Course Info and Syllabi


English 347-002: The American Novel

Fall 2015                                                                                                                                                                        Prof. Philip F. Gura                                                                                                                                                    Greenlaw 426

Office Hours Tu 1-3 and by appointment


Charles Brockden Brown, Wieland

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

Herman Melville Moby-Dick

William Faulkner, Light in August

Kate Chopin, The Awakening

Harold Frederic, The Damnation of Theron Ware

This course introduces you to the variety of the American novel, from the late eighteenth through the early twentieth century. There are no prerequisite courses, and any students interested in American literature should find it of interest. 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 The Scarlet Letter (1850), a story of love and guilt that uses early New England history to probe these and other universal emotions. We move on to Moby-Dick (1851), Herman Melville’s great novel, to understand how he transformed an adventure story into profound metaphysical investigation. Then comes Harold Frederic’s The Damnation of Theron Ware (1896), a scathing realist portrait of a fallen minister at a time of great cultural change; and Kate Chopin’s The Awakening (1899), a pioneering psychological examination of a woman’s claustrophobic marriage, set in Louisiana’s complex Creole culture. We end with William Faulkner’s modernist narrative experiment, Light In August (1932), one of the most powerful examinations of race and identity in American literature.

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. The assignments at times will be lengthy, so when you have spare time, read ahead.

There will be three tests, on September 10th, October 13th, and November 5th. There also will be a final examination. The exams will require you to demonstrate how well you have read and grasped these novels. The instructor reserves the right to make changes in the syllabus, including test dates. These changes will be announced as early as possible.

Attendance and class participation is expected. With 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-; and after each absence thereafter, another point down, to a B+, etc. Your 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


August 18, 20: Introduction to course, Brown’s Wieland.

 August 25, 27: Wieland

September 1, 3: Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter.

September 8: Scarlet Letter; 10: Exam.

September 15, 17: Scarlet Letter.

September 22, 24: Melville, Moby-Dick.

September 29, October 1: Moby-Dick.

October 6, 8: Moby-Dick.

October 13, Exam. No class 15th (Fall Break).

October 20, 22: Frederic, The Damnation of Theron Ware.

October 27: Damnation of Theron Ware. October 29: Chopin, The Awakening.

November 3: The Awakening. November 5: Exam.

November 10, 12: Faulkner, Light in August.

November 17, 19: Light in August.

November 24, Light in August. No class the 26th.

 December 1: Light in August.

English 843-001—Fall 2015

Seminar in American Transcendentalism

Prof. Philip F. Gura                                                                                                                                                                Greenlaw 426                                                                                          Tu 1-3 and by appointment

In this seminar we will read the major works of Emerson and Thoreau in light of American Transcendentalism, and antebellum intellectual and cultural history generally. We will spend some time on the state of American liberal religion and philosophy in the period from 1830-1870, and will consider as well these two writers’ relation to the market economy in which they were enmeshed. . Thus, the course may be considered a deep contextualization of two of the most important writers of the American Renaissance. We also will consider, among others, educator Bronson Alcott, feminist Margaret Fuller, abolitionist Theodore Parker, utopian socialist George Ripley, and champion of the working classes, Orestes Brownson. There will be weekly reports (assigned in class) on either primary or secondary readings and a final seminar paper. Students are required to abide by the university honor code.

Texts: Joel Myerson, ed., Transcendentalism: A Reader.

Perry Miller, ed. The Transcendentalists: An Anthology.

Emerson, Essays and Lectures (Library of America)

Thoreau, A Week, Walden . . . (Library of America).


August 18th: General Introduction. Some Definitions. The Transcendental “Movement”

August 25th: Religion and philosophy. Empiricism and Idealism. Unitarianism. Myerson 3-62, 68-78, Miller 16-59, 66-71, 89-91, 94-101, 177-78.

September 1st: Transcendentalism’s Emergence: Religious Upheaval. Myerson 68-77, 230-79, 340-81. Miller, 124-139. 157-62, 210-230, 284-93, 315-23.

September 8th: Transcendentalism and Social Reform. Brownson and Ripley. Myerson, 428-83. Miller, 114-23, 251-283, 436-45, 449-58.

September 15th: Social Reform (Brook Farm and Fourierism, Fruitlands). Myerson, 430-83. Miller, 464-74. (Abolition) Myerson 546-65, 586-614, 628-47.

September 22nd: Women’s Rights. Margaret Fuller and Elizabeth Peabody. Myerson 280-88, 314-18, 381-428, 484-91, 566-86, 615-27. Miller, 331-38, 366-68, 372-74, 457-62.

September 27nd: Belles-Lettres: Miller 331-413. Myerson 289-313, 492-530.

September 29th: Emerson: Nature, “The American Scholar,” “The Method of Nature,” The Transcendentalist.”

October 6th: Emerson: Essays: First Series.

October 13th: Work on Seminar Topics. Hand in prospectus next week.

October 20th: Emerson: Essays Second Series (Selections).

October 27th: Emerson: Representative Men and English Traits (selections).

November 3rd: Thoreau: A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.

November 10th: Thoreau: Walden.

November 17th: Thoreau: “Walking,” “A Walk to Wachusett.” The Maine Woods and Cape Cod (selections).

November 24th: Work on Seminar Papers. (Thanksgiving week)

December 1st: Second and Third Generations: Myerson 648-83. Miller 484-504. Emerson, “Historic Notes on Life an Letters in New England” (entire).

Paper Due December 4th.