WRAC 130 Syllabus: Fall 2004

WRAC 130: American Radical Thought

Section 7: Mondays & Wednesdays 3:00pm to 4:50pm

Room: Akers-134

 

Instructor:

David Fiore Office Hours:

fioreda1@msu.edu Monday & Wednesday 5pm to 7pm

Office Number—-Bessey 301

 

Course Description:

 

During the three decades leading up to the Civil War, a wide variety of dissenters—armed only with a set of very old concepts, refashioned into an array of startlingly new critiques—laid siege to American society as it was then constituted. Radicals are no less a part of their culture than those whom they oppose, and one of our tasks will be to keep our fingers on the pulse of ideology which contributed the bassline to all of these raucous debates. However, it will be just as important for us to consider the process through which these dedicated hearts purified the tired blood of tradition into a vital fluid that, at least for a brief period, carried hitherto unprecedented amounts of oxygen to the “American mind”.

 

This course is, first and foremost, an introduction to the theory and practice of academic writing, and our main objective will be to work our way into the scholarly conversation centered upon this volatile period. The ways in which twentieth century historians and artists have perceived the mid-nineteenth century can be read as prophesies for the twenty-first. Your job as a student is to assess the validity of the claims they make, and to make claims of your own. I want you to think of the final research paper—in which you will stir a number of diverse interpretations into a concoction that quenches your thirst for a “usable past”—as an “icebreaker” of sorts.

 

Texts:

 

Coursepack (on 2 hour reserve in library)

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Complete Writings

 

Aileen Kraditor, Means and Ends in American Abolitionism: Garrison and his Critics on Strategy and Tactics, 1834-1850

 

Stanley Elkins, Slavery: A Problem in American Institutional and Intellectual Life.

 

Ronald Walters, The Antislavery Appeal.

 

Henry David Thoreau, On Civil Disobedience.

 

Margaret Fuller, Woman in the Nineteenth Century.

 

Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom.

 

Albert J. Von Frank, The Trials of Anthony Burns: Freedom and Slavery in Emerson’s Boston.

 

Plagiarism Disclaimer:

 

If I discover that you have used another person’s material without citing it, I will give you a zero for the assignment. No explanations will be accepted.

 

Assignments/Grading:

 

(I will hand out more specific instructions regarding each of these assignments in class as the semester progresses.)

 

1. Religion & Radicalism in America, your initial sense of their relationship—500 words. (5% of grade)

2. “Moralizing” Politics—1500 words (20% of grade)

3. Brook Farm web site review—750 words (12.5% of grade)

4. Film Critique: discuss one of our films as an interpretive text—750 words (12.5%of grade)

5. Short Historiographical Research paper—2500 words (40% of grade)

6. Class Participation (10% of grade)— If you participate in all 5 of the peer editing sessions in good faith, you will earn a perfect score for participation. You will receive one point for each first draft you bring in on the appointed day, and one point for each peer review sheet you complete.

 

Due Dates:

 

I will not accept any papers after the specified due dates. There is no penalty for not submitting a first draft (other than the loss of 1 participation point). However, if you don’t submit one, you will deprive yourself of the benefits of my comments.

 

 

Attendance Policy:

 

I will be taking attendance. You have a right to miss 3 classes—any additional absences will result in the loss of 0.25 per absence off of your final grade. (i.e.: a student who earns a 3.5, but misses 5 classes, will receive a 3.0).

 

 

Course Schedule:

 

Aug 30th: What’s distinctive about American radical thought (as opposed to “radicalism in America”)? Is there any warrant for asking such a question?

The Hartz thesis, the “Consensus School” and a lead-in to Bercovitch.

 

Sept 1st: Discuss Bercovitch—“Emerson, Individualism, and Liberal Dissent” and “The Problem of Ideology in a Time of Dissensus” {coursepack}

 

Sept 6th: Labor Day

 

Sept 8th : Discuss “From Edwards to Emerson”, “The Significance of Roger Williams for the American Tradition” (Perry Miller); “Anne Hutchinson, Sectarian Mysticism, and the Puritan Order” (Marilyn J. Westerkamp) {coursepack all}

Assignment #1 due [first draft]

Peer Editing session

 

Sept 13th: Discuss “Self-Reliance”, “Circles“, Politics” and “New England Reformers” (Emerson)

I will return your drafts of Assignment #1, with comments. We will discuss whichever concerns you might have regarding the incorporation of sources (thematically & mechanically).

 

Sept 15th: Discuss “Commencement of the Liberator” (Garrison); “Public Opinion”(Phillips); “Talk About Political Party” (Child); “Speech to a Committee of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, February 21, 1838” (Grimke) and “The Patrician as Agitator” (Hofstadter) {coursepack all}

 

Sept 20th: Discuss “Slavery and the Intellectual” (Elkins, 140- 222)

Assignment #1 due [final draft]

 

Sept 22nd: Discuss Means and Ends in American Abolitionism: Garrison and his Critics on Strategy and Tactics, 1834-1850 (Kraditor)

 

Sept 27th: Discuss Means and Ends in American Abolitionism: Garrison and his Critics on Strategy and Tactics, 1834-1850 (Kraditor)

 

 

Sept 29th: Discuss The Antislavery Appeal, “Forms” and “Content” (Walters, 1-87)

 

Oct 4th: “The United States Constitution” (Garrison), United States Constitution {http://www.house.gov/Constitution/Constitution.html}; The Federalist no. 10 (Madison) {http://www.blackmask.com/books11c/federalistdex.htm}

Assignment #2 due [first draft]

Peer Editing session

We will address the difficulties you encountered in writing historiography.

 

 

Oct 6th: Movie screening—Amistad (1998)

 

Oct 11th: Discuss “The Declaration of Independence” {http://www.constitution.org/usdeclar.htm} and David Walker’s Appeal {coursepack}

I will return your drafts of Assignment #2, with comments.

 

Oct 13th: “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” and My Bondage and My Freedom (Douglass); Frederick Douglass and the American Jeremiad

 

Oct 18th: My Bondage and My Freedom (Douglass)

Assignment #2 due [final draft]

 

Oct 20th: Woman in the Nineteenth Century (Fuller)

 

Oct 25th: Woman in the Nineteenth Century (Fuller)

 

Nov 1st: Web site review (assignment #3) due [first draft]

Peer Editing session

http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/transcendentalism/ideas/brhistory.html

We’ll discuss the site in class.

 

Nov 3rd: Movie screening—Little Women (1994)

 

Nov 8th: “On Civil Disobedience” (Thoreau)

I will return your drafts of Assignment #3, with comments.

Final Research Paper Idea Generating Session.

 

Nov 10th: Read “A Plea For Captain John Brown” (Thoreau) and “John Brown” (Emerson)

Movie screening—Santa Fe Trail (1940)

 

***Meet with me (I’ll take appointments on Nov 10th) during the week of the 15th to clear a topic for your research papers***

Nov 15th: Discuss “The American Scholar”, “History”, and “Experience“ (Emerson)

 

Nov 17th: “Life without Principle” and “Slavery in Massachusetts” (Thoreau); “An Address on the Emancipation of the Negroes in the British West Indies” and “The Fugitive Slave Law” (Emerson)

Assignment #3 due [final draft]

 

Nov 22nd: Assignment #4 due [first draft]

Peer Review Session

Discuss Research Progress in Groups

 

Nov 24th: Discuss The Trials of Anthony Burns: Freedom and Slavery in Emerson’s Boston (Von Frank); “Anthony Burns: The New Crime Against Humanity” (Parker) {coursepack}

 

Nov 29th: Assignment #5 due [first draft]

Full class Peer Review Session

I will return your drafts of Assignment #4, with comments.

 

Dec 1st: Discuss The Trials of Anthony Burns: Freedom and Slavery in Emerson’s Boston (Von Frank)

 

 

 

Dec 6th: Discuss The Trials of Anthony Burns: Freedom and Slavery in Emerson’s Boston (Von Frank)

Assignment #4 due [final draft]

I will return your drafts of Assignment #5, with comments.

 

Dec 8th: Full class forum for discussion of paper revisions.

 

Dec 15th : hand in final draft of assignment #5; Course evaluations

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