, you will move to an A-; after another absence, to a B+, etc. Your approximate final grade before such deductions will be based on the three exams (25% each) and the final (25%), which will not be cumulative.

Honor Code: Students are required to familiarize themselves with the Student Honor Code regarding plagiarism. Refer to




January 12:  Introduction to the course.

January 17, 19:  Wieland.

January 24:  Wieland.  January 26, Exam.

January 31st, February 2:  The Scarlet Letter.

February 7, 9:  The Scarlet Letter.

February 14, 16:  Uncle Tom’s Cabin,

February 21, 23:  Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

February 28:  Exam.  March 2: Moby-Dick.

March 7, 9: Moby-Dick.

March 14, 16:  no class Spring break.

March 21:  Moby-Dick.  March 23: Exam.

March 28, 30:  Damnation of Theron Ware.

April 4, 6:  Theron Ware.

April 11, 13:  Light in August.

April 18, 20:  Light in August.

April 25, 27:  Light in August.


May 5: Final Exam.


English 843

Reloading the Canon: The American Novel, 1840-1870

Prof. Philip F. Gura                     Greenlaw 426    

Office hours W 10-12 and by appointment


We will focus on the practical results of canon revision for this period, specifically regarding fiction. Writers such as Hawthorne and Melville have long been held up as pioneers in an American prose tradition because of the ways in which they constructed the genre of the American “romance.” But in this class we will chart a new and different trajectory of the American novel’s emergence. Given the recovery of many hitherto forgotten fiction writers, particularly women, and our ability now to read virtually any out of print 19th century novel on line, we will explore such topics as the rise of “city” fiction, the intersection of the sentimental with the self-consciousness novel, the insistence that fiction be used for social reform, and the impact of the Civil war on domestic fiction, Novels to include, Alice Cary’s Hagar, Catherine Sedgwick, Married or Single?, Lillie Umsted Blake’s Rockford, Fanny Fern’s Ruth Hall, Rebecca Harding Davis’ Margret Howth, Elizabeth Stoddard’s The Morgesons and Two Men, George Thompson’s Venus in Boston, and Theodore Winthrop’s Cecil Dreeme, as well as Hawthorne’s Blithedale Romance and Melville’s Pierre. I will assume familiarity with the canonized works of Stowe, Hawthorne, and Melville. A few of the books have not been reprinted but are available on various Internet sites (Google-books, for example), so we will access them in that way. In the assignments, such books are identified with asterisks.


Requirements: Attendance mandatory. Students will be responsible for brief in-class reports on secondary material relating to the week’s reading. Your grade will be determined by a combination of classroom participation and either a substantial research paper on a topic to be negotiated with the instructor or a final, take-home exam whose questions will be given out in the second-to-the-last class.


Plagiarism: The Honor Code is in effect in this class and all others at the University. I am committed to treating Honor Code violations seriously and urge all students to become familiar with its terms ( If you have questions, it is your responsibility to ask me about the code’s application. All exams and other written work must be submitted with a statement that you have complied with the requirements of the Honor Code.



January 17th:  Introduction.

January 24th: Fanny Fern (Sarah Willis Parton), Ruth Hall (1854).

January 31st: George Thompson, Venus in Boston (1849).

February 7th : Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance (1852).

February 14th: Alice Cary, Hagar (1852).*

February 21st: Herman Melville, Pierre (1852).

February 28th: Continue Melville’s Pierre.

March 7th:  Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Married or Single? (1857).


March 21st: Theodore Winthrop, Cecil Dreeme (1861).

March 28th: Rebecca Harding Davis, Margret Howth (1862).*

April 4th:  Elizabeth Stoddard, The Morgesons (1862).

April 11th: Lillie Devereux Blake, Rockford (1862).*

April 18th: Elizabeth Stoddard, Two Men (1865).

April 25th: Summary. Discussion of future directions for scholarship.

May 3rd: Papers or exams due by 1 pm.