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Literary and Scientific Methods:

The U.S. 19th Century 

In 1959, C.P. Snow famously declared that intellectual life had been split into “two cultures”: the literary and the scientific. This division hadn’t always seemed natural or necessary. In fact, at the start of the nineteenth century, there wasn’t a clear difference between literary intellectuals and professional scientists. That shifted quickly as the nineteenth century progressed. An unprecedented series of rapid scientific developments transformed the landscape (cf. railroads, skyscrapers, telegraphs) and ultimately changed the idea of the human (cf. Darwinism, psychology). Not surprisingly, “science” changed as well. It emerged   as a professional discipline practiced in and funded by expanding research universities.  

In “Literary and Scientific Methods,” we’ll consider the ways that a series of American authors changed the forms of their writing in response to specific developments in science. We’ll read “literary” work alongside short excerpts of influential “scientific literature.” Authors will include Charles Brockden Brown, Poe, Emerson, Melville, Dickinson, Gilman, John Dewey, Stephen Crane, William James, Pauline Hopkins, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Gertrude Stein, along with a number of secondary readings.



Edgar Allan Poe, The Best Short Stories of Edgar Allan Poe (digireads)

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emerson’s Prose and Poetry (Norton Critical)

Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale (Norton Critical)

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper” (Bedford)

Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage (Norton Critical)

Pauline Hopkins, Of One Blood; or, the Hidden Self (Washington Square Press)

W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (Dover)

Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons (Dover)

Additional readings are linked to this syllabus.



Schedule of Readings & Assignments


August 25: In class: Introductions

                   In class: C.P. Snow; “The Two Cultures”

                   In class: Wake Forest catalogues, 1834 to present


Sleepwalking and narrative gaps

August 27: Charles Brockden Brown; “Somnambulism.  A Fragment.”

                    Benjamin Rush; Medical Inquiries and Observations Upon the Diseases of the Mind   

                    Assignment: Information Sheet (posted under “Assignments” on Sakai)


Detectives and professional science

September 1:  Poe; “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”

                         Poe; “The Purloined Letter”

                         Rita Felski; “Suspicious Minds” (215-225)

September 3:  Sherlock Episode 1: A Study in Pink 

                         Arthur Conan Doyle; A Study in Scarlet (excerpt)

                         In class: Daston and Gailson; Objectivity



September 8: Poe; “Fall of the House of Usher”

                        Poe; Eureka (1-7, 10-14, 52-58)

                        Matthew Taylor; “Edgar Allan Poe; (Meta)physics" (193-206; 213-221)


Natural History

September 10: Emerson; Nature (Introduction; Chapter 1)

                           Emerson; “The Poet”

September 15: Emerson; Natural History of the Intellect (excerpt)

                           Lee Rust Brown; “The Emerson Museum”  

September 17: Assignment: Short Response #1

                          Assignment: Research Presentations, Group 1



September 22: Melville; Moby-Dick (7-8, 18-64) 

September 24: Melville; Moby-Dick (64-97)

                           In class: Letters to Dana, Duyckinck, and Hawthorne (532, 534, 538, 545)       


September 29: Melville; Moby-Dick (97-151)

October 1:         Melville; Moby-Dick (151-180)


October 6: Melville; Moby-Dick (180-257; focus on 199-214, 227-235)

October 8: Melville; Moby-Dick (257-276)   

                   Sam Otter; “Getting Inside Heads in Moby-Dick” (101-126, 132-139, 168-171)

                   Assignment: Research Presentations, Group II          


October 13: Melville; Moby-Dick (276-354; focus on 290-310, 319-325, 331-335, 344-349)

October 15: Melville; Moby-Dick (354-427; focus on 356-372, 379-383, 388-396, 418-427)


Anatomy, Physiology, Nerves

October 20: Gilman; “The Yellow Wallpaper” (41-58)

                     Supplementary materials on “nervousness” (133-150)

October 22: Dickinson; selected poetry

                     Tom Otten; "Emily Dickinson; Brain" (57-73)

                     Assignment: Research Presentations, Group III             


Reflex and Automaticity

October 27: Crane; Red Badge of Courage (Chapters 1-17)

October 29: Crane; Red Badge of Courage (Chapters 18-24)

                     Dewey; "The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology”           

                     In class: “The Veteran”


November 3: Field Trip: Special collections in ZSR

                       Paper Topics Due

November 5: Stein; Tender Buttons (3-17, 43-52)

                       Stein; "Cultivated Motor Automatism"

                       Paper Proposals Due


The Unclassified Residuum

November 10: William James; "The Hidden Self"

                         Hopkins; Of One Blood; or, the Hidden Self (1-45)

November 12: Hopkins; Of One Blood; or, the Hidden Self (45-108)     [No Class Meeting]

November 17: Hopkins; Of One Blood; or, the Hidden Self (109-192)

                         Du Bois; The Souls of Black Folk OR material for Coates’ visit

*** November 18: Ta-Nehisi Coates Lecture, 7 PM***


November 19: Presentations on work-in-progress

November 24: Presentations on work-in-progress

November 26: Thanksgiving Break

December 1:   Presentations on work-in-progress

December 3:   Conclusions and Evaluations

                         Assignment: Final Paper Workshop

December 7:   Assignment: Final Papers Due by noon


* This schedule is tentative and is subject to minor changes.




Academic Responsibilities

A detailed account of various academic responsibilities are on both the hard copy of your syllabus and the full version posted on Sakai. You can sign up for office hours here. And you can access the Writing Center here. My office is in Tribble C5H, and the phone number is (336)-758-4849.

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