Early American Literature | Department of English | SIU

Southern Illinois University



College of Liberal Arts

Early American Literature

As currently organized, Early American Literature (EAL) at SIU Carbondale stretches from the pre-Columbian period to 1900. Confronted with this daunting assignment, faculty members tend to focus on the nineteenth-century, the sub-area most in demand, with excursions into earlier literatures when appropriate. US literature is taught both in respect to traditional formal literary concerns and with reference to contemporary critical issues now loosely gathered under the rubric of Cultural Studies. A major concern in many classes is the way in which the multi-cultural foundations and composite nature of US literatures has worked to mediate primary social issues of race, class, and gender.


EAL faculty cover both the standard survey courses (the Literary History of the United States) and a variety of upper-level courses in US literature before 1900. Because of the enormous chronological spread and the wide diversity of genres and authors that need to be covered, upper-level courses in EAL tend to vary considerably from year to year, even when the course titles remain nominally the same. 

Balancing between attention to major writers and newly recovered voices, sample courses at the 400 level (mixed graduate and undergraduate) have included Nineteenth-Century American Novelists from James Fennimore Cooper to Nella Larsen; "Interior Subjects: Work, Service, and Self-Possession in Antebellum America" (a course studying the crisis in interiority in antebellum fiction); American Women Poets from Bradstreet to Sarah Piatt, Poetry and Politics in the Nineteenth Century (abolition poetry, poetry of Western settlement, etc.); a course on poetic responses to the Civil War in Whitman, Melville, Dickinson and Piatt; and "Gender and Sexuality in Nineteenth-Century Fiction" (a course studying how various literary genres, such as sentimentalism and sensationalism, managed concerns over gender and sexuality).

Professor Anthony’s recent undergraduate courses include the following: Emily Dickinson; the American gothic (fiction and film); the rise mass and popular culture in America; and the role of capitalism in American fiction. In the Fall of 2009 he will be teaching a course tentatively entitled “Nobody in Antebellum American Fiction.” The texts will be Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, and a range of Dickinson poems (including “I’m Nobody! Who Are You?,” after which the course is entitled).


Over recent years topics for 500 level graduate seminars have included individual courses devoted to Melville, Hawthorne, Twain and James, "Emily Dickinson and her Women Poet Peers," "The American Experience: Captivity Narratives and Slave Narratives," and "The Sentimental as Aesthetic and Social Vision." Projected seminars include "African-American Writers Before 1900: Texts and Critical Contexts" and "Sex and the Gothic Imaginary in 19th Century America."

Professor Anthony’s recent graduate courses include seminars on American manhood in American fiction and film, the fiction of the 1790s in America, and capitalism and property in American nineteenth-century American fiction.

Recent Ph.D. Dissertations

  • Catherine Otto, "Ragged Men: Gender Ambiguity in Melville's Short Fiction"
  • Joseph Fulton, "Mark Twain's Moral Realism: Ethics and Dialogics"
  • Thorunn Ruga, "Angels in Architecture: The House of Representatives and the House Represented in American Women's Fiction, 1791-1812"
  • Pamela Kincheloe, "Through the Claude Glass: Nineteenth-Century American Writers and Monumental Discourse"
  • Lisa B. Day, "‘White Spirits and Black Spirits Engaged in Battle': Apocalyptic Images in Antebellum Literature"
  • Robert Alsop, "Stout-Hearted Men: Individualism and the Anxiety of American Manhood, 1784-1906"