Am Lit Mid-19th to Mid-20th C

ENG 337 F’20 American Literature Mid-19th to Mid-20th Century


This course is intended to cover “American Literature from the mid-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century.” But what does it mean to study that period of American literature from Hawai’i, which, during that time, went from being a sovereign kingdom, to an (illegally annexed) U.S. territory, to a U.S. state? This class will be structured around significant historical and legal events during the period, both in Hawai’i and on the mainland, such as the Fugitive Slave Act, Emancipation, the U.S. Dakota War, and the annexation of Hawai’i. We will read literary texts as well as legal and historical documents, particularly those written by and pertaining to Black and Indigenous writers, in order to think about the ways our literary and historical narratives mutually constitute each other. We will also work to dismantle the pervasive myth that this was a period of increasing freedom and modernization, by considering, for example, the ways in which the formal end of slavery led to the continued subjugation of African Americans by other means. Rather, we will consider the ways in which this moment was a time of consolidation of U.S. empire and its accompanying racial hierarchies. Course readings may include Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Herman Melville’s Benito Cereno, Liliuokalani’s Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen, W.E.B. DuBois’s Black Reconstruction, and Zitkala-Sa’s American Indian Stories.