ENGL 361

US Literature to 1890 [FORMERLY ENGL 369]
Adam Frank
Term 2
MWF, 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM

“Old, Weird America”

This course, on pre-imperial United States literature, gravitates around ‘weird’ nineteenth-century writing that is fascinated by deformed or disfigured bodies, unlikely or extraordinary events, and what is contaminated or impossible. We will think about these texts by drawing on a number of aesthetic categories (such as the grotesque) as well as our own affective experiences, as readers, of disgust, embarrassment, contempt, and so on. We will pursue several main topics, including from among the following: blackface minstrelsy, the most popular form of entertainment in nineteenth-century United States; the confidence man or woman, a figure for social mobility and liminality; cannibalism and consumption; others. Our literary explorations will attend to historical questions and how these continue to be present in contemporary artefacts and entertainments. Readings may include work by Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Allan Poe, Louisa May Alcott, Charles Chesnutt, Henry David Thoreau, Paul Beatty, others.

This course will run as a mix of lecture, class discussion, and group work.