Department of English

University of Toronto


ENG438H1F  L0101   TR10-12
Advanced Seminar Group 3:
Forms of Revolution & Revolutionary Forms in U.S. Literature
Jenna Hunnef
Office Location: Jackman Humanities Building, Room TBA

Brief Description of Course: On July 4, 1776, an elite group of landed gentlemen met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to draft a document declaring the thirteen American colonies’ independence as sovereign states distinct and separate from Great Britain. This revolutionary document claimed as “the right of the people” the alteration or abolition of any form of government destructive to “certain unalienable rights,” namely “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” However, at the time this document was drafted and throughout the ensuing centuries, countless disenfranchised individuals would claim similar rights only to be (at best) willfully ignored, or (at worst) violently eliminated. Beginning with the Declaration of Independence, this course explores the literary framing of revolution and its consequences in the American context. Class readings and discussions will confront students with tough questions: Who has the right to revolt? What forms can revolution take? Are we apt to take some forms more seriously than others? How have nineteenth- and twentieth-century authors framed other visions of revolution than what has been enshrined in the United States’ founding political document?

Required Reading: Available for purchase at the U of T Bookstore: Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845); John Rollin Ridge, The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta, Celebrated California Bandit (1854); Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952); Larry Kramer, The Normal Heart (1985).

Selected shorter works including: Washington Irving, “Rip Van Winkle;” Herman Melville, “Bartleby the Scrivener;” Henry David Thoreau, “Resistance to Civil Government;” Emily Dickinson, selected poetry; Rebecca Harding Davis, “Life in the Iron Mills;” Mary Wilkins Freeman, “The Revolt of ‘Mother’;” Sui Sin Far, “Mrs. Spring Fragrance;” Willa Cather, “Paul’s Case;” William Faulkner, “Barn Burning;” and Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.”

A selection of critical works by Gordon S. Wood, Russ Castronovo, Maggie Montesinos Sale, Eric Slauter, Coll Thrush, and Ellen Weinauer, among others.

Method of Evaluation: Participation (15%); seminar presentation (25%); response papers (2 x 10%ea.); term paper proposal (5%); term paper (35%).

Link to ARTSCI Calendar Course Description.

Link to ARTSCI Summer Timetable with Room Allocations.

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