1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

American Literature to 1900


  • ENAM 3130 African-American Survey I

    1400-1515 TR - CABELL 320

    Instructor: Deborah McDowell

    This course surveys pivotal moments and texts in the history of African-American letters, from Briton Hammon's Narrative of Uncommon Sufferings (1860) to W. E. B. DuBois's The Souls of Black Folk (1903)Charles Chesnutt's The Marrow of Tradition (1901). Working our way through a variety of genres (elegy, drama, the captivity narrative, the slave narrative, the essay, public oratory, speeches, and novels), we will explore a number of matters pertinent to literary studies in general, as well as those with specific implications for African-American writing and writers. We will consider the circumstances of textual production and reception, ideas and ideologies of literary history and culture, aesthetics, authorship and audience. We will focus our attention immediately on the emergence of African-American writing under the regime of slavery and the questions it poses about "race," "authorship," "subjectivity," "self-mastery," and "freedom." We will consider the material and social conditions under which our selected texts were edited, published, marketed, and "authenticated," lingering especially on the role white abolitionists and editors played in the production and mediation of these texts for various reading publics. Our ultimate aim is to situate our selections within the broadest possible contexts of their time and ours. Other required texts include Phillis Wheatley's Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, Frederick Douglass's Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Frances Harper's Iola Leroy, William Wells Brown's Clotelle, Harriet Wilson's Our Nig and Charles Chesnutt's The Marrow of Tradition.

  • ENAM 3180 Introduction to Asian-American Studies

    1400-1515 TR - CABELL 341
    cross-listed with AMST 3180

    Instructor: Sylvia Chong

    The historical experiences of Asian Americans--a broad, panethnic category inclusive of Americans with roots in the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Japan, North and South Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and more--shed light on issues of immigration, citizenship, education, war, labor, and assimilation which have affected all Americans to differing degrees. This "multi-media" cultural history will draw heavily on American visual and popular culture to situate, visualize, and define Asian Americans at various historical moments against and alongside African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, and white Americans. Some of these moments involve intense conflict and division, while others gesture towards camaraderie and affiliation. This class will be neither a simplistic celebration of ethnic pride and diversity, nor a condemnation of American history as singularly oppressive, although we will acknowledge both these strands. Rather, the eclectic materials of this class will replicate the heterogeneous history and make-up of Asian America, and establish Asian America as a relationship with itself and with America, rather than a thing to isolate and analyze.

    This is an introductory course that assumes no prior knowledge of Asian American history. During the semester, we will concentrate on developing close reading skills for visual, cinematic and textual materials. We will engage with a number of primary texts from various genres, spanning the mid-19th century to contemporary times. While obviously not an exhaustive overview of Asian Americans in American cultural history, we will try to touch upon a diverse range of historical moments and cultural and political issues, so as to gain insight into the interconnectedness of multi-ethnic America. Tentative list of texts: The Coming Man, The Four Immigrants Manga, Bontoc Eulogy, Continuous Journey, History and Memory, Flower Drum Song, Who Killed Vincent Chin, Sa-I-Gu, Perfume Dreams, Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.

  • ENAM 3500 The American 1920s

    1000-1050 MWF - MAURY 110

    Instructor: Raymond Nelson


  • ENAM 3500 Modernism and Anti-Modernism

    1230-1345 TR - CABELL 430

    cross-listed with ENMC 3500

    Instructor: Austin Graham

    The very name of the Modernist movement suggests its concern with the new, the current, and the up-to-date.  So too did Modernism in the United States draw much of its dynamic energy from its pathbreaking national moment, one of American jazz, skyscrapers, movies, airplanes, immigration waves, and economic booms.  But the modern cannot exist but in opposition to the old, and so in this course we will study formally experimental works whose freshness grows out of a deep sense of the past.  How does the modern engage with the anti-modern, and to what end?  In addition to literature, we will discuss historiographical methods, nostalgia, primitivism, folk culture, memory and the subconscious, Old Europe and expatriation, and legacies of slavery and the Civil War.  Authors might include DuBois, Fitzgerald, Eliot, O'Neill, Toomer, Hemingway, Cather, Roth, Faulkner, Hurston, and Dos Passos.  Requirements will include papers, an exam, and in-class discussion.

  • ENAM 4500 American Writers and World War II

    1200-1250 MWF - BRYAN 310

    Instructor: Raymond Nelson


  • ENAM 4500 American Drama

    1400-1515 MW - BRYAN 330

    Instructor: Stephen Railton

    We'll probably begin by looking at the melodramatic 19th century origins of American drama, and may spend a week or so exploring the way mass media like popular film continue to rely on those conventions.  But for most of the semester we'll attend to the best examples I can find of modern drama, from O'Neill, Miller and Williams through Hansberry, Albee and Wilson to Guare, Parks and Kushner.  I wish I could say we'll attend them in person, and if possible we'll try to see at least one live theatrical performance during the term, but in any case our discussions will include an exploration of the performative aspects of drama as well as careful attention to the words in the texts.

  • ENAM 4500 Modern Love in the US

    0930-1045 TR - CABELL 338

    Instructor: Victoria Olwell

    Maybe love is eternal, but it’s also historical and ideological. It’s shaped by custom, law, and narrative, and it’s central to the formation of private and public life alike. This course examines romantic love in U.S. prose fiction in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Our literary readings will cross genres: romance, realism, modernism, pulp, and noir. In addition, we’ll read primary texts of marital advice literature, medical writing, case law, and other non-fiction. We’ll interpret our reading in light of historical changes in conceptions of love, based in factors including shifting economic conditions, changing legal and social conceptions of marriage, citizenship, and queer sexualities, and turn-of-the-century psychological models. We’ll discern the connections between romantic love and ideas of race, gender, nationhood and empire. The course will likely include literary works by Helen Hunt Jackson, Frank Norris, Sui Sin Far, Willa Cather, Nella Larsen, Gertrude Stein, Zora Neale Hurston, and James M. Caine, among others. Your work for the course will be this: a short paper, a presentation in class, and a longer final paper. This is a seminar, so come ready to talk.

  • ENAM 4500 Early American Literature

    0930-1045 TR - CABELL 245
    Satisfies the pre-1800 major requirement

    Instructor: Jennifer Greeson

    This is a course in the origin myths of U.S. culture.  At what point can we identify distinctively American literary registers, styles, genres—and what is it that makes them “American”?  How do the politics of tradition-building dovetail with the politics of nation-building?  In a survey that begins in the sixteenth century and ends in the nineteenth, we will give particular attention to:  descriptions of the New World imperial project; the writing of American colonial selves; the rhetoric of the Revolution; and the fiction of the early Republic, in all its gothic weirdness.  Authors will include Anne Bradstreet, William Byrd II, Jonathan Edwards, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Olaudah Equiano, Hannah Foster, Charles Brockden Brown, Catherine Maria Sedgwick, James Fenimore Cooper, Washington Irving.  Course requirements include 100-250 pp. reading per week (amount increases as difficulty decreases), 2 essays of 6-8 pp. each, and one collaborative research presentation that will allow you to dip into the fabulous early American holdings in Alderman and Special Collections.

  • ENAM 4500 Space and Time in Harlem

    1530-1800 R - BRYAN 312

    Instructor: Sandhya Shukla

    This course explores the cultures of modern Harlem.  Since its earliest beginnings, Harlem has been many things to many people: global capital of blackness, prototypical ethnic enclave, destination-site for all kinds of migration.  And it has been made by a range of encounters between and among African American, Caribbean, African, Puerto Rican, Italian, Mexican and other peoples over time.  In order to understand the multiplicity of Harlem, we shall read stories of place that are simultaneously lived and circulating.  We will ask how Harlem represents itself and how representation shapes the experience of place, within its own physical boundaries and outside of them as well.  Recently there has been a great deal of popular attention paid to Harlem and to the various claims to and investments in the area particularly as gentrification has changed the character of the population that lives there.  Who and what Harlem is, what is the correspondence between the symbolic of Harle  m and the territory which it emanates from, are questions that have assumed a special urgency as the place threatens to become irrevocably transformed by rising real estate prices, whites moving in, and African Americans and Latinos moving out.  But this anxiety and meaning-making are not entirely new.  In fact, Harlem has always been haunted by the possibility of extinction, and unraveling that feature of the space gives a new spin to the idea of history in the present.  From its early formation, Harlem has also had a global content: housing those with a strong connection to other places outside of the United States, and also being important to those around the world as a sort of shorthand for racial autonomy and empowerment.  Developing meaning for Harlem, then, requires seeing the place as simultaneously local, national, and global, not to mention material and symbolic.  We ask, then, about the content and shape of Harlem: what’s inside and outside, and how might it look  different depending on where the lens is focused?  And how, if at all, does this mapping change over time?  This will require thinking deeply about the concepts of space and time, and approaching cultural texts with a variety of theoretical tools.  Relatedly, we will also consider how different disciplinary techniques—literary criticism, history, ethnography, photography, and more—offer different renditions of Harlem.  Authors we will read include: Walter Benjamin, Michel de Certeau, Claude McKay, Nella Larsen, Piri Thomas, Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, Langston Hughes, Ernesto Quinones, and others.

  • ENAM 4500 Reading the Black College Campus

    1830-2100 T - CABELL 216

    Instructor: Ian Grandison

    College campuses are rich sources for interrogating how places and spaces around us manifest the negotiation of power among social groups distinguished by race in America.  Landscapes connected with the black struggle to secure literacy in America, for example, are particularly fruitful for such exploration.  In “Reading the Black College Campus,” we consider, for instance, the landscapes that shrouded enslaved people such as Frederick Douglass as they acted on a black cultural imperative to secure literacy against the grain of antebellum law and custom.  We interrogate Historically Black College and University (HBCU) campuses, such as Virginia Union University’s, as well as (Historically White College and University (HWCU) campuses, such as the University of Virginia’s, to understand the contestation surrounding the democratization of higher education to include opportunities for African Americans from the promising beginning of the first HBCUs during the Reconstruction period;  through the curricular compromises championed by Booker T. Washington responding to the inequality engineered  by a doctrine of  “separate but equal” under surging Jim Crow and the progress made as a result of growing challenges on behalf of racial equality especially in the wake of World War I and of World War II; to the reconstitution of  inequality by dividing the landscape into enforced race and class territories in our own post-Jim Crow moment.   A student-centered course, our exploration will hinge on your careful study of required reading and other materials and on your participation in a required field trip to an HBCU campus and in related workshops to develop knowledge and abilities to interrogate graphic representations of landscapes.  Requirements completed individually include a closed-book midterm and final exam and a three-page paper reflecting on the field trip.  Assignments completed in groups include two informal exercises, student-led discussion of assigned materials scheduled for eight sessions of the semester and, most important, a final group research project that includes a prospectus, a report, and a presentation in a final symposium.

  • ENAM 4814 African-American Women Authors

    0930-1045 TR - CABELL 430

    Restricted to English, African-American Studies, Women Studies, Poetry Program majors

    Instructor: Angela Davis

    We will read several novels and short stories by African American women, examining in particular how the authors portray black women as individuals and in the context of American society. This course requires active class participation, two written responses to readings (each 2 to 3 double spaced typed pages long) and a formal essay (12 to 15 pages long). The reading list is: Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God; Ntozake Shange, For Colored Girls; Toni Morrison, Sula, and Tar Baby; Alice Walker, In Love and Trouble; Paule Marshall, Brown Girl, Brownstones; Gloria Naylor, The Women of Brewster Place. Prerequisite: The course is first offered to fourth year majors in English, Women's Studies and Afro-American and African Studies.

  • ENAM 4840 Fictions of Black Identity

    1100-1215 TR - CABELL B021

    Instructor: Lisa Woolfork

    This advanced undergraduate seminar will explore the dual meaning of its title "Fictions of Black Identity." The first implication suggests the literary inventions (novels, essays, critical works) that address the meanings of blackness in an American context. The second meaning is heavily invested in the first: that Black identity is a fiction, not necessarily in the sense of falsity, but in its highly mediated, flexible, and variable condition. Questions to consider include: how does one make and measure Black identity? Can one be phenotypically White and still be Black? What is the value of racial masquerade? What does it mean to be legitimately Black? Readings include, but are not limited to, Percival Everett's Erasure, Rebecca Walker's Black, White, and Jewish, Paul Beatty's White Boy Shuffle, and a range of critical essays. Mandatory assignments include critical essays, leading class discussion, midterm and final exams. This class is restricted to online waitlist and/or instructor permission. It is designed for students majoring in English, African American Studies, and/or American Studies.