ENGL 875: "Transatlantic Conversations: The British Press and the American Civil War;" Thursdays 9:30am – 12:15pm
With Prof. Iain Crawford
Or, what do we mean when we talk about transatlanticism? And what do we learn about transatlanticism when we examine Anglo-American literary and cultural interactions during the first half of the nineteenth century? This course will address these questions by focusing on British representations of the American Civil War and will fall into four parts:
First, we will explore transatlantic interactions in the Antebellum period. We’ll read Dickens’s American Notes and other early Victorian texts against American appropriations of British cultural models, most notably Sir Walter Scott’s representation of chivalric history and national identity.
Second, we’ll examine theories and methodologies in periodical studies, the subfield that focuses upon the enormous universe of nineteenth-century journalism and the burgeoning critical attention that universe is receiving.
Third, through a range of readings in British newspapers, reviews, and magazines from the years immediately before the Civil War on through to the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863 we will examine how both the elite and the mass-market press represented America and the issues around the conflict. We will focus in particular on Harriet Martineau’s role in the press as the primary advocate of the Union cause against pro-Southern majority British opinion, comparing her work with Dickens’s treatment of race and slavery and the South in his magazines Household Words and All the Year Round. In addition to looking at various types of journalistic writing, we’ll also consider visual accounts of events in the United States, examining the images generated in Punch and the Illustrated London News.
Finally, we’ll end with Dickens’s Great Expectations, considering it as a serial publication that appeared simultaneously in Britain in All the Year Round and in the US in Harper’s Weekly between November 1860 and August 1861. Reading the novel in its two serial forms, we’ll consider it as a transatlantic text that engages with the historical moment in both Britain and America and ask how the two versions inform one another and shape audience response in both nations.
The major work product for the semester may include either the traditional seminar paper (preceded by an annotated bibliography) or a pedagogical project designing a teaching module built around student use of primary materials from the press.