History 364
From Gilded Age to Jazz Age:
Aspects of Modernity in American Culture,

Dan Beard,
Illustration from Mark Twain's
A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court (1889)

1) Introduction
2) Learning Outcomes
3) Teaching and Learning
4) Written Exercises
5) Assessment
6) Sources
7) Electronic resources
8) Schedule of Michelmas Readings and Seminar Topics

9) Schedule of Lent Readings and Seminar Topics

10) Essay Topics 



















Please read, and periodically re-read, these preliminary paragraphs. The information provided needs to be understood, remembered and acted upon.
It is very important before you begin this course that you understand:

*Its intended Learning Outcomes, that is the skills and knowledge you will be assisted to acquire and develop over the year;
*The way in which your Teaching and Learning should enable you to achieve those Learning Outcomes;
*The Methods of Assessment employed which will enable you and me to judge how well during the year and by its end your Teaching and Learning have enabled you to achieve the intended Learning Outcomes.
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1. Learning Outcomes
This two-unit, final-year, C Option Special Subject course forms a very important part of your degree scheme. It builds upon skills and knowledge you should     have developed over your previous two years of undergraduate study. You will also be studying two more units, usually at least one and possibly two in History. Some of the intended Leaning Outcomes of this course are particular to it; others are shared with other units in History; and some may be common to the units you already studied or are studying elsewhere.

By the end of this unit you should have secured the following Learning Outcomes.

You should be able with confidence to understand how and why historians define certain periods for detailed investigation, why they identify for study particular themes, and why and how interpretations and approaches may differ and change over time. You should be aware of the effect of current concerns on the way historians, including yourself, study the past and interpret issues, and you should be willing and able to use your understanding of the past to reflect upon the present. You should also be able to recognise the limits to what seems to be known and indeed to what, apparently, might be known about certain topics. You should thereby have matured your understanding of the discipline of History and its value.

You should have obtained an extensive factual knowledge, largely based on primary sources, of the cultural history of the United States between the years 1877-1920. This will particularly be the case in terms of literary production but will also apply to visual culture and, depending on your interest, music as well. Further, you will have developed an understanding of the way that expressive forms are connected to their broader social, economic and political contexts. You should be especially well-informed about such matters as : technology and culture, imperialism and the west, modernism in the arts, reform politics, consumer culture, and the Great War. You will be particularly articulate in the discussion of the assembly and representation of individual identities in relation to community notions of race, class and gender. You should also be able to see the relevance of the matters discussed to the intersection of culture, society and politics that typifies today’s mass-mediated, multi-cultural and increasingly 'globalised' world. You should therefore have obtained a deep knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the importance and continued relevance of some major themes in turn-of-the-century US cultural history and some of the period’s principal primary sources.

Your ability to appreciate the distinction between primary and secondary sources should have been confirmed, and you should be able to locate for your use a wide range of primary and secondary sources. Moreover, you should have become aware of the need to understand the origins and contemporary purposes of primary sources before they can be critically used, and of the need to check your grasp of such records against the work of other historians, perhaps in order to interpret them correctly, perhaps in order to query what appear to be received views. You should also feel more competent in your evaluation and use of complex and sophisticated secondary sources. You should also be better able to make notes on the historical material you have read; to select and deploy historical information accurately and honestly; and to follow scholarly conventions correctly when citing primary and secondary material in notes and bibliographies. You should be more confident in addressing historical questions, in making your own historical judgements and in arguing analytically. You should thereby have developed sophisticated intellectual skills as a historian, qualities which are also transferable to the worlds of work and of lifelong learning, whether within or outside the historical profession.

You should have become more adept in reading quickly, critically and effectively; in using detailed information and expressing complex arguments clearly, persuasively, accurately and in good written English; in presenting similar material orally in formal presentations and informal discussions; in working in groups as well as alone; in using electronic information technology in your research and writing; in offering and responding to constructive criticism; and in managing your time properly. You should thereby have brought to a maturation a set of transferable practical skills which should prove valuable in you career development.

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2. Teaching and Learning

The above Learning Outcomes are to be achieved in the following ways.


Seminars. The course is conducted primarily via weekly seminars of not less than two-hours duration. (Depending on the timetables of members of the class, it may be possible to extend some seminars). The class will convene on Monday mornings at 11:00 a.m., and will meet through Michelmas and Lent and the first two weeks of the Summer Term. Attendance is compulsory, because the seminar needs to work as a group. There is much content to the course, and we all need to learn from each other.

Most Monday morning seminars will be built around group presentations. We will divide the class into four or five groups or teams, and one group each week will be responsible for presenting the seminar’s context. I will be available to help with your presentation and you should consult with me before you begin the topic. Each team will be expected to provide handouts for the class, which may include bullet points of your presentation, statistical material and/or copies of visual material. The handouts must, however, include a selected bibliography for the topic. If you bring me the master copy before our meeting, I will make copies for the rest of the class. You are also encouraged to make use of the OHP (I can provide transparencies) and/or the computer facilities (e.g. web sites) at our disposal. You may also play tapes or videos, but you will need to tell me in advance, so that I can arrange the media. It is up to each team how to organise the presentation. Usually, each member will take a turn, but there are other models and you may wish to experiment.

Each group is likely to be responsible for one or two presentations in each of the Michelmas and Lent Terms.

The group presentation should last for about 30 minutes. The group may wish to identify particular issues for the class to discuss. Class discussion (depending somewhat on the final size of the class) is likely to take two forms: small group discussion, as each of the other groups takes an issue secondly, general discussion of the issues. All members of the class will be expected to contribute to every session.

As part of your weekly preparation, you will be expected to have considered the week’s reading questions, which you will be willing and prepared to discuss. This may include reading aloud and/or paraphrasing, but it will certainly require a cogent explanation of your ideas about the text and/or its context. You may or may not be called upon to discuss your conclusions in a given week, but don’t hesitate to bring them up as part of our discussion.

As noted above, you—as an individual—will be involved in three or four presentations in the course of the year. You will be expected to submit a brief essay, which considers your presentation in relation to the week’s text and our ensuing discussion. This seminar paper should be around 1500 words in length and should be handed in one week after the seminar itself. The seminar papers will form a part of the assessment for paper 2 (see below), and the marking may reflect your general seminar contributions in the course of the year.

Additional Seminars. In addition to the main weekly seminar, there may be occasional one-hour seminars, held on Thursdays at 5:00. These will be arranged by group request and may be used for closer focus on particular topics or texts, for passage analysis exercises (see below), for film viewings, and for presentations by other lecturers.


Prescribed Texts. Professional historians commonly use a mixture of primary and secondary sources in the writing of a piece of historical scholarship and you will be expected to do the same. Between the library and the world wide web, you have a vast archive of primary sources from the period at your disposal and you should try to develop your own understanding ‘first-hand,’ as it were, by using such material where you can. This should make you aware of the value and limitations of primary material. I have selected a number of texts which are central to the themes we address, and these are known as the Prescribed Texts. They will figure in Paper I of the examinations. Keeping up with the reading in this course will take a considerable amount of your time, but you are encouraged to do your own primary research in the library and on the web.

You should read the Prescribed Texts carefully, noting date of publication, identifying writers or speakers etc., assessing the type and purpose of the source, considering content, style (including ‘genre’) and argument (implicit or explicit—there is always an argument). You should also consider any impact that the piece might have had, and/or its value in presenting a particular idea or set of ideas to both its present and past audiences. You should also be able to compare the text to others, both of its own type as well as to others from different media (e.g. paintings and novels).

I have tried to select as Prescribed Texts only items which are easily located and are relatively inexpensive. Though everything is available in the library, I suggest that you purchase the texts that we will be reading. I will make all of the shorter pieces available either as photocopies or as web sites.


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Written Exercises.


Other than the final exams, these take five forms:


One contexts, (or ‘topics’), essay. This should be about 2500 words, and should be chosen from the ‘contexts essays’ list. If you wish to write an essay on a topic not on the list, come and see me and we will probably be able to work something out. You may, if you wish, explore one of your presentation topics more fully. You would normally use both primary and secondary sources. Be wary of using general textbooks. At special subject level, even when using secondary sources you should expect to use research-based works, that is books or articles by scholars who are themselves drawing on primary sources.

This essay will be due on Friday of week 7, Michelmas term.


One texts (or ‘sources’) essay. This essay will be based substantially on primary sources, and should be chosen from the ‘texts essays’ list. It should be about 2500 words, and should take the form of a critical appraisal of one or more of the texts. Part of your appraisal should, of course, take into account the secondary material on your chosen topic.

This essay will be due on Friday of week 6, Lent term.


One Biography. Biography is among the most controversial genres in historical or critical writing, but it remains immensely popular and has great value. You may choose any figure from the period and consider how his or her life (and, where appropriate, the literary, visual or musical texts that s/he produced) was (or was not) representative of the period.

This essay will be due on Friday of week 2, Summer term.


One Seminar Paper. As noted above, you will write up one of your presentations, in about 1500 words. The essay will be largely impressionistic, and will consider the connections between your presentation and the week’s prescribed texts. You should clearly identify the topic or issue that your group addressed, convey the presentation’s salient points, and think about how they effected your understanding of the text. You might also reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of your group’s oral presentation, in light of the ensuing discussion. You should quote and cite specific passages from the week’s prescribed texts in order to make your meaning clear. A brief list of sources used should be also appended, as should any handouts which you used during the seminar (not to be counted in the word limit). The presentation bibliography must be appended as well.

This paper is to be submitted one week after the seminar.


Passage Analysis (‘gobbet exercise’). During the year there will be a number of passage analyses, i.e. 45/50-minute sessions, conducted in the form of written tests, in which you will comment on three short extracts (some of which will be visual). These exercises are to encourage you to read the texts, to contextualise them, and to think critically about them. The exercises will also help you to master the art of writing succinctly and will help to prepare you for the exam. I will advise you on how to handle them. You will be given some practice, and only one passage analysis exercise towards the end of the year will be formally marked.


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3) Assessment

How far these Teaching and Learning Strategies have succeeded in achieving the desired Learning Outcomes will be judged through appropriate methods of assessment. Since this is a two-unit or double-weighted course, at the end of the academic year two marks will be presented to the Board of Examiners. These will be based on two 3-hour unseen examinations taken in the Summer Term and on the related coursework done during the year. As is normal in History units, the examination counts as 2/3 and coursework 1/3. However, if an examination mark is higher than the coursework mark, and if all your coursework has been completed, the examination mark will stand—i.e. it will not be lowered by lower coursework.


Assessment Scheme:

Paper 1, the Texts or ‘Sources’ paper, will require you to answer three questions. Most of the questions will be in the form of passages, asking you to write succinct comments on short extracts (some of which will be visual) from the prescribed texts. Others may be essay questions related to the texts or questions of critical, historiographical or methodological nature. Coursework for this paper will be based on your texts essay (60%), the seminar paper (30%) and the passage analysis (10%). Your coursework mark will be altered by as much as two percent in either direction, according to your participation in group discussion.


Paper 2, the Contexts, or, ‘Topics’ paper requires you to answer three essay questions on the course’s main topics or themes. Coursework for this paper will be based on your Contexts essay (50%), and your Biography (50%). Your coursework mark will be altered by as much as two percent in either direction, according to your seminar presentations.


Coursework and Examination Essays. How far you have achieved many important Learning Outcomes will be revealed by these essays. For more on the writing of essays, the qualities sought, and on the mark scale used in Part II, please consult the History Department’s Student Handbook.

Intellectual and Research Qualities. Essays should in general show your understanding of the nature of historical study. They should also demonstrate your familiarity with the relevant primary sources, your bibliographical and research skills, and your capacity to produce a well-focused and well-written argument in a persuasive manner and in good English. Adopt a questioning attitude towards your sources.

Qualities of Presentation. One intended Learning Outcome is that you should be able to produce written work to professional standards. Coursework essays must be word- processed, double-spaced, and with generous margins. You should include page numbers in order to facilitate comments on specific parts of the essay. A bibliography should be added of the books and articles consulted, listing primary sources before secondary, items in alphabetical order of author, giving details of author and title, place publisher and date of publication for books, or name of journal, volume number and date of publication for journal articles. Footnotes or endnotes, correctly referenced, should be used in order to refer to primary sources of information and also to secondary sources from which you have quoted or from which you have extracted specific ideas or unusual material. Printouts should be carefully checked and errors of grammar, spelling and punctuation corrected before submission: do not rely on computer spellcheckers. Untidy presentation obscures argument and will lead to the loss of marks. For all presentation questions, you would do well to consult William Kelleher Storey’s Writing History: A Guide for Students which is available in the library and for purchase. Finally, you should have someone, not your instructor or a family member, read your work before you turn it in. Another reader will catch mistakes and unclear or confusing passages that you will never see. This ‘peer editing’ process is crucial to good writing. All of your lecturers and instructors do it with their writing and you should too.

Deadlines and Extensions. The dates for the submission of written work are detailed on the Essay List and above. If there are compelling reasons you can ask for an extension, but do not presume that it will be granted. And please make sure that you ask in advance of the specified deadline. My schedule is very tight and it is tough to find time to mark essays that come in out of sequence from the others. It is also much easier to lose them. The Department will require medical notes or other official documentation to explain delays (or absences) through illness or personal problems. I have no authority to grant an extension beyond the Senate Deadline (5:00 p.m. on Friday of Week 3 in the Summer Term). for more on deadlines see your Student Handbook.


Presentational Skills and Group Work: The intended Learning Outcomes include the development of presentational skills and your capacity for group work. Seminar preparation, attendance and performance are all important:

Qualities. Credit will be given to students who have prepared well, who have interesting, informed and relevant contributions to make to group discussions, who listen and respond to those made by others, who ask intelligent and pertinent questions, and who try to make and especially who succeed in making fluent and informative presentations.

Attendance. Since seminar attendance is compulsory, marks will be deducted for unexplained and/or unjustified absences. It is therefore essential in your own interests to keep me properly informed in writing.


A Note on Plagiarism: In October 2003 the University introduced a new code and penalties concerning plagiarism. You will not need reminding that plagiarism is a serious academic offence, which can lead to exclusion from the university. You are strongly advised to read the relevant section in your Student Handbook.


In order to meet this growing problem, essays handed in for this course will be checked electronically for instances of plagiarism. This check is intended to spot essays which were copied or purchased from electronic sources. This process will also spot essays which have copied material out of books, to the degree that those books are available electronically—and beware, most of them are. Essays which are found to be plagiarised will be handed over and made subject to the department’s review process, and then in some cases to the University’s disciplinary body.


In short, if you plagiarise an essay, you risk your academic future. Don’t do it.

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Prescribed Texts:


*Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’s Court (1889) (Norton)

Robert W. Rydell, ed., The Reason Why the Colored American is not in the World’s

Columbian Exposition, (1893) (U. of Illinois, 1999)

*William Dean Howells, The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885) (Norton)

*Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward, 1887-2000 (1888) (Bedford)

*Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (1905) (Norton)

*Owen Wister, The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains (1902) (Oxford)

*Charles Eastman, From the Deep Woods to Civilization: Chapters in the Autobiography

of an Indian (1916) (U. of Nebraska, 1977)

*Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie (1900) (Norton)

*Jacob Riis: How the Other Half Lives (1893) (Bedford)

*Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery (1901) (Norton)

*W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (1905) (Norton)

*Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes (1914) (Penguin)

*Gertrude Stein, Three Lives (1905) (Penguin)

*John Dos Passos, Three Soldiers (1921) (Penguin)

Selected short readings on the web or in the course packet.


*Recommended editions, available for purchase at Waterstone’s


Other, Recommended Primary Sources

Jane Addams, Twenty Years at Hull House (1910)

Willa Cather, My Antonia (1918)

________, Oh Pioneers! (1913)

Andrew Carnegie, Triumphant Democracy (1886)

Kate Chopin, The Awakening (1899)

Stephen Crane, Maggie, A Girl of the Streets (1893)

Ellen F. Fitzpatrick, ed., Muckraking, Three Landmark Articles (1994/1903)

Charlotte Perkins Gillman, Herland (1915)

Zane Grey, Riders of the Purple Sage (1915)

Frances Harper, Iola Leroy (1892)

William Dean Howells, A Hazard of New Fortunes (1890)

________, A Modern Instance (1882)

________, A Traveler From Altruria (1894)

Helen Hunt Jackson, Ramona (1884)

________, A Century of Dishonor (1881)

Henry James, The Bostonians (1886)

________, The Ambassadors (1903)

Frank Norris, The Octopus (1901)

Theodore Roosevelt, An Autobiography (1913)

Upton Sinclair, The Jungle (1906)

Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885)

________ with C. D. Warner, The Gilded Age (1873)

Anzia Yezierska, Bread Givers (1925)

And many shorter pieces for aid in contextualisation available on the internet (see below).


Recommended General Texts:

Nell Irvin Painter, Standing at Armageddon: The United States, 1877-1919 (1987)

Charles Calhoun, The Gilded Age: Essays on the Origins of Modern America (1996)

Alan Trachtenberg, The Incorporation of America: Culture and Society in the Gilded Age (1982)

Mary Beth Norton et. al., A People and a Nation (Sixth Edition)


Recommended Texts on Visual Culture:

Barbara Groseclose, Nineteenth-Century American Art (2000) (Chpts. 2, 4-6)

Erika Doss, Twentieth-Century American Art (2002) (Chpts. 1-3)

David Bjelejac, American Art: A Cultural History (2000) (Chpts. 6-7)

Barbara Haskell, The American Century: Art and Culture 1900-1950 (1999) (p. 11-129).


Recommended Theoretical Texts:

Hans Blumenberg, ‘The Concept of Reality and the Possibility of the Novel,’ in Richard D. Amacher, ed. New Perspectives in German Literary Criticism (1979)

Mattei Calinescu, ‘The Idea of Modernity,’ in Five Faces of Modernity (pgs. 1-92)

Louis A. Montrose, “Professing the Renaissance: The Poetics and Politics of Culture,”

in H. Aram Veeser, ed. The New Historicism 1986), 15-36.


For Further Bibliographic Support:

Mary Beth Norton, ed., The American Historical Association Guide to Historical

Literature (1995).


And electronic sources below.


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Electronic Resources

Bibliographic Resources at the Lancaster University Library:

Two vital bibliographic resources available on the LU Library web site are ‘America: History and Life’ and ‘JSTOR.’ When combined with the AHA Guide (see above) they offer a comprehensive and up-to-date bibliography of secondary sources on all US topics. This is especially true for journal literature, much of which can be downloaded in full text format from the JSTOR site.


General Sites for US History, 1877-1920:


Society of Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era,


Robert Cherny's "Websites for the Gilded Age and Progressive Era,"

'The Gilded Page,' a collection of electronic texts written by US authors or widely read by Americans between 1866-1901,
Jim Zwick's ‘Anti-Imperialism in the United States, 1898-1935’

Electronic Archives:

Cornell University and the University of Michigan have collaborated on the massive ‘Making of America’ collection (good to 1900 or so).

At Cornell (mostly for journals):

At Michigan (mostly for books):
The University of Virginia’s American Studies site has a great deal that is relevant to this course. See especially (but not only) its Hypertext Library:
Nagasaki-Gaigo University has an excellent site at


A broad collection of American Art is available at the Smithsonian:



For a vast collection of European and American art, see:




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Schedule of Readings and Seminar Topics


Michelmas Term


Part 1: Imagining Modern Technology/The Technology of the Modern Imagination

Week 1: Modernity and/as Cultural Crisis

Week 2: The Textual Production of Modernity

Week 3: Modernity as Contested Ground, The World’s Columbian Exhibition

Part 2: The Incorporation of America

Week 4: Incorporation and Interconnectedness

Week 5:The Labour Question

Part 3: The Limits of Domesticity

Week 6: Genteel Gender

Week 7: Across Class Boundaries

Part 4: Frontiers

Week 8: Representing the West

Week 9: Myth of the Open West

Week 10: Taking up the White Man’s Burden, The Spanish-American-Cuban-Filipino War



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Schedule of Readings and Seminar Topics

Lent Term:

Part 5: Immigration and the City
Week 1: Sex and the City

Week 2: Immigrant Experience

Week 3: Visualising Reform


Part 6: Drawing the Colour Line
Week 4: Making Blackness 1

Week 5: Making Whiteness

Week 6: Making Blackness 2


Part 7: Modernist Perspective(s)

Week 7: The Limits of Realism

Week 8: The Avant Garde

Week 9: Over There

Week 10 Modernism as a Culture of Resistance (?)


Summer Term Revision Sessions:

Week 1: contexts

Week 2: texts

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Part 1

Imagining Modern Technology/

The Technology of the Modern Imagination

Week 1

Course Introduction: Modernity and/as Cultural Crisis


Required Reading:

A)    HIST 364 Course Guide

B)     Painter, Standing at Armageddon: The United States, 1877-1919 (1987)

C)    Trachtenberg,‘The Politics of Culture,’The Incorporation of America (Chpt.5)


Suggested Reading:

A) Mattei Calinescu, ‘The Idea of Modernity,’ in Five Faces of Modernity

B) Henry Adams, ‘The Dynamo and the Virgin,’ Chpt. 25 of The Education of Henry Adams (1905/18) at http://xroads.virginia.edu


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Week 2

The Textual Production of Modernity


Required reading:

A)    Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’s Court (1888)

B)     J. R. Fleming, ‘Science and Technology in the Later Half of the Nineteenth Century,’ in Calhoun, ed. The Gilded Age (Chpt. 2).


For Reading and Discussion:

1) In what ways might this story be described as ‘realistic’?

2) Why does Twain seem to be so obsessed with Walter Scott?

3) Be ready to identify and discuss several examples of the ways that Twain describes the differences between ‘medieval’ England and ‘modern’ America.

4) Is Twain trying to present an accurate picture of the past? Why or why not?

5) Can the Arthurians be trusted in their description of events? Can Hank? Can ‘M.T.’?

6) What is wrong with Sandy? What is wrong with the King? Merlin?

7) Why is there such an emphasis on technology? Was Twain a technophile or a technophobe?

7) What is the significance of Twain’s constant descriptions of clothing?

8) What is the relation between magic and technology? (e.g., Chpt. 21)

9) What terms does Hank use to describe the Arthurians? How does he treat them?

10) To whom does Hank Morgan compare himself? Who was the real ‘Henry Morgan’?


Suggested Reading:

Trachtenberg, Mechanization takes Command, The Incorporation of America, (Chpt. 2)


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Week 3

Modernity as Contested Ground: The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition

(note: You may wish to review Frederick Jackson Turner, ‘The Significance of the Frontier in American History’ which was presented at the exposition)


Required Reading:

A)    First, Read Trachtenberg, ‘The White City,’ The Incorporation of America, (Chpt. 7).

B)     Next, read Andrew Carnegie, ‘Wealth’ in The North American Review (June 1889) http://www.wm.edu/~srnels/gilded.html

C)    Now read Henry Van Brunt, ‘The Columbian Exposition and American Civilization’ in The Atlantic Monthly 71 (May, 1893) at


D)    Then visit the fair at these Columbian Exposition Web Sites:

http://xroads.virginia.edu/~MA96/WCE/title.html and


E)     Follow this with Simon Pokagon, The Red Man’s Greeting (1893, photocopy)

F)     Finally, read Frederick Douglass, ‘Introduction’ to The Reason Why the Colored American is not in the World’s Columbian Exposition, (1893) at: http://www.boondocksnet.com/expos/columbian.html


For Reading and Discussion:

1) What, according to Carnegie, typifies his period? What is signified by great wealth? What is ‘culture,’ and what is it good for?

2) Is Van Brunt’s view of culture the same as Carnegie’s?

3) What is the significance of Chicago as the site of the exposition?

4) Choose two buildings which you think exemplify the exposition. Be prepared to show them to the class, to describe them and to explain why you find them ‘typical.’

5) Of which other cities does the ‘White City’ remind you? Why?

6) How did the midway compare to the White City?

7) What is the point of the Dahomans and their boat?

8) Who was Daniel Burnham? Who was Frederick Law Olmstead?

9) How did the Chicago Exposition’s presentation of technology differ from Twain’s?

10) Are buildings just for keeping the rain off?

11) Did Frederick Douglass share the organisers’ view of modernity?

12) What would make a truly modern society for Douglass?

13) Did Simon Pokagon share the organisers’ view of modernity?

14) Why does Pokagon use such metaphoric language?


Suggested Reading:

A) Chris Gair, ‘Whose America? The White City and the Shaping of National Identity, 1893-1905’ at http://artsweb.bham.ac.uk/citysites/chicago.htm

B) Doss, ‘The Gilded Age,’ Twentieth Century American Art, (Chpt. 1).

C)    Robert Rydell, ‘Editor’s Introduction,’ Ida B. Wells, The Reason Why the Colored American is not in the World’s Columbian Expostion, 11-48.


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Part 2

The Incorporation of America

Week 4

Incorporation and Interconnectedness

Student Presentation: The Growth of the Corporation


Required Reading:

A)    William Dean Howells, The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885)

B)     Glen Porter, ‘Industrialization and the Rise of Big Business,’ in Calhoun, ed. The Gilded Age (Chpt. 1)


For Reading and Discussion:

1) This story is composed of two main plots, a love plot and a business plot. Try to separate them, and be clear on how each of them progress. How do issues of responsibility and obligation lie at the centre of each plot? What brings them together?

2) How does this book establish itself as realistic? To what other forms of literature does it compare itself?

3) What examples does Howells give of illusion or artifice, and how are they valued?

4) What kind of literature does Reverend Sewell prefer? Why?

5) List the different traits of the elder Lathams and Coreys. What are their likes and dislikes? What kind of a person is Bromfield Corey? Silas Lapham?

6) How does the Corey’s taste differ from the Lathams?

7) How does aesthetic taste operate as a marker of class in this world?

8) For what is Silas responsible? Where does he think his obligations lie?

9) Should Penelope be ashamed of herself? Why or why not?

10) Do you feel sorry for Irene?

11) What happens to the paint company?

12) When does Silas ‘rise’?

13) Is this book critical of the corporation? How? List some examples.


Suggested Reading:

Trachtenberg, ‘Fictions of the Real,’ The Incorporation of America,(Chpt. 6)


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Week 5

The Labour Question

Student Presentation: In what ways did workers try to shape their worlds between 1877-1917?


Required Reading:

A)    Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward, 1887-2000 (1888)

B)     Eric Arnesen, ‘American Workers and the Labor Movement in late Nineteenth Century America,’ in Calhoun, ed. The Gilded Age (Chpt. 3)


For Reading and Discussion:

1) Why do you think that this story was so popular?

2) What would Andrew Carnegie have said about this book? Twain?

3) Who is narrating this story? Where is he and when is he writing?

4) What constitutes character in Boston 2000? In 1887?

5) Describe the emotional life of the Leete family.

6) Describe some of the other inhabitants of Boston 2000.

7) How and when does the ‘change’ come about?

8) Describe the technological world of Boston 2000.

9) What happens when it rains?

10) What if someone wants to walk in the rain?

11) Do people in Boston 2000 enjoy their work? How do you know?

12) What is ‘modern’ for Bellamy and when will it happen?

13) What is wrong with the C19? How does Bellamy use the parable of the carriage?

14) What is ‘the industrial army’?

15) How does Dr. Leete account for those who don’t cooperate with the system? How are offenders punished in Boston 2000?

16) What do women do in Boston 2000?


Suggested Reading:

Trachtenberg, ‘Capital and Labour,’ The Incorporation of America,(Chpt. 3)


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Part 3

The Limits of Domesticity

Week 6

Genteel Gender

Student Presentation: How did gender roles differ according to class?


Required Reading:

A)    Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (1905) Book 1

B)     Charlotte Perkins Gillman, selection from Women and Economics (1898)

C)    Stacey Cordery, ‘Women in Industrializing America,’ in Calhoun, ed. The Gilded Age (Chpt. 6)


For Reading and Discussion:

1) Describe Lily’s world. How is it changing? How is Lily’s personal situation changing?

2) How do the women in this world get by? (be specific)

3) What are Mrs. Peniston’s values? What is their origin?

4) Who would be more at home in Lily’s world: Bromfield Corey, Silas Lapham or Hank Morgan? In Mrs. Peniston’s world?

5) Describe Lily. Is she comfortable in her world? Where are the rough spots?

6) Does Lily fancy Selden? Is her affection justified? Why doesn’t she marry Gryce?

7) Describe Selden. Why is he included in the same social set as Lily? What is Selden’s ‘Republic of the Spirit’? Why does Lily call it a ‘closed corporation’? Is she right?

8) Does Lily need to be more flexible? What rules does she live by? What causes her to act? Is she ‘the mistress of her own fate’?

9) If you could give her some advice, what would it be?

10) How would Gilman explain Lily’s plight? What is ‘sexual selection’?

11) Is Lily good at anything? How might it be rewarded?

12) What if a man was good at the same thing? How would it be rewarded?

12) Why do the men react as they do to the ‘tableaux vivants’?

13) Did Lily do anything wrong? What does she owe Gus Trenor? Should she have known better? Did she know better?

14) Does Wharton treat her attractive characters differently than does Howells? Why?

15) What is the difference between being spoken for and being spoken of?

16) Was there a ‘double standard’ for men and women’s sex lives? Is there still?


Suggested Reading:

Groseclose, ‘Portraiture,’ Nineteenth-Century American Art, (Chpt. 2), esp. 49-59.


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Week 7

Across Class Boundaries

Student Presentation: What was ‘Feminism’?


Required Reading:

A)    Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (1905) Book 2

B)     Jane Addams, ‘The Subjective Necessity of Social Settlements’ (1892)

C)    Elaine Showalter, ‘The Death of the Lady (Novelist)’, in the Norton Critical Edition of The House of Mirth, 357-372.


For Reading and Discussion:

1) Would you say that Bertha beat Lily at her own game, or are they playing by different rules?

2) Why doesn’t Lily use Bertha’s letters to restore her place in society? What would Bertha have done if the roles were reversed? What other opportunities does Lily pass up? Why?

3) Is Lily more like Bertha Dorset, or Mrs. Peniston?

4) How might Lily best use her skills to support herself?

5) Is Lily a good worker? Why or why not?

6) How do the other women in the hat shop treat Lily? Is their treatment of her fair?

7) How would Dr. Leete describe Lily’s problems?

8) What does Lily learn at Nettie’s house?

9) What is the ‘solidarity of life’?

10) What does she mean by shelter?

11) Why does she refuse Simon? Is he a positive or a negative character?

12) What happens to Lily in the end? Has she learned anything?

13) What is your opinion of Gerty after reading Addams? Of Carrie?

14) Would you call Jane Addams a ‘feminist’? Why or Why not? Edith Wharton?


Suggested Reading:

A) Charlotte Perkins Gillman, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ (1888)

B) ________, Herland (1915)

D)    Elizabeth Cady Stanton, ‘The Solitude of Self’ (1892)


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Part 4


Week 8

Representing the West

Student Presentation: The Visual Culture of the West


Required Reading:

A)    Owen Wister, The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains (1902)

(see particularly, ‘To the Reader,’ Chpts. 1-2, 6, 8, 12-16, 27, 36)

B)     Brian W. Dippie, ‘Frederic Remington’s West: Where History meets Myth’ in Chris Bruce, ed., Myth of the West (photocopy)

C)    Trachtenberg, ‘The Westward Route’, The Incorporation of America,(Chpt. 1)



For Reading and Discussion:

1) Who Was Owen Wister? What was his background?

2) What kind of a story is this? What do you think is its genre?

3) When does it take place? When was it written?

4) Why does Wister choose to write his story as a history?

5) Unlike Twain, Wister likes Scott. Why? How do we know?

6) Why does he choose the West as his setting? Why not New York?

7) What are the book’s class and gender conflicts? How are they resolved?

8) What is the basis of character in this story?

9) What is ‘the game’ and what has it to do with the nation? Can you retell this episode with Trampas as the hero?

10) What is ‘quality’? Who has it and who doesn’t? How do we know?

11) Who recognises the Virginian’s ‘quality’? Why?

12) Why is Maggie so stubborn, and how does she get over it?

13) Does Maggie read too much? What does the Virginian think?

14) Which books does Maggie like? What are the Virginian’s favorites?

15) How does the judge justify lynching?

16) Analyse the final scene. What has happened? What are the images of continuity and change? Does Wister suggest a solution to the crisis of modernity?

17) What is a ‘reality effect’ and how does Dippie think that it helps us to understand Remington’s paintings? What is typicality?

18) What ‘reality effects’ are at work in Wister’s story?



Suggested Reading:

A) Groseclose, ‘The American West,’Nineteenth-Century American Art, (Chpt. 2)

C)    Stephen Crane, ‘The Blue Hotel’ (1898)


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Week 9

The Myth of the ‘Open’ West

Student Presentation: Native American Life in the West


Required Reading:

A)    Charles Eastman, From the Deep Woods to Civilization: Chapters in the Autobiography of an Indian (1916)

B)     Selected Native American Voices (photocopy)

C)    Edmund J. Danziger, ‘Native American Resistance and Accommodation during the Late Nineteenth Century,’ in Calhoun, ed. The Gilded Age (Chpt. 8).


For Reading and Discussion:

1) Who was Charles Eastman? When and where did he write this book?

2) How does he describe his boyhood?

3) How does his father describe the white man’s world?

4) What was Eastman’s first reaction to his father’s stories?

5) List a few examples of cultural conflict in the schools.

6) What was Eastman’s attitude toward the schools? Why might other writers differ in their accounts? In what ways was his experience typical? In what ways was it not?

7) Describe Eastman’s experience at university.

8) How would you describe Eastman’s social circle, both at university and later?

9) What is Eastman’s opinion of the Ghost Dancers? How does this influence his actions?

10) What happened at Pine Ridge? How did it effect Eastman’s attitude?

11) How did ‘science’ influence Eastman’s thought? How does he reconcile it with Native American culture?

12) What does Eastman mean by ‘machine-made religion’ (p. 141)? Did he turn away from Christianity?

13 How does Eastman’s description of Wounded Knee differ from Black Elk’s? Which do you find more convincing and why? How are their languages different?


Suggested Reading:

Nicholas Black Elk, Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux (1932)


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Week 10

Taking up the ‘White Man’s Burden’: The Spanish-American-Cuban-Filipino War

Student Presentation: How was popular culture used to manufacture public consensus in favour of the war effort?


Required Reading:

A)    Rudyard Kipling, ‘The White Man’s Burden’ (1898) and various responses at: Jim Zwick's "Anti-Imperialism in the United States, 1898-1935" http://www.boondocksnet.com/ai/kipling/index.html

B)     Frank Norris, ‘The Frontier Gone at Last’ (1903) (photocopy)

C)    William Dean Howells, ‘Editha’ at http://www.boondocksnet.com/ai/howells/editha.html

D)    Theodore Roosevelt, ‘The Strenuous Life’ at http://www.theodoreroosevelt.org/research/speech%20strenuous.htm

E)     Joseph A. Fry, ‘Phases of Empire: Late Nineteenth-Century U.S. Foreign Relations,’ in Calhoun, ed. The Gilded Age (Chpt. 12)


For Reading and Discussion:

1) Was American imperialism a break from earlier practices?

2) Do the concepts of formal and informal imperialism help you to understand American practice?

3) How do earlier relations with the Native Americans help us to understand US policy in the Philippines?

4) Choose several responses to Kipling, and be prepared to discuss them with the group.

5) How does Norris connect imperialism to America’s experience of the frontier?

6) Is Norris for or against expansion?

7) How does Roosevelt connect expansion to personal health and well-being?



Suggested Reading:

A)    The Library of Congress' 'World of 1898' site at http://lcweb.loc.gov/rr/hispanic/1898/

B)     The Spanish-American War Centennial Website at http://www.spanamwar.com/


Thursday: Passage analysis


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Lent Term

Part 5

Immigration and the City

Week 1

Sex and the City

Student Presentation: Urbanisation


Required Reading:

A)    Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie (1900)

B)     Robert G. Barrows, ‘Urbanizing America,’ in Calhoun, ed. The Gilded Age (Chpt. 5).


For Reading and Discussion:

1) Describe Carrie’s first impressions of Chicago. Why does she react as she does? Has she changed by the time she gets to New York?

2) Why does she fancy Drouet? What do men like about Carrie?

3) Describe Carrie’s sister’s life. How does it compare to that which Carrie imagines for herself?

4) What is the significance of Carrie’s sister’s dream? What causes the dream?

5) Describe Carrie’s experience in the department store. Is this a convincing picture of the way that ‘consumer culture’ operates?

6) Why does Carrie go with Hurstwood?

7) Look closely at the scene where Hurstwood takes the money. Why does he do it?

8) Does Carrie have a plan? Does anyone in this book?

9) What do you think is Dreiser’s view of human nature? What causes human action? Does this differ from the views offered in The Rise of Silas Lapham or in The House of Mirth?

10) Compare Carrie’s first success upon the stage to Lily Bart’s experience in the tableaux vivants. Are they the same? Why do the men react as they do?

11) Why do people want to be celebrities, and how is this connected to ‘consumer culture’? What does Carrie want?

12) Who is Robert Ames and what are his ‘aims’ for Carrie?

13) Does Carrie fancy Robert? Why? What is Robert’s field of expertise?

14) Is Carrie immoral? Why did Dreiser have to change the ending?

15) If you could give Hurstwood some advice, what would it be?

16) How would you describe the language of this book?

17) Assess Carrie’s status at the book’s conclusion. Is this a story of triumph or of tragedy? What do you think Dreiser intended?


Suggested Reading:

A) The ‘City Sites’ electronic book, at http://artsweb.bham.ac.uk/citysites/

B) Stephen Crane, Maggie, A Girl of the Streets (1893)

C)    ________, ‘The Blue Hotel’ (1893)


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Week 2

Immigrant Experience

Student Presentation: How did the ‘New’ Immigration effect Popular Culture?


Required Reading and viewing:

A)    Isreal Zangwill, The Melting Pot (1906) at:


B)     Emma Lazarus, ‘The New Colossus’ (1883) at: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~CAP/LIBERTY/lazarus.html

C)    Roger Daniels, ‘The Immigrant Experience in the Gilded Age,’ in Calhoun, ed. The Gilded Age (Chpt. 4)


Film (In Class): The Immigrant, Charlie Chaplin (1917)



For Reading and Discussion:


1) Who was Emma Lazarus? How has her poem been used?

2) Does Lazarus’ poem agree with the intentions of those who built and raised the statue?

3) Who creates the meaning of public landmarks?

4) Why and with whom was The Melting Pot so popular?

5) What was TR’s response?

6) Does Zangwill’s play offer an example of the way difference might be part of a broader society? Or, is it purely assimilationist?



Suggested Reading:

Werner Sollors, ed., The Life Stories of Undistinguished Americans as Told by Themselves (1906)

Wilton S. Dillon and Neil G. Kotler, The Statue of Liberty Revisited (Smithsonian, 1994)


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Week 3

Visualising Reform

Student Presentation: What were Populism and Progressivism?


Required Reading:

A)  Jacob Riis, How the Other Half Lives (1893)

B)  Paintings by the ‘Ashcan School’ at http://nmaa-ryder.si.edu/collections/exhibits/metlives/index2.html

C)  Alan Trachtenberg, ‘Camera Work/Social Work,’ in Reading American Photographs: Images as History, Matthew Brady to Walker Evans (New York: Hill and Wang, 1989) (Chpt. 4)

D)  Photos by Lewis Hine at http://www.geh.org/fm/lwhprints/htmlsrc2/

E)   Photos by Alfred Stieglitz at http://www.geh.org/fm/stieglitz/htmlsrc/index.html


For Reading and Discussion:

1) How do Riis’ photos differ from Hine’s? Choose an example from each and be prepared to discuss them with the class.

2) What were the goals of the three photographers? Were they more similar or different? What were the painters trying to achieve?

3) How do Hine’s photos differ from Stieglitz’? Choose an example from each and be prepared to discuss them with the class.

4) Whose images are more ‘realistic’? Why? Do any of the views remind you of our other writers? Which ones?

5) How do the photos differ from the paintings? What are their contrasting ‘reality effects’? Be specific and be ready to offer examples.

6) How do the photos produce a reality that is different from the paintings? Are the paintings less realistic? Explain your opinion with specific examples.

7) What reactions were each set of images likely to inspire? What makes a picture effective? How do pictures make arguments? (again, be specific)

8) How did technological change effect the production and dissemination of visual images? How did that change the way people ‘saw’ (and see) the world?


Suggested Reading:

A)    David Leviatin, ‘Framing the Poor: The Irresistibility of How the Other Half Lives,’ Introduction to Bedford edition of Riis, 1-50.

B)     Doss, ‘Early-American Modernism: The Art of Everyday Life,’ in Twentieth-Century American Art (Chpt. 2)

C)    W.R. Miller, Farmers and Third-Party Politics,’ in Calhoun, ed. The Gilded Age (Chpt. 11)

D)    Ellen F. Fitzpatrick, ed., Muckraking, Three Landmark Articles (1994/1903)


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Part 6

Drawing the Colour Line

Week 4

Making Blackness 1:

Student Presentation: How did life change for every day African-Americans after the Civil War?

Required Reading:

A) Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery (1901)

B) Leslie H. Fishel, Jr., ‘The African-American Experience,’ in Calhoun, ed. The Gilded Age (Chpt. 4)


For Reading and Discussion:

1) How does the ‘free labour ideology’ help to structure Washington’s ideas? Is this an appropriate phrase to use in Washington’s case? Why, or why not?

2) Why does he focus so insistently on struggle in chapter 3 and elsewhere?

3) What are the similarities between Washington’s ideas and Carnegie’s? What assumptions do they share, and where do they differ?

4) What is Washington’s opinion of great wealth? Why might he feel this way?

5) Did Washington achieve his success at the expense of his fellow African-Americans?

6) What does Washington mean by the ‘dignity of labour’? How does this view compare to Bellamy’s?

7) Does Washington’s system produce dependence or independence?

8) Describe the condition of the people of the ‘black belt.’ (Chpt. 7) How does this effect his programme?

9) How does brick making work as a metonym for the entire Tuskegee system?

10) Why did the parents complain? (72)

11) What is ‘the gospel of the toothbrush’ and why is it important? What is it meant to tell you about the Tuskegee students?

12) What are the key points of the Atlanta Exposition Address? Why did the audience react as it did?

13) How do you think the ‘old colored man’ on page 97 reacted to the address?

14) Describe Washington’s reaction to the English aristocracy. Why might he have felt this way? Was this inconsistent with his other beliefs?

15) Answer the question about English servants on page 130. How would Washington have answered? Twain?

16) Compare the book’s closing scenes to those that close Frederick Douglass’ slave narrative. Is there a connection?


Suggested Reading:

A) Houston A. Baker, Jr., ‘Booker T. Washington’s Mastery of Form,’ Norton edition, 239-249.

B) Louis R. Harlan, ‘Booker T. Washington in Biographical Perspective,’ Norton edition, 204-219.

Film Viewing: Thursday

D.W. Griffith, Birth of a Nation (1915)


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Week 5

Making Whiteness:

Student Presentation: Representations of Race in/and Popular Culture


Required Reading and Viewing:

A)    Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes (1914)

B)     Owen Wister, Appendix: ‘The Evolution of the Cowpuncher,’ (1895), in The Virginian (Oxford World’s Classics) 329-334.

C)    D.W. Griffith, Birth of a Nation 1915


For Reading and Discussion:

1) How does Tarzan end up in his jungle home?

2) Describe Tarzan’s parents. What marks their difference from the crew?

3) What does the name ‘Tarzan’ mean?

4) What has Tarzan inherited from his parents? Are character traits hereditary? What would Wister say?

5) Why is Clayton less noble that Tarzan? How do we know?

6) What are Samuel T. Philander and Archimedes Q. Porter meant to signify?

7) How does Tarzan learn to write his name?

8) Describe his first recognition of himself. How does he differentiate himself from the apes? From the Africans?

9) What marks the difference between Jane and Esmerelda?

10) How does Tarzan kill Kulonga?

11) Where does Tarzan get his knife? How does he use it?

12) What is more important, the knife or the book?

13) Does Terkoz have ‘honourable intentions’ toward Jane? Does Tarzan? How do we know?

14) Does Jane fancy Tarzan? Why? What happened during their night in the forest? Why does Tarzan give his knife to Jane?

15) Wherein lies character for Wister? What is the significance of landscape for both? How does wilderness shape character?

16) What are Tarzan’s experiences of ‘civilisation’? What is the ‘height of civilization’?


Suggested Reading:

A) Ida B. Wells, Southern Horrors (1892)

B) Bret Harte, ‘The Heathen Chinee’ (1870)

D)    Joel Chandler Harris, Tar Baby, Tales of Brer’ Rabbit (1899)


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Week 6

Making Blackness 2:


Student Presentation: How did African-Americans Resist Oppression?

(You may wish to review The United States Supreme Court, Plessy v. Fergusson, 1896)


Required Reading:

W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (1905)


For Reading and Discussion:

1) What is double consciousness? What is the veil? The colour line?

2) Look closely at the ‘Coming of John.’ List a few examples of the way that ‘doubleness’ structures this story. Where else in Souls…does ‘doubleness’ help Du Bois to make his point?

3) What kind of a text is this? Is it a history? A sociological study? A cultural analysis? An anthropology?

4) What are the bars of music about? The epigraphs?

5) What was ‘race’ for Du Bois?

6) What is ‘culture’ for Du Bois? What is its role? Is this view similar to Carnegie’s?

7) What was Du Bois’ problem with Booker T. Washington? Which writer do you find more persuasive?

8) Is Du Bois fair to Washington? Was he a snob?

9) What is the ‘talented tenth. Does Du Bois have a point? Why or why not?

10) How Does Du Bois’ experience of the ‘Black Belt’ compare to Washington’s?

11) How does this book produce its sense of a break with the past? Is it a tragedy? A triumph? An opportunity? What was ‘progress’?

12) Who was Du Bois’ audience? For whom was Washington writing?

13) Why does Du Bois give so much attention to the ‘sorrow songs’?

14) How does the book conclude? What is its final tone?


Suggested Reading:

A) Dickson D. Bruce Jr., ‘W.E.B. Dubois and the Idea of Double Consciousness,’ in the Norton Critical Edition of Souls…

B) Arnold Rampersad, ‘Slavery and the Literary Imagination: Du BobisThe Souls of Black Folk, in the Norton Critical Edition of Souls…

D)    Shamoon Zamir, ‘The Sorrow Songs’/’Song of Myself’: Du Bois , the Crisis of Leadership, and prophetic Imagination,’ in the Norton Critical Edition of Souls…


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Part 7

Modernist Perspective(s)

Week 7

The Limits of Realism


Required Reading:

Gertrude Stein, ‘Q. E. D.,’ Appendix to Stein, Three Lives (1905) (Penguin Edition, 201-262.)


For Reading and Discussion:

1) Who in this story actually knows what is going on?

2) In what way is this story ‘realistic’?

3) Who or what drives the action?

4) Explain Adele’s reaction to Helen’s kiss. Is it Helen’s lesbianism, or passion in general, that puts Adele off?

5) What is Adele’s ‘moral sense’? How is it ‘middle class’? Does it change?

6) What would it mean to describe Helen’s moral sense as ‘bohemian’? How does this differ from the middle-class, or bourgeois, sense represented by Adele?

7) Does Adele ‘over-read’ Helen? Is Adele being fair? Is Helen being honest? Is this kind of uncertainty and over-analysis typical of ‘real’ love relationships?

8) Is language ever adequate to express the emotional turmoil of something as complex as a love relationship? How is this complicated by a relationship that simply ‘isn’t spoken of’? Why do you think Stein refused to publish this story?

9) Why is Adele’s experience with the Spanish Girl ‘very perfect’?

10) What does the ‘modern situations’ passage on page 218 mean?


Suggested Reading:



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Week 8

The Avant Garde


Required Reading:

A)    First, read Gertrude Stein, ‘Melanctha,’ in Three Lives (1905), and then

B)     Attend ‘The Virtual Armory Show’ at http://xroads.virginia.edu

C)    Now read Kenyon Cox, ‘Cubists and Futurists are Making Insanity Pay,’

New York Times 1913 (photocopy)

D)    Finish with e. e. cummings, ‘The New Art’ (1913) (photocopy)


For Reading and Discussion:

1) Try reading several passages from ‘Melanctha’ aloud. Concentrate on the rhythm, the feel and the sound of the words rather than on the meaning. Does this produce a different experience than simply reading to yourself?

2) Many critics have argued that Melanctha is a rewritten version of Q. E. D. Do you agree? Is this a more effective way to show that we can never really know the mind of another, or even of our own multiple and fleeting emotions and ideas?

3) List several examples of events and characters that parallel those in Q. E. D. Who has ‘middle class’ values and who is the passionate one? Who is narrating?

4) Why might Stein have revised her story in such a manner?

5) What do you think of Stein’s portrayal of African Americans? Was she a racist?

6) Look at Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase. Can you spot the nude? Why were people so upset by this painting?

7) Why was the Armory Show so well attended?

8) Look at the Matisse paintings. Do you agree with Kenyon Cox’s assessment?

9) Why was Cox so upset?

10) Look at the American paintings. How do they compare to those by the Europeans?

10) How does cummings defend the new art? How does he connect Stein to the world of the paintings?

11) Who do you find to be more persuasive, Cox or cummings?


Suggested Reading:

A)    Doss, ‘Avant-Garde Art and Experimentation,’ Twentieth-Century American Art Chpt. 3.

B)     Miles Orvell, ‘Not Realism, but Reality Itself,’ Chpt. 7 of The Real Thing



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Week 9

Over There

Student Presentation: How was popular culture used to manufacture public consensus in favour of the war effort?


Required reading:

John Dos Passos, Three Soldiers (1921), parts 1-4.


For Reading and Discussion:

1) Be ready to name and describe each of the three soldiers. What are their goals? Why did they enlist? How do they feel about ‘the cause’?

2) What is the goal of the soldiers’ training? Is it successful?

3) List several examples of popular culture in this story.

4) Why does Dos Passos use so much popular culture in his book? What ‘reality effect’ is thereby produced?

5) Why does Dos Passos use so much nature imagery in a section called ‘Machines’?

6) How does music structure Andrews’ experience of training camp? What kinds of music does he like? What kind does he write and play?

7) Explain Chrisfield’s reaction to the dead German (pgs. 124-125)

8) Why does Andrews think that it is Chrisfield who most matters? (p. 139)

9) What are the ‘Y men’ and what do they do?

10) Who is Sheffield? Is he different than the other Y men? How?

11) Is there a way out of The Machine?

12) How and when does Andrews re-discover himself?



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Week 10

Modernism as a Culture of Resistance (?)

Student Presentation: How does 1919 signal the close of an era?


Required reading:

John Dos Passos, Three Soldiers (1921), parts 5-6.


For Reading and Discussion:

1) Compare the machine imagery to that in Twain. What has changed?

2) How might one preserve their individuality, versus the dehumanisation of/by ‘the machine’?

3) Would Stein describe Andrews as Bohemian or as Bourgeois? Jeanne? Genevieve?

4) Does love offer a way out (compare Andrews’ experiences w/Jeanne and Genevieve)?

5) Does politics offer a way out (consider his experience with the ‘socialists’)?

6) How might art, or aesthetics, offer a way out?

7) Who represents the cultural elite in this book? Are they a part of the problem?

8) What kind of a composer is Andrews? Whose music does he like?

9) Why does Andrews switch from the ‘Queen of Sheba’ to ‘John Brown’?

10) Analyse and be prepared to discuss the book’s final image. What will happen to Andrews? To his music? Chrisfield?



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Essay 1. Contexts (Due Michelmas, Week 7):

1) To what degree did disaster (i.e. The Chicago Fire, the San Francisco Earthquake, The Titanic, 1918 Influenza Epidemic, etc.) shape the history of the US, between 1870-1920?

2) How did the railroad shape the history of the US, between 1869-1920?

3) How did workers resist the growing power of the corporation between 1870-1920?

4) What were the crucial issues and strategies in women’s politics between 1870-1920?

5) How did African Americans resist oppression between 1870-1920?

6) What were the crucial issues and strategies in Native-American politics between 1870-1920?

7) What was Progressivism, and is it a useful term?

8) To what degree is popular culture important in understanding the Spanish-American War?

9) How were the progressives and populists similar and how did they differ?

10) To what degree was the Frontier ‘closed’ in 1893?

11) What were the crucial issues and strategies in resisting entrance to the Great War?

12) Was there a ‘cultural crisis’ between 1870 and 1920?

13) Who supported Chinese exclusion, who opposed it, and why?

14) Focussing on one or two specific groups, why did the ‘new’ immigrants go to America and were they successful?

15) How did immigration effect urban politics between 1870-1920?

Essay 2. Texts (Due Lent, Week 6):

1) Compare the fictional life of Carrie Meeber to that of Lilly Barton, Antonia Shimerda or Iola Leroy. What do the stories of these fictional women tell us about the way that gender was effected by race, ethnicity and class at the turn of the last century?

2) How did Realism and Naturalism deal with the problem of human agency, and what does that suggest about the broader context? (you might, for instance, discuss Crane’s Maggie… or Norris’ The Octopus, vs. Howells’ The Rise of Silas Lapham.)

3) What role did visual representation play in the reform movements of the period?

4) How did technological change effect cultural production between 1870-1920?

5) How and why do the immigrant horizons sketched by Anzia Yezierska and Willa Cather differ?

6) How did Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s writing challenge earlier notions of women’s politics?

7) How did Anti-Imperialists debate and describe America’s place in the world of 1898?

8) In what ways does Dos Passos’s version of the Great War differ from the official?

9) Choose two or three (literary, musical or visual) texts and examine the means and the stakes of their own particular ways of producing modernity (you might, for instance compare texts by Twain, Remington and DuBois)

10) How and in what ways do the utopias produced by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Edward Bellamy differ? Is one more incisive in its critique than the other?

11) How did ‘others’ (women, Native Americans, etc.) challenge the frontier vision of Wister, Remington, Roosevelt and Turner?

12) From the Ashcan School to the Armory show. Describe the similarities and differences in the approaches to visual representation associated with these terms, especially in terms of their ‘modernity.’

14) Aesthetics, politics or both? How do you untangle and explain the critics’ reactions to the 1913 New York Armory Show?

15) What can we learn from the close analysis of African-American women’s blues?

16) What were the connections between vaudeville and the early cinema?

17) How did African Americans react to the caricatures of the minstrel stage?

18) Is highbrow/lowbrow a useful distinction when considering expressive culture between 1870-1920?

19) What does the Chicago Exposition (1893) tell us about its broader historical moment?


Essay 3. Biography (Due Summer, Week 2):

Choose anyone that you would like to know more about, and then discuss how and to what degree that person—and the texts associated with him or her—is representative of the period.

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This is a brief a bibliography of (mostly) secondary sources that may be of help to you. It is in no way complete and is not meant to replace your own work with the bibliographic sources listed above.

*Asterisks denote books and articles that I find to be particularly useful.

Modernity and Cultural History

Armstrong, Tim, Modernity, Technology and the Body

*Berman, Marshall, All that is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity

Haskell, Thomas, The Emergence of Professional Social Science: The American Social Science Association and the Nineteenth-Century Crisis of Authority (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1977).

*Lears, T.J. Jackson No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture, 1880-1920 (1984)

*________, "The Concept of Cultural Hegemony: Problems and Possibilities" in The American Historical Review vol. 90, no. 3 (June 1985)

*Lyotard, Jean-Francois The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (1984)

Marx, Leo, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal…

* Payne, Michael, ed., A Dictionary of Critical and Cultural Theory

Poster, Mark Cultural History and Postmodernity

Ross, Dorothy, Modernism in the Human Sciences

* Toews, John E., "Intellectual History after the Linguistic Turn: The Autonomy of Meaning and the Irreducibility of Experience," in The American Historical Review, vol. 94; no. 3 (June 1989): 879-907.

White, Hayden, Metahistory

Modernity and the West

Calloway, Colin (ed.), Our Hearts Fell to the Ground: Plains Indians' Views of How the West was Lost.

Coleman, Wm., Voices of Wounded Knee

*Cronon, Wm., Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West

*Cronin, Wm., et. al. (eds.) Under an Open Sky: Rethinking America’s Western Past

Hoxie, Frederick E., et. al. (eds.), American Nations: Encounters in Indian Country from 1850 to the Present

Kilcup, Karen (ed.), Native American Women's Writing: An Anthology

*Limerick, Patricia Nelson, The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West

*________, "Making the Most of Words: Verbal Activity and Western America" in Wm. Cronin, et. al. (eds.) Under an Open Sky: Rethinking America’s Western Past,

Maurer, Evan M., et al. Visions of the People: A Pictorial History of Plains Indian Life

Mintz, Steven (ed.), Native American Voices

Nobles, Gregory H., American Frontiers: Cultural Encounters and Continental Conquest

Prucha, F. P., The Great Father: The US Government and the American Indians

*Slotkin, Richard, Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America (1998)

*________, The Fatal Enviornment: The Myth of the Frontier in the Age of Industrialization, 1800-1890 (1985)

*Smith, Henry Nash, Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth (1950)

Thornton, Russell, American Indian Holocaust and Survival: A Population History since 1492

Utley, Robert M., The Indian Frontier of the American West 1846-1890

Utley, Robert M., The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull

White, Richard, It’s Your Misfortune and None of my Own: A New History of the American West

Worster, Donald, Under Western Skies: Nature and History in the American West.

Modernity, Culture and Class

Berlin, Edward A., King of Ragtime: Scott Joplin and his Era

*Bjelajac, David, American Art: A Cultural History

*Sarah Burns, Inventing the Modern Artist: Art and Culture in Gilded Age America (1996)

*Alfred D. Chandler Jr., The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business. (1977).

Gebhardt, Nicholas, Going for Jazz: Musical Practices and American Ideology

Halliwell, Martin, Modernism and Morality: Ethical Devices in European and American Fiction

*Hamm, Charles, Irving Berlin: Songs from the Melting Pot-The Formative Years, 1907-1914

May, Henry F., The End of American Innocence (1959).

*Montgomery, David, The Fall of the House of Labor

Cowan, Ruth Schwarz, A Social History of American Technology

Scott, William and Peter Rutkoff, New York Modern

*Rydell, Robt., All the World's a Fair

Sklar, Martin, The Corporate Reconstruction of American Capitalism

David O. Stowell, Streets, Railroads and the Great Strike of 1877 (1999)

*Trachtenberg, Alan, The Incorporation of America: Culture and Society in the Gilded Age (1982),

*Wiebe, Robert, The Search for Order (1967)

Popular and Elite

Crunden, Robt. M., Body and Soul: The Making of American Modernism

Douglas, Mary and Baron Isherwood, The World of Goods

Glickman, Lawrence B. ed., Consumer Society in American History (1999)

*Hofstadter, Richard Social Darwinism in American Thought (1944)

Kasson, John Amusing the Millions: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century

Leach, William Land of Desire: Merchants, Power, and the Rise of a New American Culture (1994)

*Lears, T.J. Jackson and Richard W. Fox, The Culture of Consumption: Critical Essays in American History 1880-1980 (1983)

________, "Transformations in a Culture of Consumption: Women and Department Stores, 1890-1925," Journal of American History, 71 (Sept. 1984)

*________, Fables of Abundance: A Cultural History of Advertising in America. Basic Books, 1994.

________, "Making Fun of Popular Culture," in the American Historical Review vol. 7, no. 92 (1992). 1417-1426

*Levine, Lawrence, Highbrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Authority in America

*Livingston, James, Pragmatism and the Political Economy of Cultural Revolution, 1850-1940. Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1994.

________, "The Social Analysis of Economic History and Theory: Conjectures on Late Nineteenth-Century American Development, in American Historical Review 92 (Feb. 1987), 69-95

* Marchand, Roland Advertising the American Dream

* Orvell, Miles, The Real Thing: Imitation and Authenticity in American Culture, 1880-1940. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989.

Rosenzweig, Roy Eight Hours for What We Will: Workers and Leisure in an Industrial City, 1870-1920 (1983).

Jones, Gareth Stedman "Class Expression versus Social Control: A Critique of Recent Trends on the Social History of 'Leisure,'" in History Workshop 4 (Autumn 1977): 163-170.


*Kaplan, Amy The Social Construction of American Realism (1998)

Mizruchi, Susan L "History in American Literature," Chpt. 1 of The Power of Historical Knowledge: Narrating the Past in Hawthorne, James, and Dreiser (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988). 3-40

*Orvell, Miles, The Real Thing: Imitation and Authenticity in American Culture, 1880-1940. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989.


*Howard, June, Form and History in American Literary Naturalism

*Livingston, James Pragmatism and the Political Economy of Cultural Revolution, 1850-1940. Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1994.

*Michaels, Walter Benn, The Gold Standard and the Logic of Naturalism: American Literature at The Turn of the Century (1987)

Seltzer, Mark, Bodies and Machines (1992)


*Susan Porter Benson, Counter Cultures

*Nancy Cott, The Grounding of American Feminism

Barbara L. Epstein, The Politics of Domesticity: Women, Evangelism, and Temperance in Nineteenth-Century America (1981)

Estelle Freedman, "Separatism as Strategy: Female Institution Building and American Feminism, 1870-1930," in Feminist Studies 5 (Fall 1979), 512-529

*Kathy Peiss, Cheap Amusements

Ryan, Mary P., "Gender and Public Access: Women's Politics in Nineteenth-Century America" in Craig Calhoun, ed. Habermas and the Public Sphere

Smith-Rosenberg, Carroll Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America (New York: Oxford UP, 1985)

*Kathryn Kish Sklar, "Hull House in the 1890s: A Community of Women Reformers," in Signs 10 (1985), 658-677


*Bederman, Gail Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880-1917

Berger, Maurice, et. al., Constructing Masculinity

Carby, Hazel Race Men (W.E.B. DuBois Lectures)

*Kimmel, Michael Manhood in America: A Cultural History

Putney, Clifford, Muscular Christianity: Manhood and Sports in Protestant America, 1880-1920

Stevens, Hugh, and C. Howlett, Modernist Sexualities

White, Kevin The First Sexual Revolution


Valerie Babb, Whiteness Visible: The Meaning of Whiteness

Daniel Bernardi, The Birth of Whiteness

*Grace Elizabeth Hale, Making Whiteness: Southern Segregation, 1890-1940 (1998)

Matthew Frye Jacobson, The Meaning of Whiteness

*R. G. Lee, Orientals: Asian Americans in Popular Culture (1999)

George Lipsitz, The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit From Identity Politics

Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination

*David Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness

Kalpana Seshadri-Crooks, Desiring Whiteness: A Lacanian Analysis of Race

*Ronald Takaki, Strangers from a Different Shore

*________, Iron Cages: Race and Culture in C19 America


Barrett, Lindon, Blackness and Value: Seeing Double

Brody, Jennifer Devere Impossible Purities: Blackness, Femininity, and Victorian Culture

Curtis, Susan, The First Black Actors on the Great White Way

* Lewis, David Levering, W.E.B. Dubois, Biography of a Race

Favor, J. Martin, Authentic Blackness: The Folk in the New Negro Renaissance

* Gilroy, Paul, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness

Litwack, Leon F., Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery

Mills, Charles W., Blackness Visible: Essays on Philosophy and Race

O'Malley, Michael, "Specie and Species: Race and the Money Question in Nineteenth-Century America," American Historical Review 99: no. 2, (April 1994): 369-395.

Schechter, Patricia A., Ida B. Wells-Barnett and American Reform, 1880-1930

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