Hope Greenberg's Graduate Portfolio

Readers and Writers in the l9th Century

Prof. Dona Brown

Spring 1995
History 296


Arthur, Timothy Shays, The Hand But Not the Heart
Fern, Fanny, Ruth Hall
Rowson, Susanna, Charlotte Temple
Showalter, Elaine, Ed., Alternative Alcott
Stowe, Harriet Beecher, Uncle Tom's Cabin
Warner, Susan, The Wide Wide World


Baym, Nina, Woman's Fiction
Baym, Nina, Novels, Readers, and Reviewers
Brodhead, Richard, Cultures of Letters
Coultrap-McQuin, Susan, Doing Literary Business
Gilmore, William, Reading Becomes a Necessity of Life
Kelley, Mary, Private Woman, Public Stage
Radway, Reading the Romance
Tompkins, Jane, Sensational Design
Wilson, Figures of Speech


The seminar will focus on the process by which popular novels came to dominate the American scene in the 19th century. We will explore texts, producers, and consumers from a variety of angles: How were books manufactured? How were they written? What sorts of careers were open to their authors? Who read them, and for what purposes? What can we learn from the themes and plots of such popular novels? Each student will become an "expert" on one of the authors. Your job will be to report background information about your area of expertise on several occasions. In the process, you will write two short papers (roughly 5 pages) and one longer essay at the end of the semester--an in-depth cultural analysis of a l9th-century text.

Week 1 (Jan. 18) Introduction: What can we learn from books, and how?

Week 2 (Jan. 25) A new world of books
Rowson, Charlotte Temple (be sure to read Davidson's introduction, too)

Week 3 (Feb. 1) New readers
Gilmore, Reading Becomes a Necessity of Life, chs. 1, 3, and 6, and pp. 29269

Week 4 (Feb. 8) New writers
Wilson, Figures of Speech: Washington Irving, William Lloyd Garrison; Nissenbaum,"Introduction to the Scarlet Letter"

Week 5 (Feb. 15)
The industrial book: visit to Special Collections

Assignment #1 due (reports on authors)

Week 6 (Feb. 22) New books for new women: "Domestic" fiction
Baym, Woman's Fiction, ch.2, *'The Form and Ideology of Women's Fictions
Warner, The Wide Wide World, chs. 1-6

Week 7 (Mar. 1)
Warner, The Wide, Wide World

Week 8 (Mar. 8) The cultural agenda
Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin

Week 9 (Mar. 15)
Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin

--Spring Break-

Week 10 (Mar. 29) Gender and authorship
Coultrap-McQuin, ch. 1, "Why Try a Writing Career?;" Kelley, ch. 6, "No Happy
Woman Writes; " Fanny Fern, introduction, and begin Ruth Hall

Week 11 (Apr. 5) Gender and authorship
Fern, Ruth Hall

Week 12 (Apr. 12) Gender and authorship
Timothy Arthur, The Hand But Not the Heart
Week 13 (Apr. 20) Readers and markets

Assignment #2 due

Week 14 (Apr. 27) High, Middle, and Low Brow
Brodhead, "Starting out in the 1860s;" "Work" in Alternative Alcott

Week 15 (May 3)
Showalter, ed., Introduction, and "Behind a Mask" in Alternative Alcott

Assignment #1: Authors

Choose one of three authors we are looking at in depth: Stowe, Warner, Fern. (Fern???) Acting as a team, find out as much as you can about the career of your author. (One of you might read a biography, for example, while another reads articles and catalogs works. The reserve readings are a good place to start.) How did this author make a living? How did she look at her work? What was the "shape" of her career?

You can report informally on your findings during one of the weeks we discuss the work of your author--to be arranged by mutual convenience. Each of you should also write your own synopsis of your findings (roughly 5 pages).

Assignment #2: The Trade

Here you explore a question of your choice that may help you with your larger project: you might research a technological breakthrough in printing, the work of a particular publishing house, the publishing history or marketing of a work, a particular audience. You will report informally on your findings during the week of April 20 (as marked on the syllabus), and also write a synopsis of those findings (again, roughly 5 pages).

Assignment #3

For the major written work of the course, write a historical analysis of a 19th century work that falls into the framework we have created in the course. Provide the historical context for the text. (You may choose a work we have not discussed, or--if you think further discussion is warranted-- you may choose one we have looked at and take a new angle.)

This file is part of Hope Greenberg's Graduate Portfolio for the course History 296. Created 24 March 1997.