ENGL 324 Fall 2013 Feeling, More or Less: American Sentimentalism and Its Discontents

How much feeling is too much? This question launches the investigation taken by this class, which will read the American sentimental novel as a case study for key debates in literary criticism about what we should read and what we should read it for. We will learn how canons and their determining standards of taste develop, tracing the logic of arguments about literary values both aesthetic (for ambiguity and estrangement over emotional potency) and political (for the ways popular works reveal the national consciousness). We'll identify the sentimental as a set of moves that authors, male or female, can borrow at will (and in fact, may not be able to avoid). By the end of the class, students will be able to defend their own position on how to tell emotional manipulation from genuine feeling (or to explain whether such a distinction holds), and to argue for what values they think ought to matter for literary criticism. We'll read a range of authors whose works play key roles in these debates, and decide for ourselves how we feel, and what we feel, in reading them: from sentimental standard-bearers like Harriet Beecher Stowe to unsentimental romantics like Elizabeth Stoddard, from Nathaniel Hawthorne (who griped about the "damned scribbling women" whose books outsold his) to high-art practitioners of masculine melodrama like Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner.
Class Format: seminar
Requirements/Evaluation: active class participation and about 20 pages of writing divided across 2 or 3 essays
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Prerequisites: a 100-level ENGL course, or a score of 5 on the AP English Literature exam, or a score of 6 or 7 on the Higher Level IB English exam
Enrollment Preference: English majors
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Divisional Attributes: Division I
Other Attributes: ENGL Criticism Courses,ENGL Literary Histories B
Enrollment Limit: 25
Expected Enrollment: 20
Class Number: 1741
ENGL324-01(F) SEM American Sentimental Division 1: Languages and the Arts Ashley C. Barnes
TR 11:20 AM-12:35 PM Schapiro Hall 141 1741
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