This class is designed to introduce you to English and American literary studies. While we will work with English and American literature and texts, the intention is not to provide you with an overview of two literary histories. This course challenges you to read, discuss, and write clearly about a wide range of literary works, including drama, fiction, and poetry as well as about different methodological and critical approaches to literature.
This lecture course examines the changing cultural understandings of death, dying, and mourning in North America by analyzing different visual, text, and media cultures ranging from the early colonial period until the twenty-first century.
A collection of primary and secondary resources and teaching material
“Can I go see anything pleasant, like an execution or a dissection?” This ironic question was put forth by writer Fanny Fern in 1859 in order to draw attention to the fact that women were still largely excluded from the public sphere and the medical professions. In the second half of the nineteenth century a growing number of women entered the public realms of education and the workplace (including the medical professions). This social, political, and medical development was mirrored in writing both by and for women. This seminar explores the intersections between medicine and gender in North-American literature and culture. We will analyze the representation of women nurses and doctors from historical, cultural, and literary points of view from the second half of the nineteenth century until the end of the twentieth. Topics addressed in this seminar include: The ‘Sentimental Nurse Narrative’ in Wesley Bradshaw’s Angel Agnes (1873) and Mattie Stephenson (1873); the representation of Civil War nursing in Louisa May Alcott’s Hospital Sketches (1863); the representation of women doctors in the writings of Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, William Dean Howells and Sarah Orne Jewett; women and health in the Spanish-American War; the representation of the Vietnam War nurse in Lynda Van Devanter’s autobiography Home Before Morning (1983) and Diane Carlson Evans’s Vietnam Women’s Memorial; the cinematic eye: women nurses in World Wars I and II in A Farewell to Arms (1932) and The English Patient (1996). Course requirements: in-class participation, presentation, and research paper (15-20 pages). The interdisciplinary nature of this seminar will be underscored by the collaboration of students from the University of Bamberg and the University of Regensburg on projects dealing with medicine, gender and American Studies. Students will also be asked to participate in a final student conference.