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EnglishRace

400 and Ethnicity in Nineteenth-Century US Literature


Elizabeth Boyle // boyle30@purdue.edu
Course Description
In this course, we will examine depictions of race and ethnicity in nineteenth-century US literature.
Tracing the multiple traditions of US writing and examine the ways various writers question, resist,
subvert, and revise understandings of race and ethnicity in their works, our discussions will center
around the following questions: how do these works respond to mainstream definitions of race and
ethnicity? in what ways do these works enable authors to express racial or ethnic identities in ways that
may or may not follow their conventionally assigned roles? In answering these questions, we will read
works by Louisa May Alcott, Mary Antin, Herman Melville, Jacob Riis, and Sui Sin Far. We will examine a
number of different literary genres and address significant historical events in US history including
immigration reform acts, the Civil War and Reconstruction, Emancipation, industrialization and
urbanization, Western Expansion, and more.

Course Objectives
@ Trace shifting definitions of race and
ethnicity throughout the nineteenth
century;
@ Demonstrate the ability to define race
and ethnicity in literature;
@ Read widely about race and ethnicity
in US culture;
@ Explore how race, class, and gender
influence literary production and
interpretation;
@ Hone the skills of critical reading,
discussion, analysis, and expository
writing.

Required Texts
@ Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Hope Leslie: or, Early Times in the Massachusetts (Penguin,
9780140436761);
@ William Apess, A Son of the Forest and Other Writings (U of Massachusetts P, 9781558491076);
@ Herman Melville, Billy Budd, Bartleby, and Other Stories (Penguin, 9780143107606);
@ Harriet E. Wilson, Our Nig: or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black (Penguin, 9780143105763);
@ Rebecca Harding Davis, Like in the Iron Mills (Feminist, 9780935312393);
@ Helen Hunt Jackson, Ramona (Signet, 9780451528421);
@ Mary Antin, The Promised Land (Penguin, 9780143106777);
@ Sui Sin Far, Mrs. Spring Fragrance and Other Writings (U of Illinois P, 9780252064197);
@ Alan M. Kraut, The Huddled Masses: The Immigrant in American Society, 1880-1921 (2nd ed.,
Wiley-Blackwell, 9780882959344).

Evaluation
@ Participation (15%): Participation in class discussion is important to both your grade and the
general success of this course. To help maintain the quality of our class discussions, after every
class I will assign each student a grade for class participation. The grading rubric is as follows: A
(actively engaged in the class and able to give answers and show insight/appreciation), B
(answered questions), C (present with the reading and basically attentive), D (late, or present
without the reading, or answers show reading had not been completed), X (absent). I will
calculate and distribute participation grades during week 7 and again at the end of the
semester; I am available to meet throughout the semester if you’d like to discuss your
participation grade.
@ Assignments (60%, or 20% each):
o Note:
§ Assignment 1 includes Hope Leslie, A Son of the Forest, “An Hour,” Benito
Cereno, and Our Nig;
§ Assignment 2 includes The Lowell Offering selections, Life in the Iron Mills, and
Ramona;
§ Assignment 3 includes The Promised Land, Mrs. Spring Fragrance selections, and
“The New Colossus.”
o Passage Interrogation Assignment: For this assignment, select a 250-word passage
from one of our assigned readings. Type this passage in a word-processing (Microsoft
Word or Pages) document and use the “Footnote” feature of your word processing
software and the Oxford English Dictionary to interrogate the text. To do so, annotate
the words, phrases, references, and sentences in that passage. Your goal in this
assignment is to observe interactions between the passage’s overall meaning (and its
relationship to the broader work) and its individual parts (words, phrases, and
references). Your grade for this assignment will be based on two parts: 1.) your
annotated passage and 2.) a 4-page reflective synthesis essay where you make explicit
connections between the individual items you’ve identified/annotated in your selected
passage and the broader work.
o Community Read Assignment: This assignment asks you to work in groups to develop
and conduct a community read session for your classmates and adult members of the
community at the local public library. We will schedule the dates and times of your
community read events during the first week of class. Your grade for this assignment
will be based on three parts: 1.) promotional materials for your event (1 flyer and 1
email announcing your event to the campus and local community); 2.) a lesson plan
outlining how you’ll conduct your community read session, including your introductory
remarks, discussion questions, activities, and selected passages; 3.) a study guide with
discussion questions and activities for future community reads on your chosen text.
o “The End” Assignment: This assignment is comprised of two parts. The first part is a
(3-page) creative work in which you rewrite the conclusion to one of our assigned works
of literature. The second part is a brief (4-page) commentary in which explain why you
selected this text, what choices you made while rewriting its conclusion, and how you
believe your changes influence the story’s tone, meaning, and function.
@ PEACH Reading Responses (25%): These brief responses are intended to get you thinking
about the texts we’re reading this semester. In them, you’ll practice developing interpretations
of our assigned readings in preparation for class discussion. Following the PEACH (Passage,
Explanation, Analysis, Connection, and Hook) format, you will interpret one work of fiction
each week (last names A-M will post on our first meeting day and N-Z will post on our second
meeting day). Your post should (P) quote a particularly pertinent passage in a literary work; (E)
explain how it fits into the broader text; (A) analyze an idea or comment you have about this
passage; (C) connect this reading and other readings we’ve already completed; (H) and
articulate how and why examining this passage provides vital information about this particular
text. Your PEACH Reading Response should also include at least one question for class
discussion.
Course Calendar
* All readings marked “web” are available via links on our course website.

week Topic: Introductions and The Myth of the Vanishing Indian

1 Tuesday
Course Introductions
Lazarus, “The New Colossus” (web)
Kraut, Introduction
Thursday
Sedgwick, Hope Leslie

week Topic: The Myth of the Vanishing Indian

2 Tuesday
Sedgwick, Hope Leslie
Thursday
Sedgwick, Hope Leslie

week Topic: The Myth of the Vanishing Indian

3 Tuesday
Apess, A Son of the Forest
Thursday
Apess, A Son of the Forest

week Topic: Slave Revolts and Free Black Laborers

4 Tuesday
Alcott, “An Hour” (web)
Thursday
Melville, Benito Cereno

week Topic: Slave Revolts and Free Black Laborers

5 Tuesday
Melville, Benito Cereno Wilson, Our Nig

Kraut, Chapter 1
Thursday

week Topic: Slave Revolts and Free Black Laborers

6 Wilson, Our Nig


Tuesday
Wilson, Our Nig
Thursday

Assignment #1 Due
week Topic: The Gender and Socioeconomic Politics of Millwork

7 Tuesday
Selections from The Lowell Offering
(web)
Thursday
Selections from The Lowell Offering (web)

Kraut, Chapter 3

week Topic: The Gender and Socioeconomic Politics of Millwork

8 Tuesday
Davis, Life in the Iron Mills
Thursday
Davis, Life in the Iron Mills

week Topic: Race, Ethnicity, and Nationality in the American Southwest

9 Jackson, Ramona

Kraut, Chapter 4
Tuesday
Jackson, Ramona
Thursday

week Topic: Race, Ethnicity, and Nationality in the American Southwest

10 Jackson, Ramona
Tuesday
Jackson, Ramona
Thursday

Assignment #2 Due

week Topic: Tenements on the Lower East Side and Jewish Immigration

11 Tuesday
Antin, The Promised Land

Kraut, Chapter 2
Thursday
Antin, The Promised Land

week Topic: Tenements on the Lower East Side and Jewish Immigration

12 Tuesday
Antin, The Promised Land
Thursday
Antin, The Promised Land
week Topic: The Fate of America’s Chinese Immigrants

13 Tuesday
Sui Sin Far, Mrs. Spring Fragrance and
Other Writings
Thursday
Sui Sin Far, Mrs. Spring Fragrance and
Other Writings

Kraut, Chapter 5

week Topic: The Fate of America’s Chinese Immigrants

14 Tuesday
Sui Sin Far, Mrs. Spring Fragrance and
Other Writings
Thursday
Sui Sin Far, Mrs. Spring Fragrance and
Other Writings

Lazarus, “The New Colossus” (web), again

Assignment #3 Due by today (for final


group completing the Community Read
Assignment)

finals Assignment #3 Due (for students completing the Passage Interrogation Assignment
week and “The End” Assignment)