ENGL405 Study Guide
|Course:||ENGL405: The American Renaissance|
|Book:||ENGL405 Study Guide|
|Printed by:||Guest user|
|Date:||Wednesday, September 27, 2023, 6:43 PM|
Table of contents
- Navigating this Study Guide
- Course Wrap-Up
- Unit 1: The American Renaissance in Context
- Unit 2: Continuity and Change in Poetic Form
- Unit 3: The Invention of the Short Story
- Unit 4: The Development of the Novel and its Various Forms
- Unit 5: Nature and Technology: Creating and Challenging American Identity
- Unit 6: The Question of Women's Place in Society
- Unit 7: The Slavery Controversy and Abolitionist Literature
Navigating this Study Guide
Study Guide Structure
In this study guide, the sections in each unit (1a., 1b., etc.) are the learning outcomes of that unit.
Beneath each learning outcome are:
- questions for you to answer independently
- and a brief summary of the learning outcome topic with linked resources.
At the end of each unit, there is also a list of suggested vocabulary words.
How to Use this Study Guide
- Review the entire course by reading the learning outcome summaries and the linked resources.
- Test your understanding of the course information by answering questions related to each unit learning outcome and defining and memorizing the vocabulary words at the end of each unit.
By clicking on the gear button on the top right of the screen, you can print the study guide. Then you can make notes, highlight, and underline as you work.
Through reviewing and completing the study guide, you should gain a deeper understanding of each learning outcome in the course and be better prepared for the final exam!
After reading the materials in this course, you will probably realize a pattern in the writings of the authors on the syllabus. Most of these writers were rebels in one way or another. Many cast off their inherited Christian faith, and several attempted to provide at least the beginnings of a post-Christian cosmology. Harriett Beecher Stowe remained an orthodox Christian, but she, like the early Frederick Douglass, thought of the biblical God as the champion of the poor and oppressed. Most were also literary iconoclasts, calling for and creating unorthodox literary forms and styles: macabre short story, problem novels, slave narratives, free verse, and other rule-breaking poetic techniques. Some questioned or rejected traditional gender roles and sexual mores, some protested their government's policies, some covertly resisted laws they deemed unjust, and some committed civil disobedience and/or openly disobeyed their government.
As you read through these works, you learned how they perceived and responded to their socio-historical context, and how they crafted new styles to address their specific realities in innovative ways. These writers and their works can be used to speak to our collective socio-historical situation, and we may draw upon aspects of that history to better understand the passions that informed these writers' lives and art.
To that end, here are some questions that you might ask:
- Are there parallels between the socio-historical situation of the authors in the course and the world today?
- Are there moral and spiritual challenges today that are similar to the issues authors of the American Renaissance faced?
- Did these authors respond in smart and productive ways? Why or why not?
- Does our time call for a similar level of commitment and engagement to our social, cultural, and historical contexts?
- Do we have a similar call to think creatively, protest perceived injustices, and demand a more democratic and responsible government?
- Knowing about generic form, what genre would you use to help answer this call?
- Or, do you have ideas about creating a new form, or perhaps mixing genres to create a new way of speaking about your situation today?
A note about the final exam: If you were taking this course face-to-face with a professor, your final exam would most likely be formatted as a series of short answer and essay questions. For this type of online course, however, the final exam will be comprised of 50 multiple choices questions. While most literary critics would argue that explanations of the texts you've just read are quite subjective, there are objective details that you should take away from this course as well. To study, you should return to the learning objectives at the beginning of the course and before each unit. They will help you see what topics each unit covers, and what you should take away from the material. While you will certainly be tested on some plot elements and author information, most of the questions have been designed to help your further study of literature. You will find questions on literary terms, genre conventions, and historical context.
Unit 1: The American Renaissance in Context
1a. Summarize this literary period in terms of its canonical authors, the inclusion of popular and sentimental literatures, and the recovery of works by African Americans, women, and those of or about the working classes.
- Describe the literary period that we now know as "The American Renaissance" by noting its canonical authors and those whose works have since been recovered.
- Why is it important to include popular and sentimental literatures when discussing this time period?
- What does the recovery of works by African Americans, women, and those of or about the working classes tell us about this time period?
The literary period known as "The American Renaissance" roughly runs from the 1820s-1860s. The works written during this time give readers an idea about what it was like to live in the antebellum US, an era that saw huge technological advances, rapid Westward expansion, the end of slavery, changes for women and men and their roles in society, and the development of the middle class. The recovery of works written by women, some of which were domestic-sentimental or popular fiction, African Americans, and those by or about the working classes provides a much fuller picture of life during this time period. Many readers may be familiar with canonical authors like Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Melville, Poe, and Hawthorne, but women, writers of color, or the working classes can offer additional information to readers about how society was actually arranged and what types of concerns people of different social positions addressed through the written word. A lot of these authors addressed ideas about selfhood and development of identity in the new US context and how that differed from ideas about the self in England. Revisit this piece for more context.
1b. Articulate key features and figures of European Romanticism, demonstrate how Romanticism changed when it arrived in the US, and name how it differed from Transcendentalism.
- Describe how European Romanticism changed when it arrived to the US.
- Who are the key figures of European Romanticism, and how would they define the movement?
- How does Romanticism differ from Transcendentalism?
European Romanticism began in Germany but then spread quickly to England, France, and other countries. Many probably associate authors like William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge with the movement in England. Like in the US, they were excited by the fresh vision and freedom of the movement which gave new life to artistic and intellectual spheres. It arrived on American shores around 1820 and was galvanized by the newness of life and its potential in the US (remember the young nation began governing itself only in 1776). In the US, Romanticism coalesced around the changes in geography and manifest destiny as well as the discovery and articulation of a uniquely American sensibility. To explore more about when Romanticism reached the US, revisit The Romantic Period. Romanticism emphasized an emotional, individual relationship with God, which differed from the much stricter tenets of Calvinism and Puritanism of previous generations. It shared this less restrictive view of God with Transcendentalism, although Transcendentalism espoused an even more expansive view of God and nature than Romanticism. Prominent Romantic/Transcendentalist writers in the US include Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, Edgar Allan Poe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and Herman Melville. For more info about the relationship between Romanticism and Transcendentalism, look at Romanticism in America.
1c. Compare and contrast key articulations of American identity, or lack thereof, by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sojourner Truth, and William Apess at specific moments within the context of the ideals of Jacksonian Democracy.
- Compare and contrast how Emerson, Truth, and Apess articulate "self" at the specific moments of their writing within the context of the Jacksonian Democracy.
- How do the works by Emerson, Truth, and Apess differ in a formal, literary sense (tone, style, word choice, language, length, structure, voice)?
- How do the works of Emerson, Truth, and Apess differ in terms of content? What does this reveal to the reader?
Andrew Jackson was elected president of the US in 1828. He was a largely uneducated, self-made man and was thought to represent the new American spirit of ingenuity and grit. Emerson delivered his now famous "The American Scholar" speech at Harvard in 1837. He calls for a new creative spirit in America. Many see this as the rallying cry of the American Renaissance. The composition and recitation of his oration reveals a highly educated man of an elite class speaking to other young men as he calls them to be strong, creative individuals using America as their inspiration. He suggest three areas for the American scholar: exploration of nature, absorption of knowledge from books, and engagement with physical action. Truth's "Ain't I a Woman" speech was delivered at a women's rights convention in 1851 details a very different kind of life than what Emerson discussed. Truth was born into slavery in New York but escaped in 1826, becoming an abolitionist and activist. The speech itself given extemporaneously and then rewritten with a stereotypical Southern accent describes women and their ability to work alongside their husbands and do equal work without reaping the benefits of equal rights. She also discusses the rights of slaves and asks her audience to consider why there is such division and lack of agency for women and blacks at this time. In 1830, Jackson passed the Indian Removal Act, which violently relocated many Native tribes to Western lands. In his essay from 1833, Apess speaks as a Native man writing about "color prejudice" or racism against Native peoples. This comes in sharp contrast to Emerson's message about freedom and creative expression.
1d. Define the key traits of the Second Great Awakening and delineate its chief figures.
- Define the key traits of the Second Great Awakening.
- Who are the chief figures involved in the Second Great Awakening?
- From where does this moment of religious change get its name? Why is it called the "Second" Great Awakening?
The Second Great Awakening gets its name as a means of distinguishing it from the earlier revival of Protestantism in the 1730s and 1740s in the US colonies. The Second Great Awakening happens around/by 1850 and encompasses a general shift in belief from earlier conceptions of God saving only an elect few, predetermined before time, from innate depravity to free will and the choice to accept God's grace and forgiveness of sin. This new understanding of Protestantism also related religion to social reform, namely the movements surrounding temperance and abolition. Charles Grandison Finney, Lyman Beecher and the New Light Calvinists, and Southern Baptist and Methodist denominations, who broke with older traditions and especially focused on social and political reforms, were the chief figures involved in the Second Great Awakening.
1e. Describe how Transcendentalism both drew on and broke from Calvinist-influenced versions of Protestantism, especially Puritanism.
- Demonstrate how Transcendentalism both drew on and broke from Calvinist-influenced versions of Protestantism, especially Puritanism.
- The Second Great Awakening (the movement away from Calvinist-influenced versions of Protestantism) parallels the emergence of Transcendentalism. Why is this significant?
- How do Calvinist-influenced versions of Protestantism differ from beliefs associated with Transcendentalism?
Calvinist-influenced notions of Protestantism relied on very little agency on the part of the believer. There was no direct contact between God and the believer. God had chosen an elect few, before time began, to save, and everyone else would be condemned for their innate depravity. A gospel of works (being good, moral, Christian) was favored at this time over a gospel of grace (one doesn't deserve grace but can choose to accept the gift). Puritanism drew on this religious philosophy over any other. Transcendentalism differs sharply from Calvinist-influenced Protestantism because it focuses on emotion and the intellect and suggest that God is accessible through nature and even in oneself. There is much more emphasis on free will and agency on the part of the individual. Revisit this text and this one on Transcendentalism for further explanation.
1f. Summarize Emerson's chief contributions to American philosophy and literature, with reference to some of his most significant works.
- Using some of his most significant works, summarize Emerson's chief contributions to American philosophy and literature.
- Why does Emerson stick out as one of the most influential Transcendentalists even now?
- What topics does Emerson cover in the body of his works, and why do they make such an impression on the public at this time?
In "The American Scholar", Emerson outlines how to live and be productive in the era of the new American spirit. He emphasizes an exploration of nature, a reliance on books, and physical action to help spur one's creativity and formation of self into a scholar. He also writes about the development of the self and individualism in his famous "Self-Reliance". Transcendentalism got its interest in nature and the self from Romanticism, but Emerson helps focus it more centrally around the expansion of US territory and the energies and excitements of exploration. The new nation is ripe for writings about individualism and self-making as everything is fresh and on the verge of becoming something distinct. With the Second Great Awakening, audiences were also interested in ideas about religion and spirituality. Emerson described greater access to God; in fact, he suggested that readers find God in the universe as well as inside themselves. His poetry and free verse meditations also established an aesthetic that was uniquely American even if it was condemned by fellow Transcendentalists like Poe. Revisit this essay on Emerson and his beliefs as well as his poem "Gnothi Seauton" for more information on this topic.
1g. Analyze different approaches to social reform among Transcendentalists like Emerson, Fuller, and Sophia and George Ripley.
- Analyze the different approaches to social reform among Transcendentalists like Emerson, Fuller, and Sophia and George Ripley.
- How does Emerson's approach differ from Fuller's?
- How does Emerson's approach differ specifically from the understandings of the Ripleys toward Transcendentalism?
Emerson and Fuller cofounded The Dial, a Transcendentalist publication meant to provide an outlet for writers and readers to explore Transcendentalist efforts around social reforms like the abolition of slavery, women's suffrage, and workers' rights. Emerson believed in the reformation of the self first above all. He thought that social and cultural reforms would come naturally after the transformation and explication of the self. The Ripleys, and Fuller to an extent, thought that social reform was just as important as individual development. The Ripleys founded Brook Farm as a place where this kind of transformational work could be done; however, Emerson did not join this endeavor because he was so fixed on the individual and thought that this interest in social reform should not be the primary goal of the movement. For more perspective on this issue, revisit Ripley's letter to Emerson and Emerson's reply.
Unit 1 Vocabulary
This vocabulary list includes terms that might help you with the review items above and some terms you should be familiar with to be successful in completing the final exam for the course.
Try to think of the reason why each term is included.
- American Romanticism
- American Renaissance
- Andrew Jackson
- Jacksonian Democracy
- Indian Removal Act of 1830
- New Criticism
- The Second Great Awakening
- The Dial
- Brook Farm
In addition to consulting the course readings, you may want to access M.H. Abrams and Geoffrey Galt Harpham's Glossary of Literary Terms, especially when you don't immediately see how a literary term might apply to a particular unit or primary text. You should bookmark the Abrams and Harpham text and use it to help facilitate your progress through the course.
Unit 2: Continuity and Change in Poetic Form
2a. Differentiate between Poe's and Emerson's concepts of beauty and their relationships to poetry and its forms.
- Differentiate between Poe's and Emerson's concepts of beauty.
- How does Poe define poetry and the formal structures of it?
- How does Emerson define poetry and express form?
Poe talks about beauty as the "sole legitimate province of the poem" and suggests that the contemplation of beauty is the "pleasurable elevation of the soul". He favors a careful structuring of poetry as a means of affecting the reader, and even equates it to the computation involved in solving a complex mathematical equation. Emerson seems much more interested in a type of free verse that comes from a transcendental space of inspiration, divine at times, and favors a frenzied expression of Truth and Intellect over careful attention to formal arrangement. For further information on Poe, Emerson, and their ideas about poetry and form, consult this essay on Poe's "Philosophy of Poetic Form" and this essay on Emerson's "The Poet".
2b. Explain Poe's and Emerson's different understandings of the origin and correct composition of poetry.
- Explain Poe's and Emerson's different understandings of the origin of poetry.
- What is the correct composition of poetry according to Poe?
- What is the correct composition of poetry according to Emerson?
Emerson sees poetry as coming from a frenetic, uncontrollable intuition related to the revelation of universal truths felt by all but expressed only by the poet. Poe sees beauty as the special interest of poetry and thinks specifically about the effects on readers when he composes. Emerson privileges free verse in terms of form as he's more interested in the frenzied production and universality that he delivers. Poe's composition process is much more calculated than Emerson's. He approaches poetic structure as he might tackle a math problem and suggests that form and effect are more important than the mode of inspiration or production. Revisit ideas about poetry and form with this essay on Poe's "Philosophy of Poetic Form" and this essay on Emerson's "The Poet".
2c. Summarize Poe's objections to didactic poetry by contextualizing him and his work in the time period.
- Summarize Poe's objections to didactic poetry.
- How do Poe's objections to didactic poetry manifest in his works?
- How do Poe's objections to didactic poetry differ from other works/authors of the time period?
Poe is not only critical of the kind of intuition-inspired poetry of Emerson. He also condemns overly political or didactic poetry, as he thinks that these types of themes are better handled in prose. Since poetry, for him, is about the contemplation of beauty and the effect that may have on a reader, didactic themes were not something he focused on in his works. He is critical of the works of poets like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and John Greenleaf Whittier who write quite directly about slavery and condemn its practices. Poe thinks that poetry should have no ulterior motive and writes accordingly. He writes about the melancholy of loss in "The Raven" as a means of getting at a contemplation of pure beauty while Longfellow and Whittier act as reform poets, fighting for abolition and a humanizing of those who are enslaved. "The Raven" also includes several literary elements like assonance, alliteration, simile, metaphor, personification, and onomatopoeia. Think about these to reflect on Poe's poetic craft. For more information on Poe's views, see this essay expressing his thoughts about Longfellow's works.
2d. List some of the most popular political poets of this historical moment and identify their major works.
- List some of the most popular political poets of this historical moment and think about why they are deemed "popular".
- Identify the major works of the most popular political poets of the time.
- Why is the political poetry of this time important?
Some of the most popular political poets of the time were John Greenleaf Whittier and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson were also political poets in perhaps more subtle ways. All of these authors can be classified as "popular" because of their interests in engaging with social and political themes or issues of the day. Whittier and Longfellow were known for their anti-slavery poetry, and Whitman related his ideas about the self and its grandeur to the new American democracy. Dickinson engaged with the complicated expressions and repressions of women at the time in language that defies the patriarchal system under which it was composed. Whittier is known for "The Christian Slave" whereas Longfellow wrote "The Witnesses" and "The Quadroon Girl", among other works. Whitman's most famous work is Leaves of Grass and much of Dickinson's work is untitled poetry, named only by the words of the first line. If it is true what Emerson says about the poet standing in for the rest of the populace, political poetry allows for the expression of ideas about current events and issues important at the time. As contemporary readers, we can look back to see what issues authors grappled with during this time. Review subunit 2.2 on the question of poetry's social role for more information on this topic.
2e. Describe and analyze Whitman's development of free verse and its relationship to his ideas about American democracy, nature, love, friendships, and the self.
- Describe Whitman's development of free verse.
- How does Whitman's development of free verse relate to his ideas about American democratic ideals and the formation of a new American voice?
- How does Whitman's development of free verse relate to his ideas about nature, love, friendships, and the self?
Free verse is a poetic form that rejects regular meter and rhyme scheme. Sometimes you might find internal rhyme or the repetition of images as a means of rhyme in this type of work. Whitman further develops free verse as an American form that allowed for an openness and nuance of representation. He uses the form to invite all to engage with his work and even speaks in vernacular to describe and showcase those who wouldn't normally find themselves represented in poetry. He expands and revises this form to accommodate his ideas about nature, love, friendships, and the self. Revisit this essay on free verse and this piece on Whitman.
2f. Consider Dickinson's poetic form and content in the context of the traditional understanding of gender in the nineteenth century.
- Consider Dickinson's poetic form and content in the context of traditional notions of gender in the nineteenth century.
- What rights did women have during the nineteenth century?
- How does Dickinson's poetry both adhere to and challenge the ways that women were "supposed to behave" during this period?
Women's lives were limited during the nineteenth century, since they were not allowed to vote and often seen as subservient to men and their desires. They had less power in society generally and fewer good options for employment. Of course, those of the elite, upper, or educated classes may have had more freedoms, women were generally limited in their behaviors, although many found ways to circumvent the polite rules of society to express themselves and fight for more rights around gender. Dickinson developed a semantic style that directly challenged the patriarchal structure of language, communicating through "the unsaid" or silence. See Eve Grubin's essay on Dickinson's strategic reticence for more on Dickinson's intervention as a woman writing poetry during this time.
Unit 2 Vocabulary
This vocabulary list includes terms that might help you with the review items above and some terms you should be familiar with to be successful in completing the final exam for the course.
Try to think of the reason why each term is included.
- The Poet
- Poet Laureate of Reform
- Poetry's Social Role
- Free Verse
- Epic Poem
- Lyric Poem
- American Vernacular
- Internal Rhyme
- Strategic Reticence
- Writing "Slant"
- Women and poetry
Unit 3: The Invention of the Short Story
3a. Explain Poe's argument in favor of the short story over longer works of fiction.
- Explain Poe's argument in favor of the short story genre over longer works of fiction.
- How does Poe describe the genre characteristics of the short story?
Poe favors the short story form because it lends itself to being read in one sitting. A reader can usually get through the entire story before having to put the text down to move on to another task. This allows them to retain the key aspects of the plot and appreciate the whole piece of art in one reading experience. He believes that the short story form, unlike longer works of fiction, can create a unified effect like poetry but can also benefit the author financially by reaching a larger audience. See "The Short Story" for more information.
3b. Relate the historical development of the short story during this period.
- Relate the historical development of the short story during this period.
- When did the short story form first develop?
- How and why did it gain in popularity during this time period?
The short prose narrative has existed for nearly as long as humans have. Human beings process experiences in the form of short stories. Some even suggest that "small spatial stories" are the basis of all human thought and understanding of the world. Because of the growth of the periodical press at the time, the move into urban centers, the rise of common schools and the national literacy rate, and the expanding middle class, demand for and interest in short stories grew at a rapid pace during the American Renaissance. Readers were looking for interesting stories as well as entertainment. Revisit "The Short Story" for further explanation.
3c. Define the Gothic and analyze Poe's, Hawthorne's, and Melville's development of the mode.
- Define the Gothic mode.
- How did Poe, Hawthorne, and Melville help develop this important literary mode?
In literary studies, the Gothic mode usually refers to the emphasis on or exploration of the darker sides of human experience that are influenced by forces that are beyond one's control. These forces could be natural, supernatural, or even human behaviors that cause danger to the subjects of the work and inspire readers to examine their own darker sides and the forces that operate on them in the world. Many think that Poe wrote Gothic tales for financial gain, but he is often credited with contributing greatly to the formation of the Gothic form. He employs the form to explore ideas concerning human psychology and metaphysical existence. Hawthorne's stories are set in New England and usually investigate the complexities of Calvinist teachings surrounding innate depravity and the human reaction to judge others' behaviors. Melville also explores the Calvinist legacy, but he further blurs the line between the moral and immoral. For further insight on this topic, see "The Gothic and the Antebellum American Short Story".
3d. Analyze key examples of Poe's and Hawthorne's use of suspense and the macabre and explain how these Gothic techniques affect readers.
- Analyze key examples of Poe's and Hawthorne's use of suspense and the macabre.
- Make a list of specific Gothic techniques used by Poe and Hawthorne.
- How do these Gothic techniques affect readers?
Poe used the Gothic mode, suspense, and the macabre to explore intense psychological states, especially the more destructive or violent emotions and motivations. He used the characters in his stories to explore the darker side of human nature that allowed one character to murder another. "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Cask of Amontillado" are good examples of this. These stories allow readers to put themselves in the position of the main character who murders another human being because of a progression of twisted logic that drives them to commit the crime. This insight into the psyche of a killer provides a provocative pleasure for readers. Hawthorne explores the complicated morality of the Puritan and Calvinist legacies in his Gothic tales. He helps readers see how to view themselves through the lenses of sin and innate depravity. For further insight on the Gothic techniques these authors use in their works, see "The Gothic and the Antebellum American Short Story".
3e. Summarize Melville's analysis of Hawthorne's "power of blackness", his Calvinistic sense of Innate Depravity and Original Sin.
- Summarize Melville's analysis of Hawthorne's "power of blackness", his Calvinistic sense of innate depravity and original sin.
- How does Hawthorne revise the concept of innate depravity and original sin for readers at the time?
Melville praises Hawthorne's ability to discuss and investigate what he calls the "power of darkness" in his works. Melville posits that this darkness probably comes from Hawthorne's coming of age in a highly Calvinist-influenced society where concepts of innate depravity and original sin hung heavy over the community. Melville suggests that perhaps Hawthorne uses this darkness to provide more nuance between the light and shade of human behavior in works like The Scarlet Letter. He questions whether these concepts have any merit in antebellum society through the development of characters like Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale. Revisit this essay for information on how Melville characterizes Hawthorne's use of darkness.
3f. Describe key features of the detective story as first developed by Poe.
- Describe the key features of the detective story as first developed by Poe.
- What do these features lend to the reading experience of this genre?
- How does Poe differentiate the detective story from the Gothic mode or the short story?
Crime fiction, or the detective story, was developed and perfected by Poe during this time period. He crafted a lead detective in the role of protagonist in the story, and it was through the eyes of this character that the reader entered into the seedy underbelly of violent crime. The crime in question was usually a murder because murders have been happening in society for as long as humans have been around and because there are infinite possibilities, motives, and intentions when developing a story of this type. The detective interacts with all manner of suspects and organizes the facts into rational order for the reader to follow along in the investigation. The detective story is a subgenre of the short story, but it does not always invoke the Gothic mode. While there can be suspense and macabre involved in the telling, ultimately, the detective story privileges the rational act of reconstructing a crime and the motive of the person(s) who committed it. Explore this essay on rationalism in the detective story genre for further insight here.
3g. Explore Melville's development of detective story elements in the context of slavery in "Benito Cereno" and evaluate how the genre lends itself to this kind of content.
- Explore Melville's development of detective story elements in the context of slavery in "Benito Cereno".
- Why does the content of this story lend itself so well to this genre?
- What does Melville ultimately argue about slavery with this story?
With "Benito Cereno", Melville offers us a story about a slave rebellion; however, because of his prejudices and inability to read the signs on the ship he tries to help, Captain Delano does not know that a slave rebellion has taken place. This mystery, which the reader begins to figure out before Delano, lends itself to the detective genre because a "crime" has been committed, and it needs to be solved. Melville engages with the negative representations of African slaves that circulated in society at the time and illustrates how one can be blind to the agency and power and humanity of Africans because of long-held prejudices. See this essay on Melville's "Benito Cereno" to better understand how this story fits into the detective genre.
Unit 3 Vocabulary
This vocabulary list includes terms that might help you with the review items above and some terms you should be familiar with to be successful in completing the final exam for the course.
Try to think of the reason why each term is included.
- Short Story
- The Gothic
- The Puritan/Calvinist Legacy
- The Macabre
- Point of View
- Detective Fiction
Unit 4: The Development of the Novel and its Various Forms
4a. Connect the rise of literacy, the creation of "common" schools in the US, and the implementation of copyright laws to the expansion and development of the market for reading materials like the novel.
- Describe the rise of literacy, the creation of "common" schools in the US, and the implementation of copyright laws during this time period.
- How do these advancements relate to the expansion and development of the market for reading materials like the novel?
The rise of the common school movement, the beginning of free, public education for all regardless of social class or religion, led to a higher number of educated, reading US citizens. Copyright laws also arose during this time and were meant to protect authors and allowed them to begin making money from selling their intellectual property. As literacy rates increased, readers began to demand more sophisticated types of reading materials like the novel, and with the rise of the middle class, more people had access to leisure time and looked for a variety of forms of entertainment. Revisit articles on literacy, publishing, copyright, and the common school movement for further information here.
4b. Identify the motives and logistics of the founding of Indian Boarding Schools and articulate the methodology such schools used to "educate" Native children.
- Identify the motives and logistics of the founding of Indian Boarding Schools.
- Articulate the methodology such schools used to "educate" Native children.
- Fit this phenomenon into the overall cultural history of the time period.
In 1830, Jackson passed the Indian Removal Act, which violently relocated large numbers of Native people to unsettled lands west of the Mississippi. Because tribal identities and cosmologies were really different from those of European, white, Christian settlers, they were relegated to undesirable geographic locations as a means of control. By this point in history, it became clear that Native people would either face complete extermination or undergo a harsh process of assimilation. Toward the end of the 18th century, a network of boarding schools were founded to aid in this process of transformation and eradication of Indian identities. Educators set out to prove that Indian children were indeed educable but employed the motto, "Kill the Indian to save the man". For more specifics on the methodologies of Indian boarding schools, see Differing Approaches.
4c. Summarize the development of the novel in the antebellum period.
- Summarize the development of the novel in the antebellum period.
- How does the novel differ from the short story or poetry?
- Why did the novel find such success during this period?
The novel in the US did not really emerge until the end of the 18th century. "A Short History of the Early American Novel" points to the birth of the middle class, the Protestant Reformation, and the development of scientific and philosophical empiricism as the ultimate source of knowledge as the major reasons why the novel found such success at this particular moment in history. The novel as a form engaged with everyday life and people involved in tasks that readers themselves might also enjoy. The form was never meant to be as performative as poetry or other oral modes, and it was specifically created as a commodity to be sold in the emerging market to middle class buyers who had extra income and leisure time to read. See the article mentioned above for further insight on this topic.
4d. Differentiate among key subgenres of the novel, specifically the romance, sensational literature, and domestic-sentimental fiction, listing their key features and examples.
- Differentiate among key subgenres of the novel, specifically the romance, sensational literature, and domestic-sentimental fiction, listing their key features and examples.
- Who comprised the audiences for these various subgenres?
- Why was this content particularly interesting to readers of this era?
As the novel became more popular, various subgenres began to appear. The romance focuses on the writer or narrator's inner life and emotions and usually references nature, creativity, or imagination. Beauty seems to be a recurrent theme as well as the idealization of women, children, and the rural. Individual experience is at the heart of this subgenre. Sensational literature depicts disturbing or unusual behavior, often of a sexual or violent nature, to secure a reaction from readers. The domestic-sentimental novel provided a pleasure of escape into emotionalism and the specifically gendered spaces of the domestic sphere. Woman were the main writers and readers of these popular texts, and while many of these works were rejected for their simplistic renderings, more recently these works have been recovered because of the emphasis on representations of women and the separation of private and public spheres at the time. For more info on these subgenres, revisit Hawthorne's "Preface", "Sensationalism", and "Sentimentalism".
4e. Describe Hawthorne's definition of the romance as it differs from the novel.
- Describe Hawthorne's definition of the romance as it differs from the novel.
- Provide some examples of Hawthorne's use of the romance and how he appeals to readers' interests.
According to Hawthorne, a romance, as a work of art, should present the truth of the human heart presented under circumstances of the author's own imagination and creation. He says that a novel, on the other hand, must present the possible, probable, and ordinary course of the life of man. In his text The House of Seven Gables, Hawthorne connects the past and bygone era with the present to offer a moral lesson of the most subtle type, one that is the same on the first page as on the last. See Hawthorne's "Preface" for more information about his definition of the romance.
4f. Analyze Hawthorne's portrayal of Puritan New England in The Scarlet Letter; in terms of the romance genre, in terms of Transcendentalism, and in terms of antebellum US society.
- Analyze Hawthorne's portrayal of Puritan New England in The Scarlet Letter in terms of the romance genre.
- How does The Scarlet Letter relate to Transcendentalism?
- What does this novel/romance reveal about antebellum US society?
In his text The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne creates a story that depicts a society that punishes a woman for adultery by making her wear a scarlet A on her chest. She is ostracized from the community and refuses to name the father of her daughter, who is born out of wedlock. The text itself challenges some of the contradictions of Puritanical philosophy by portraying the inner lives of a number of characters in a small New England town. Hawthorne asks readers to consider why Hester Prynne is condemned as she is just acting on human instinct like all the others in her town. A darkness pervades the text that acts as a character in and of itself. Characters grapple with issues like innate depravity, sin, sexuality, guilt, and secrets in this text. Hawthorne challenges readers to see how free will and freedom to question societal conventions lead to more healthy relationships. This text also explores nature and illness as they affect the spiritual life of the body. For more information about Hawthorne's engagement with these topics, review The Scarlet Letter.
4g. Classify key features of Lippard and Thompson's sensationalism and explain its popularity.
- Classify key features of Lippard and Thompson's sensationalism and explain its popularity.
- Do the works of these authors differ from one another? If so, how?
- Why was sensationalism as a genre so popular at this time?
Sensationalist literature was meant to entertain and titillate its readers by depicting a clear moral demarcation between the exploitative upper classes and the working classes. Its engagement with sexual licentiousness and the criminal element also drew readers in by representing provocative characters and experiences that readers would not necessarily encounter in their own lives. Lippard and Thompson were two of the most well known writers of sensationalist novels. Thompson's works tend to foreground class divisions and the viciousness of the elite while offering less condemnatory representations of sexuality and criminality. See "Sensationalism" for more information on this topic.
4h. Analyze Fern's description of the antebellum publishing scene and her deployment of key sentimental tropes.
- Analyze Fern's description of the antebellum publishing scene and her deployment of key sentimental tropes.
- What does Ruth Hall reveal about women and relationships during this time period?
- How does Ruth Hall adhere to and challenge key sentimental tropes invoked at the time?
A woman writing in the 19th century, Fern offers a lot about the publishing industry at the time. She advocates for an end to trade courtesy, which in turn allows for opening bidding for creative works. This greatly benefits authors. In her autobiographical text, Ruth Hall, Fern tells the story of a young woman who ends up married and in love but loses both her husband and child suddenly. She must go out into the workforce to sustain herself financially. After much struggle, she becomes a writer and finds great success. She makes her own family then, without a male influence, and finds great satisfaction in life. Fern does use sentimental tropes here, but she also undermines them by showing Ruth Hall to be a competent woman who succeeds outside of the domestic sphere without a romantic relationship. See Ruth Hall for further explanation.
Unit 4 Vocabulary
Try to think of the reason why each term is included.
- American Antebellum Publishing Industry
- Copyright Laws
- Literacy Rates
- Common Schools
- Rise of Middle Class
- Indian Boarding Schools
- Narrative Structure
- Domestic Fiction
Unit 5: Nature and Technology: Creating and Challenging American Identity
5a. Summarize the technological development and industrialization happening during the antebellum US.
- Summarize the technological development and industrialization happening during the antebellum US.
- How do these developments in technology and industry relate to literary production?
- How does the outpouring of literary product during this time shape the reading public?
The antebellum period saw a number of new inventions like photography and telegraphy as well as the new laying of an unprecedented amount of railroad track. This time sees a dominance of man over nature and a hope of overcoming political and social ills as well. Production moved from small, artisanal businesses to large factories, which signaled an era of industrial production that no one had seen previously. Consumption of material goods increased by huge numbers, and prosperity seemed inevitable. Many canonical authors saw these changes as potentially detrimental to society as they increased class divisions, environmental losses, and dehumanizing effects on the spiritual essence of humankind. Revisit this essay for more explanation.
5b. Describe Brownson's concerns about class division in the antebellum US and analyze his essay in terms of Transcendentalism.
- Describe Brownson's concerns about class division in the antebellum US.
- How does what he argues in his essay relate to the theories of Transcendentalism?
- How does Brownson's argument differ from that of other authors writing about the same subject at the time?
Brownson wrote one of the most powerful and controversial critiques of Capitalism during this period. He describes two systems of labor: slave labor and free labor. He essentially ends up arguing that slave labor is freer than free labor because slaves have never known what it is like to have to make wages for their labor. The free laborer suffers more, according to Brownson, when he cannot provide for his family when he is out of work. Brownson represents the socially engaged and activist branch of Transcendentalism. See Brownson's essay for more information.
5c. Trace changes in the socioeconomic context of the antebellum period in relationship to the election of 1824, the emergence of consumerism and the new Middle Class, the Penny Press, and immigration.
- Trace changes in the socioeconomic context of the antebellum period in relationship to the election of 1824.
- How does the emergence of consumerism and the new Middle Class relate to the Penny Press?
- How does immigration from Europe at this time figure into the socioeconomic context of the antebellum period?
The antebellum period saw huge changes in the social and economic systems operating in the US at the time. The election of 1824 ultimately led to Jackson, a self-made man, being elected president in 1828, showing just how important the popular vote could be in a national election. Production moved from small, artisanal home offices to large factory manufacturing. With the rise of the Middle Class, many new consumers found themselves with extra income to buy modern conveniences. They had time for leisure activities, like reading, which was made much easier by the invention of the Penny Press. A large rise in immigration from Europe also began to affect the economy and the type of labor available to all. See "The Election of 1824", "Antebellum Economic Development", "The Penny Press", "A New Social Order", and "Immigration" for more information on this topic.
5d. Describe the chief features and some of the leading attractions of Barnum's American Museum and other forms of urban popular or mass culture, specifically blackface minstrelsy.
- Describe the chief features and some of the leading attractions of Barnum's American Museum.
- Why were people so drawn to Barnum's American Museum?
- Name other forms of urban popular or mass culture, like blackface minstrelsy, and explain why they were so important at the time.
Barnum created a space of novelty in his American Museum. He captured the unique and provocative and weird in a place where those of all different classes could mingle. There was even a day of the week that African Americans were allowed to visit and engage with popular culture in a way they were never able to do previously. Blackface minstrelsy is known as the practice of white actors donning black makeup while caricaturing black behaviors and experiences. While most condemned the practice, some said it showed a genuine interest in black culture and helped expose white audiences to new ways of viewing the world. Revisit "Blackface Minstrelsy" to read more about the role that blackface played in antebellum culture.
5e. Formulate interpretations of Melville's "Bartleby" in terms of Capitalism, drawing on his other works and other secondary material.
- Formulate interpretations of Melville's "Bartleby" in terms of Capitalism.
- What does the relationship between Bartleby and his boss, the narrator, communicate to the reader about the complications of Capitalism?
- How does Melville's "The Paradise of Bachelors and Tartarus of Maids" relate to the depictions of class divisions and labor in "Bartleby"?
Melville's "Bartleby" communicates the complications of Capitalism as it deals with motivation and desire to perform labor for a salary. Bartleby's boss, the narrator, struggles because he wants to be friends with his employees but realizes he ultimately holds more power than they do. He also must make money for himself, the business owner, and decides who gets paid and who doesn't, which puts him in a different position entirely than those he employs. In his "The Paradise of Bachelors and Tartarus of Maids", Melville makes an even clearer distinction between the upper class elite and the exploited working class. He ultimately comments on the ways that Capitalism seems to reward those who are already wealthy and penalize those who are not. Read Melville's "Bartleby", "Paradise", and this essay on "Bartleby" again for more info on his critique of the emerging market economy.
5f. Articulate the ways that Davis' novella draws on both sentimentalism and realism in fostering the reader's identification with the working class.
- Articulate the ways that Davis' novella draws on both sentimentalism and realism in fostering the reader's identification with the working class.
- Who is the audience for Davis' novella?
- What does Davis ultimately want to teach this population of readers?
Davis' novella draws a picture of life for Hugh Wolfe, a laborer in the iron mills, for upper class readers who would have no direct experience with the physical labor he performs. She draws on both sentimental and realist tactics to make Hugh more accessible to her audience. Hugh is an artist whose endeavors of carving have been overshadowed by his class status and his need to work in an industrial factory to make a living. Davis humanizes the working class through the focus on Hugh and his struggles both inside and outside of the mills. See Davis' Life in the Iron Mills and this critical essay for additional information on this topic.
5g. Summarize Thoreau's argument against material progress in Walden.
- Summarize Thoreau's argument against material progress in Walden.
- Why does Thoreau go out into nature in the first place?
- What does he hope this isolation will teach him?
Thoreau was part of the Transcendentalist Movement that opposed many of the technological and industrial changes of this time period. He worried about the natural, environmental costs of these changes and imagined that the spirituality of the human being was being usurped by an interest in material gain. He also worries about the ways that this type of progress further divides those of different classes. In the isolation at Walden, Thoreau contemplates the natural world and seeks scientific explanation for what he sees and imagines how those same principles apply to the arrangement of society. See Walden and this critical essay on it to help you further answer these questions.
5h.Define Thoreau's critique of American politics in "Resistance to Civil Government" and analyze his use of nature to critique American society more generally.
- Define Thoreau's critique of American politics in "Resistance to Civil Government".
- How does Thoreau use nature to critique American society in a general sense?
- What does Thoreau ultimately argue that those who are of like minds should do to protest government actions?
In Thoreau's political manifesto, he talks about how he put his philosophical convictions into material practice. He refuses to pay his taxes and is thus jailed. He sees this as an act of civil disobedience because he does not agree with the government's stance on slavery and does not like the Us' involvement in the US-Mexican War. He suggests that if all citizens did the same, the government would have no choice but to follow the will of the people. Revisit "Resistance to Civil Government" for more information on Thoreau's position on American politics at the time.
Unit 5 Vocabulary
Try to think of the reason why each term is included.
- The Election of 1824
- Penny Press
- Class Divisions
- Urban Mass Culture
- Immigration and Racism
- Popular Culture
- P.T. Barnum's American Museum
- Blackface Minstrelsy
- Employer-Employee Relationships
- Extreme Class Divisions
- Political Manifesto
- Civil Disobedience
Unit 6: The Question of Women's Place in Society
6a. Describe the development of a Women's Rights Movement in the antebellum US and identify the major voices and platforms that emerged.
- Describe the development of a Women's Rights Movement in the antebellum US.
- Who were the major voices at this time?
- What platforms emerged in regards to women's rights at the time?
This era saw huge changes in the roles available to women and marked the First Wave of the Feminist Movement in the US. Traditional roles relegated women to the home, a domestic space wherein they were in charge of raising the children according to widely-held Christian values of the time. Depending on class position or marital status, some women were forced to work outside the home, but usually ended up in low-paying factory jobs and were looked at in a negative manner. Many women began to question these limitations, especially as they coalesced around women's suffrage. Some of the major voices at the time included white women, but also black women whose rights were almost always overlooked, even through this period: Angelina and Sarah Grimké, Sarah Margaret Fuller, Lucretia Mott, Harriet Wilson, Maria Weston Chapman, Paulina Wright Davis, Ernestine Rose, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Margaret Fuller, Alice Paul, Frances Harper, Ida B. Wells Barnett, and Susan B. Anthony. The Seneca Falls Conference of 1848 marks one of the first important meetings where woman forged a plan of resistance and fought to gain the right to vote. Women also became activists in regards to slaves' rights and temperance. Revisit "Women and the Early Republic", "The Seneca Falls Declaration", and "Women's Sphere" for much more reading on this topic of the Women's Rights Movement.
6b. Summarize the arguments of Fuller and Peabody in favor of women's rights and analyze them in terms of Transcendentalism.
- Summarize the arguments of Fuller and Peabody in favor of women's rights.
- How do the arguments of Fuller and Peabody relate to Transcendentalism?
Fuller argued in favor of women's rights through the lens of Transcendentalism. Without particular societal freedoms, women were unable to reach their full potential in terms of spiritual development and growth of the soul. She links the plight of women to the evils of slavery and engages in both feminist and anti-slavery arguments. Peabody was the first female publisher in Boston and worked to promote the works of women. She also founded the Kindergarten movement according to the philosophy that education must take place in consideration of the whole child: mind, body, and soul. Revisit "The Great Lawsuit" for further information on Fuller's position on women's rights, and see the biography of Peabody for more reading on her life and activism.
6c. Delineate how Stoddard's short story characterizes the relationships among sexuality, gender roles, and class during this time period.
- Delineate how Stoddard's short story characterizes the relationships among sexuality, gender roles, and class during this time period.
- What does Stoddard ultimately teach, or caution, women about marriage?
- What does the main character realize at the end of the short story?
Stoddard couches her intervention about women's rights and class in a short story that hinges on a lawsuit and marriage. One of the main characters, Margaret, ends up being a bargaining chip in a lawsuit without realizing it until the end of the short story. Her aunt facilitates the marriage to a rich, young lawyer who represents her interests in a land dispute. Knowing Margaret is set to inherit whatever her aunt has, Mr. Uxbridge will fight harder to win Aunt Eliza's lawsuit. At the end, Margaret realizes that she, in effect, has become her husband's property. See Stoddard's "Lemorne versus Huell" to review exactly what she argues in the story itself.
6d. Understand the accomplishments and challenges of women of color working toward women's and African Americans' rights during this time period.
- Understand the accomplishments and challenges of women of color working toward women's and African Americans' rights during this time period.
- Why did white women and African American women have trouble finding common ground in the feminist movement?
- While African American women certainly fought against the evils of slavery, what other social reform movements did they participate in during this time?
Women of color working for women's rights at the time often butted heads with white women working on the same cause. African American women saw women's rights and the rights of all African Americans as equally important causes, whereas some white women thought rights surrounding suffrage were most important. Women of color working for equal rights at the time include: Frances Harper, Ida B. Wells Barnett, Sojourner Truth, Anna Julia Cooper, Mary Eliza Church Terrell, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Nannie Helen Burroughs, and Daisy Elizabeth Adams Lampkin. These women worked hard for women's rights, the abolition of slavery, and prohibition of alcohol, among other social reforms, taking an intersectional approach unlike their white counterparts. Review Frances Harper and Ida B. Wells for more info on these women.
6e. Identify the genre traits of the domestic novel and reconcile how Warner uses those conventions to author one of the most outstanding examples of popular literature written by women at the time.
- Identify the genre traits of the domestic novel.
- How does Warner uses those conventions to author one of the most outstanding examples of popular literature written by women at the time?
- What does she argue in her most famous work, The Wide Wide World?
The domestic novel focuses on the domestic sphere and the inner workings of the home space. The main female character works to create a nurturing environment where she can raise children in comfort and instruct them in the values of Christianity. Family dynamics at play in these works usually encompass a comfortably middle class scenario and show a patriarchal model to readers. Warner's The Wide Wide World depicts a young woman who has a difficult childhood but them matures after being instructed in the ways of the domestic sphere. The story ends with her on the verge of adulthood and marriage, the ultimate ending for a novel of this type. See Warner's text to remind yourself of her argument about women and the domestic sphere.
6f. Analyze how Alcott's novel both challenges and reinforces conventions about women through her use of sentimental tropes.
- Analyze how Alcott's novel both challenges and reinforces conventions about women through her use of sentimental tropes.
- What is the significance of Mr. March being absent for most of the novel?
- How do the March sisters themselves challenge and reinforce conventions about women?
Alcott sets her novel within the confines of patriarchal society wherein Mr. and Mrs. March are raising four daughters to be proper, submissive, Christian women. However, interestingly, Mr. March is absent for the majority of the novel. He is serving as a doctor in the Civil War and leaves the bulk of the raising of his daughters to Mrs. March. While she does help the girls overcome many an obstacle, usually surrounding their desire to express great emotion, she also seems to allow for deviation from traditional gender roles. All of the girls who make it into adulthood marry for love and seem to find partnerships instead of just submissive roles in a domestic prison. For greater insight into Alcott's work, read the text and this critical essay.
Unit 6 Vocabulary
Try to think of the reason why each term is included
- Women's Rights Movement (First Wave)
- Women's Suffrage
- Seneca Falls Conference
- Race, Class, and Suffrage
- African American Women and Suffrage
- Suffrage and Other Social Reforms (abolition, temperance, Native rights, etc.)
- The Domestic Novel
- Private vs. Public Domain
- Women's Work vs. Men's Work
- Gender Norms and Roles
- Gender Stereotypes
- Character Development
Unit 7: The Slavery Controversy and Abolitionist Literature
7a. Summarize the ways in which Africans resist slavery and the impact of this resistance as well as who was involved in anti-slavery movements and the arguments they used to advance their cause.
- Summarize the ways in which Africans resist slavery and the impact of this resistance.
- Who were involved in anti-slavery movements?
- What arguments did those involved use to advance their cause?
Africans resisted slavery in African countries by creating defensive measures in their villages and launching attacks against arriving slave ships. If none of these tactics worked, they ran away and formed new communities farther inland. They also rebelled after they were taken aboard the slave ships and even once they were installed in US or Caribbean plantations. Many opposed slavery. Probably most notably were the Protestants and Quakers in the US. They argued that slaves were human beings and had the capacities to learn just as whites did. Many made moral arguments and some even offered philosophical points about slavery being an unnatural practice. Review "Resistance and Abolition" for more information.
7b. Grasp how slavery relates to ideas of manifest destiny, the seemingly boundless Western expansion, and the Mexican American War.
- Grasp how slavery relates to ideas of manifest destiny, the seemingly boundless Western expansion, and the Mexican American War.
- What kinds of arguments do those in favor of slavery make in regards to manifest destiny, Western expansion, and the Mexican American War?
Manifest destiny and Western expansion would allow for slavery to expand even further than it already had. Those proponents of the practice thought this geographic expansion would help their cause and stop the abolitionist movement. In terms of the Mexican American War, those in favor of slavery saw this as an opportunity to expand the institution further west and south and thought it would help them win the argument about slavery. See "Manifest Destiny" and "The Mexican War" for further information about the connections between these topics.
7c. Define the key abolitionist arguments of Garrison, Walker, and Mott and distinguish their approaches from one another.
- Define the key abolitionist arguments of Garrison, Walker, and Mott.
- How do their arguments differ from one another?
- How are their arguments the same?
Walker's Appeal was directed toward slaves and advocated a violent resistance to slavery as the only option for freedom. Garrison published The Liberator and in it argued that slavery should end immediately and spoke out against the gradual emancipation of those who were enslaved. Mott was an outspoken reformer and Quaker minister. She fought for abolition alongside other social reform movements like women's rights and temperance. Review these essays on Walker, Garrison, and Mott to help you study.
7d. List the chief features of the slave narrative as a literary genre.
- List the chief features of the slave narrative as a literary genre.
- What does a slave narrative offer to readers that other genres do not?
- How is the slave narrative different from autobiography or memoir?
The slave narrative often traces a slave's journey from enslavement to freedom. The slave him or herself is the protagonist and "I" of the story. Within the text, the author usually included an account of conversion to Christianity for his or her predominantly white readers. It also worked to humanize slaves and show the horrors of the practice to inspire abolition. The stories also helped readers understand that slaves or former slaves had the intellectual capacity to tell their own accounts of what happened to them. The slave narrative, unlike autobiography or memoir alone, offers the slave's voice and is constructed to be used as a tool for abolitionist purposes. The horrors and cruelties recorded help audiences who are out of touch or uninformed about slavery to see how wrong this practice actually is. Review this "Essay on the Slave Narrative" to find an even more comprehensive list of genre characteristics.
7e. Distinguish chief similarities and differences between Douglass' and Jacobs' slave narratives, analyzing the roles gender and genre play in those distinctions.
- Distinguish chief similarities and differences between Douglass' and Jacobs' slave narratives.
- How do gender roles play a role in the way that Douglass and Jacobs narrate their stories?
- Although they are both writing slave narratives, how does the genre work differently for the two of them, allowing a gendered approach to the topic?
As an African American man, Douglass writes his individual story of slavery and his escape to freedom. He deals with extreme violence and pain, but ends up coming to see himself as valuable through literacy. Jacobs, as a women, has to deal with the sexual politics of slavery. In order to protect herself from her master, she gets involved with a free white man and has children with him. This does not put off her master entirely though, and she has to hide in a tiny attic for a long time to take care of herself. She worries constantly about her children and her family. The genre of slave narrative is adaptable to both types of telling. Douglass can tell his story about his individual struggle for freedom, and Jacobs can tell her story about community, family, and personal pain. The content is very different though specifically because of the gendered violence women experienced in slavery. For further review, see "Essay on the Slave Narrative" as well as Douglass' work and Jacobs' account.
7f. Identify key turning points in Douglass' account of achieving freedom.
- Identify key turning points in Douglass' account of achieving freedom.
- How does Douglass begin his autobiographical account? What significance does this have?
- How does Douglass ultimately achieve freedom?
Douglass begins his slave narrative with "I was born", which announces him as a human being and person of value. He narrates his path to literacy and discusses how it shaped his views about his own self worth. He shows the horrors of slavery and evokes empathy on the part of his readers. He ends up escaping from his most violent master through intelligence and clever action. For further review, see "Essay on the Slave Narrative" and Douglass' work.
7g. Outline the ways that Jacobs appeals specifically to women readers in the North.
- Outline the ways that Jacobs appeals specifically to women readers in the North.
- What insights does Jacobs offer that Douglass does not?
- How does Jacobs protect herself from her master's sexual advances?
Ultimately, Jacobs asks white readers in the North, specifically women, not to judge her decision to have children out of wedlock. She primarily does this to avoid the sexual advances of her master and hopes that her readers will understand her choices and motivations because of the unique set of difficult circumstances she deals with as both a woman and a slave. Reread "Essay on the Slave Narrative" and Jacobs' account for more information on this point.
7h. Describe Stowe's appeal to her readers in Uncle Tom's Cabin and formulate hypotheses to explain its incredible popularity despite stereotypical representations of women and African Americans.
- Describe Stowe's appeal to her readers in Uncle Tom's Cabin.
- What explains the incredible popularity of this text despite its stereotypical representations of women and African Americans?
- What does Stowe end up arguing about slavery?
Stowe's ultimate purpose in writing this text is to inspire abolitionist work. She appeals to her readers, however, through the politics of Christian, family dynamics. She asks readers to think about what it would be like to be separated from a child or mother or father or sibling. She wants readers to offer sympathy and empathy to those who are broken apart from their families in slavery. The stereotypical representations of African Americans and women perhaps appealed to readers' own prejudices or weren't as off-putting to them as the powerful message about family love. For more insight, reread "Essay on Harriet Beecher Stowe and Uncle Tom's Cabin" and Stowe's novel.
7i. Analyze the role of Christianity, motherhood, and racialist representations in the antislavery arguments of Uncle Tom's Cabin.
- Analyze the role of Christianity in the antislavery arguments apparent in Uncle Tom's Cabin.
- How does motherhood enter into the discussion of this antislavery text?
- What is the difference between racialist and racist representations?
In Stowe's famous work, Uncle Tom's Cabin, she uses moral arguments steeped in Christian values to influence her readers to see the immorality of slavery. She appeals to her readers' emotions by showing the inhumane nature of slavery as it separates families, especially mothers from children. Some criticize Stowe's use of stereotypical and caricatured African American characters; however, Stowe knew her white readership well and played on their prejudices to help prove her larger points about the ills and horrors of slavery. Revisit the "Essay on Harriet Beecher Stowe and Uncle Tom's Cabin" and Stowe's novel to further understand the relationships between these complex representations.
Unit 7 Vocabulary
Try to think of the reason why each term is included.
- African Resistance to Enslavement
- Slave Trade
- Slavery in the US
- Plantation Culture
- Fugitive Slave Act/Law
- Self Preservation and Survival
- Sexual Politics and Slavery
- Antislavery Movements
- Slave Narrative
- Gender and the Slave Narrative
- Domestic Sentimentalism
- Cult of Womanhood
- Gender and Race Stereotypes
- Racialism vs. Racism