Lisa Logan
University of Central Florida

 Rise of the U.S. Novel

Required Texts

Zabelle Derounian-Stodola, Women’s Indian Captivity Narratives (Penguin)
Cathy N. Davidson, Revolution and the Word (Oxford)
Susanna Rowson, Charlotte Temple (Oxford)
Hannah Webster Foster, The Coquette (Oxford)
Tabitha Tenney, Female Quixotism (Oxford)
Rebecca Rush, Kelroy (Oxford)
Charles Brockden Brown, Wieland (Penguin)
Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Huntly (Penguin)
James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans (Penguin)
Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Hope Leslie (Rutgers)
E.D.E.N. Southworth, The Hidden Hand (Rutgers)

  • Selected critical books and articles are available at the reserve desk of the UCF Library.
  • Course Description

    "Certainly, it has sometimes appeared that the new nations emerging out of empires have been required to produce novels in order to certify their distinct and modern nationhood."—Dierdre Lynch and William B. Warner, Cultural Institutions of the Novel

    Like bread or the sun, "the novel," according to numerous critical works about this genre, is frequently said to have "risen." This course examines at once the phenomenon of the novel’s "vertical evolution" (Lynch and Warner) in the U.S. and the problems associated with constructing retroactively such a critical narrative from particular historical moments. The title of this course, therefore, is under as much scrutiny as the texts it compels us to explore.

    What is a novel? (Or, what was, isn’t or wasn’t one?) From where or what does it come, and what does it do? After centuries of scholarly debate about these questions, we shouldn’t expect, in one semester, to arrive at a conclusive list of answers or criteria. This course does suggest, however, a significant relationship between the emergence in late eighteenth-century America of the novel, that most "democratic" of art forms, and the new nation. We will consider early American novels—and their so-called "precursors," true histories and captivity narratives—as literary and cultural artifacts. What components of these texts made them, as critics have suggested, popular, middle-brow, and realistic articulations of individual consciousness? In what sense did they serve as instruments of literacy, education, and acculturation?

    The following questions seem central to our discussions about what early American novels were and how they functioned:

    -How are these texts concerned with defining the new nation, its citizens, and boundaries?

    -In what ways do these texts consolidate nationhood through the formation of a national literature and the narrative construction of a national history, culture, and consciousness?

    -How does the American novel respond to cultural and political conflicts in the new nation?

    -Do these novels construct, conserve, or subvert American cultural institutions?

    Course Requirements and Procedures


    All students will, of course, read the assigned texts closely by the dates they are discussed in class. Students should mark their texts with pens, pencils, post-its, etc. for ease of reference in class.


    -two 400-500 word response papers (Due: 1/12 and 1/26). Students should respond briefly to all readings for that week using the ideas and questions of the course (as stated on this syllabus and as articulated in class). This assignment calls for a short, thoughtful, synthetic analysis of one key issue in its complexity. The assignment is due on Tuesday so that I may use your work in preparing my own comments and questions for class meetings.

    -two abstracts or essay proposals (500 words or less) to be expanded into 10-page "conference papers" such as might be presented at a conference session on "Early American Novels" or "The Rise of the Novel in the U.S." (details/calls for papers will follow).

    Abstracts due: 2/2 and 4/6

    Final papers due: 3/2 and 4/27

    Note: Papers are due in my mailbox by 5 p.m. on the due date. Papers should be typed and double-spaced; please use reasonable margins (1") and fonts (10-12 pitch). Papers should be free of grammatical and mechanical errors; please use the MLA Handbook for documentation style. Students should save their papers on disks in case originals are misplaced.


    -Each student will lead one class discussion. Presentation grades will be based on your fulfillment of the following criteria:

    -Generate and facilitate a discussion of the main issues in the critical and primary texts assigned.

    -Avoid lecturing or reading to us; instead, with the class, work through ideas, puzzles, issues, passages. Ask explicit questions; point to specific passages; call on your peers.

    -Make a handout that will guide us through your key points. You might list the 3-5 questions or issues around which your presentation will be organized or cite passages from the texts or outside research that will provoke discussion.

    -Know the materials well. Have well-marked texts with you.

    -At the same time, you do not have to have the answers. Be open to others’ ideas, and don’t despair if the discussion does not conform to your expectations. Conversations become interesting when we raise complex questions that may not be answered definitively. I value intellectual risk-taking, animated discussion, and thinking on your feet.

    -Notify me at least one day in advance of your intentions by e-mail, office-hour phone call, or mailbox.

    Class participation and attendance:

    Each of us is an important member of the intellectual community we create, and, therefore, attendance and participation are required. Class participation includes your active and honest intellectual engagement with the materials under scrutiny; having your books marked, open, and in motion; taking your fair share of discussion and no more; practicing good listening skills; being open to ideas that challenge you with their difficulty or difference; thinking complex ideas through and responding—not just reacting—mindfully and responsibly; and a commitment to the process of intellectual interrogation and discovery, including a willingness to consider what is at stake in the questions and answers we pose. Students who miss more than one class put the intellectual community and their own grades at risk. If regular attendance is a problem, students should consider dropping the class.

    Weekly Schedule of Readings/Events

    Week of: Reading/Event

    1/4/99 Introduction to the course and each other

    1/11 Homer Brown, "Why the Story of the Origin of the (English) Novel is an American Romance (If Not the Great American Novel)"
    Nancy Armstrong and Leonard Tennenhouse, "The American Origins of the English Novel" (Reserve articles)
    Mary Rowlandson, A True History of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson (in Derounian)

    1/18 Cathy N. Davidson, pp. 3-82 in Revolution and the Word

    Note: Due to Margaret Atwood’s talk on 1/21 at 8 p.m. in VAB, all students are asked to attend Wednesday’s class. I hope all of you will attend Atwood’s presentation on Thursday.

    1/25 Abraham Panther, A Surprising Account of the Discovery of a Lady Who Was Taken by the Indians; Shepard Kollock, A True Narrative of the Sufferings of Mary Kinnan (in Derounian)
    Ann Eliza Bleeker, The History of Maria Kittle (excerpts on reserve)
    A Faithful Narrative of Elizabeth Wilson and Life, Last Words, and Dying Confession of Rachel Wall (reserve)
    Michelle Burnham, "Between England and America: Captivity, Sympathy, and the Sentimental Novel" (reserve)

    2/1 Susanna Rowson, Charlotte Temple
    Davidson, pp. 110-50, "Privileging the Femme Covert: The Sociology of Sentimental Fiction," Revolution and the Word

    2/8 Hannah Webster Foster, The Coquette
    Julia Stern, either Chapter Two or Three in The Plight of Feeling (reserve)

    2/15 Tabitha Tenney, Female Quixotism
    Davidson, pp. 151-211, "The Picaresque and the Margins of Political Discourse," Revolution and the Word

    2/22 Rebecca Rush, Kelroy
    Davidson, pp. 212-53, "Early American Gothic: The Limits of Individualism," Revolution and the Word

    3/1 To be announced; read Brown

    3/8 Charles Brockden Brown, Wieland
    Either Jay Fliegelman, from Declaring Independence or Jane Tompkins,
    "What Happens in Wieland?" in Sensational Designs (reserve)


    3/22 To be announced; read Brown and Cooper

    3/29 Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Huntly
    Either Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, "Subject Female: Authorizing American Identity" (pp. 481-96 only) or Jared Gardner, "Alien Nation: Edgar Huntly’s Savage Awakening" (reserve)

    4/5 James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans
    Jane Tompkins, "No Apologies for the Iroquois: Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales," in Sensational Designs (reserve)

    4/12 Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Hope Leslie
    Sandra Zagarell, "’Expanding America’: Lydia Sigourney’s Sketch of Connecticut, Catharine Sedgwick’s Hope Leslie." (reserve)

    4/19 E.D.E.N. Southworth, The Hidden Hand
    Katharine Nicholson Ings, "Uncovering The Hidden Hand" (reserve)