American Renaissance Literature (1820-1860)
This course examines the development of the American narrative, the American literary character, and the emergence and development of both the Transcendentalist and Romantic Literary movements. The brief "Era of Good feelings," overseen by President James Monroe and marked by the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, slowly evaporated amidst the slavery crisis and the "Indian question."Jacksonian democracy opened the political process to white men outside of the Virginia political dynasty, but failed black men and women, white women, and Native American men and women. The fervor of "Manifest destiny" swept the nation's eyes westward as European immigrants poured into the slums of the Industrial North and the agricultural South planned succession.
Nineteenth-century American culture both pulled away from and clung to European influences. As Americans struggled to define themselves according to concepts of individualism against a backdrop of war and scientific , industrial, intellectual, and religious revolutions, the question, "What is an American?" is raised in the literature of the time period. And in a little town northwest of Boston, famous for its role in the Revolutionary War, a small cluster of free-thinking individuals lived, loved, argued coveted, and wrote as they turned Concord into the literary center of 19th-century America.