English and drama

Special Author(s): Emerson and Thoreau

Module code: Q3193
Level 6
15 credits in autumn teaching
Teaching method: Seminar
Assessment modes: Coursework

This module will examine the works of two nineteenth-century American writers, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, through a close reading of a selection of their major published writings, lectures, letters, and journals.

We will pay detailed attention to a number of critical and interdisciplinary issues that animate their work: religion and philosophy, friendship and love, politics and slavery, scientific knowledge and ecology, aesthetics and poetics, form and representation, women's rights and native American culture.

Our readings will be punctuated by considerations of how Emerson and Thoreau's work has been appropriated by nineteenth-century contemporaries such as Margaret Fuller, Walt Whitman, Friedrich Nietzsche, or William James, by American culture at large, as well as by recent literary critics and philosophers such as Hannah Arendt, Stanley Cavell, Sharon Cameron, Jane Bennett, Branka Arsic, or Jacques Rancière.

Module learning outcomes

  • Understand the formal and generic developments of a named author's work.
  • Understand how the work has been shaped by the social, historical and intellectual contexts in which it was produced
  • Through critical analysis of a range of the author¿s writing over his/her career, demonstrate an understanding of how his/her literary reputation was established and has been maintained
  • Organise complex material into an essay that illustrates independent research.