LITR 5535: American
Sample Student Research Proposals, fall 2000
I was actually thinking about two different topics. Can
you give me feedback on both?
Twinning as an element of gothicism and how it affects
American Romanticism. What is the difference between the use of male/male,
female/female, or female/male in the concept of twinning. The primary texts I
was planning to use is "William Wilson," "Ligeia," and
"The Fall of the House of Usher." My interest in the matter evolved
when re-reading Poe. When I first read Poe, I thought he was amazing. Now
re-reading his works, some of his writing does seem overdone and satiric and I
wanted to do more work on Poe. I hope through research I will understand his
writing better and understand if he is purposely overdoing things in his writing
or it he is serious about his overuse of gothic elements in his works. I have
done some research on Poe. I have started reading "William Wilson" and
some other critical writings on Poe. The concept of twinning is a beginning in
the research process. Do you think this topic is broad enough to build the essay
The other research topic I was thinking about is something
else brought up in class. What is the difference between American Romanticism
and the Modern Historical Romance. Why is the Modern Historical Romance so
popular and what needs does it fufill. Why does History and Romance appeal to a
certain group of women? I'm still thinking of possible primary texts to use for
this research proposal. I haven't done any research on the subject yet, but I
find it fascinating that the historical romance as a genre is so popular. Do you
think it is possible to find enough research on the subject? Could an early
American Romantic Literature piece be compared to a modern Historical Romantic
and the elements compared? I think there are qualities probably similar in both
as everyone these days are "riding off into the sunset" or
"living happily ever after," whether it be in the movies or some
Stacey M. Burleson
Haven't read your midterm yet,
and many await, so pardon if this is brief. Both topics seem appropriate for the
course. For the Poe topic, a problem may be to resolve the twinning angle with
the question of whether he's serious or satiric about the Gothic--or choose one
angle and forget the other. You might do some research on twins in psychology.
Memory may be tricking me, but maybe Plato has something about us all searching
for a twin, or maybe it's in the fashion of a soul-mate. Keep the term
"doppelganger" in mind and look up the term in some handbooks of
literary terms. For whether Poe's serious or satirical, all I really know is
what I read in the intro in our anthology. Ultimately I consider the question
irresolvable, given Poe's own curious statement on the issue, but that doesn't
mean that more research wouldn't be rewarding. I'm sure a quick MLA search on
Poe and satire would come up with some materials.
For the romance topic, I can't
find the book I want to recommend, but I think it's by Janice Radway (or
something like) and the first part of the title is Reading the Romance. She
mostly studies readers of Harlequin or Silhouette Romances, but it could give
you a model of this kind of popular literary criticism. Also, do you know Donna
Maloy, who finished her MA in LITR this summer? She works here at the
university, has written some historical romances, and knows a lot about the
genre. You could compare / contrast a "popular" historical romance
(sometimes risibly referred to as "the sword and bosom" genre) with a
"literary" romance like Scarlet Letter, but that's just a suggestion.
Well, this is just a start, but
you're just starting, so why not inquire again as you begin to resolve? The
standard advice is to "follow your nose." That is, what do you find
yourself thinking about the most, wanting to know the most. All three are worth
knowing, but which one solves a real question you have about literature?
Response from Stacey, 7 Oct.
I decided to go with Poe and the idea of twinning for my
research paper, but I will email you more in-depth on what research I have done.
29 September 2000
. . . I want to get your feedback on the direction I want
to go with my next essay. This isn't my final proposal. I want to see if I am
completely off base before I give you more of a formal version.
I read a quote the other day on Gothic literature that stated, "By
1815, the Gothic novel had come full circle, from rebellion to the Age of
Reasons order, to its encompassing and incorporation of Reason as derived from
terror". I find the link between "Reason" and "terror"
to be an interesting one. I have always viewed literature surrounding the
supernatural and the Gothic to be purely for effect and entertainment. I have
never thought of them in terms of reflecting on or exploring issues of God,
humanity, or truths. I know that I would need to refine this idea, but I would
like to explore this notion if you think it is something on which I can expand.
I find Gothic literature to be extremely interesting due to the fact that that
there are sometimes characters introduced with whom the reader can sympathize,
despite the fact that the atmosphere, setting, and situation is completely
foreign to any reader. It is also interesting that there is something so
"human" about characters that are portrayed as completely sinister and
distorted in many texts. Gothic literature seems to play on the senses in a way
that is difficult to articulate. The text leads the reader into dark places or
states of mind that the reader does not necessarly want to go. Apprehension and
a feelings of anxiousness compels the reader to continue through a Gothic text.
I find it completely fascinating that a reader's senses are heightened and
feelings are evoked by events that are not familiar to the reader at all.
I apologize if this seems to be turning into a
"stream of consciousness" writing; I just want to attempt to explain
why I want to explore this area. I think it would also be interesting to
research the readership of Gothic literature. I don't really know how I would go
about doing that since one of the only really well-known, present day writers of
the Gothic is Anne Rice. If you have any direction on that, I would appreciate
Once I refine my topic and thesis, I think that I might
use works of Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (maybe), and
also a text by Ann Radcliffe.
Please let me know if this is way off the mark.
Your interest in the
intellectual or metaphysical groundings of the gothic is a good reason to pursue
the subject. One source I've read that deals well (if briefly) with the subject
is Leslie Fiedler's great study, Love and Death in the American Novel. Check its
first chapter or so for backgrounds on the gothic--at one point he nicely
summarizes its reaction to the age of Enlightenment, and he makes some cute
comment about how, after the Enlightenment had killed off God (at least as an
actor in the natural world), the devil outlived Him for at least a generation in
the Gothic. UHCL library should have plenty of copies of Fiedler's book, which
is from the 1950s or early 60s.
The quotation you sent, about
reason being derived from terror, is intriguing. I'm skeptical, but only because
I haven't thought of it before. Your inclination to follow sympathetic
characters (or characterizations) sounds right. Frequently the exhumation of the
gothic secret does "set things right" and return order and reason. As
at the end of Mary Rowlandson, however, there's ever after a fear, even among
the enlightened, of things that go bump in the night.
About your texts, I'd only warn
you not to use too many. Try focusing on one or two. Otherwise, if you cover too
much ground, you cover it only superficially. However, you can introduce your
topic and do a brief survey of its appearance in a variety of texts before
zeroing in on one or two texts that exemplify it to especially high purpose. I
haven't read Anne Rice, but from what I've read about her, the characterization
of the central vampire (LeGare?--something like that?) exposes him as something
of a reasonable character within his fate. Similarly Roderick Usher behaves
Well, I'll say no more till
you've proceeded, but you're thinking well on the subject so far.
I thought that I would go in a different direction with my
essay, but I seem to have come back to where I started. So I will just build on
my orginal proposal idea that I sent to you. We have touched on both the idea of
the sublime and the Gothic this semester, and I would like to further explore
how these two subjects are interrelated. Gothic literature evokes a sense of
terror in the reader, and I feel that this crosses over into the realm of the
sublime since the feeling of terror often transcends verbal articulation. It is
intangible; you can't define it. Authors such as Emerson and Jonathon Edwards
attempt to evoke a feeling of transcendence in their readers/listeners from
being "rapt up" in the Power of nature and religion. In contrast, Poe
and Hawthorne achieve a sense of transcendence in the reader on a completely
different psychological realm. I came across a quote in a critical text that
states, "The Gothic novel was able to raise terror and intensity of the
sublime so much that it became, in effect, a metasublime, participating not just
is aesthetic debate but commenting on the intellectual and metaphysical contexts
of that debate." I would like to explore this idea further in a thesis
driven essay by analyzing certain texts by Hawthorne and Poe. I hope that by
choosing these authors that I am not being too obvious, but other authors that
would work well with this topic are mainly English, which seemed a little out of
the scope of the theme of American Romanticism. I thought about this after I
originally stated I might refer to a text by Mary Shelley in my first essay
proposal. At any rate, Poe and Hawthorne seem to be the best choices from
American authors to focus on in this essay.
My main focus of this essay will be to exhibit that the
Romantic idea of sublimity is present in the texts of Poe and Hawthorne through
a translation into a Gothic atmosphere, evoking feelings in the reader of
terror, transcendence, and dominance of a supernatural presence.
As for critical references, I am still trying to locate
them. I have found a few references on the Gothic genre, and Leslie Fiedler's
text also has a relevant chapter on Poe and the development of Gothic
I am still not quite sure if my essay theme and topic fits
into a larger social context and that I am writing about something in which
people can find relevant subject matter. Do you think this is enough to begin?
Everything you say makes sense,
so don't be too concerned whether you're touching all the possible angles I
raised in the assignment. As much as anything, all those pointers just try to
stir up some ideas in folks who are at a loss. So far you're not at a loss, so
press on. Besides, considerations of language--especially of the sublime as
something beyond language but must nonetheless be expressed as far as possible
in language or not at all--are always relevant. Another text that comes to mind
is William James's discussion of mysticism in The Varieties of Religious
Experience. (He was Henry James's brother; the book was published about 100
years ago, maybe a little less.) His discussion has something about mystical
experience being beyond language plus maybe something about the need to express
Some consideration of British
authors isn't taboo. Only the larger point of the essay should point toward
American developments in Romanticism.
My only quibble--though it may
be gotten over--is whether to discuss the sublime effects of the gothic in terms
of transcendence. I guess I don't feel as though chills and thrills send one
upward so much as somewhere else, but I'm not sure. Anyway, the problem I'm
describing is that "transcendence" is in some sense a metaphor
involving an upward motion, and as a stylist you want to make sure that metaphor
is consistent with what you're describing in the gothic. Your choices are either
to defend the gothic sublime as transcendent by defining it so that it works
that way, or considering another term or metaphor for the effect of the gothic
29 September 2000
Hi Dr. White,
(This is tentative.)
I would like to explore the idea of the sublime and how it is related to
the evil side of American Romanticism. For example, I planned to use Poe, and to
show that he achieves the sublime in his descriptions throughout "Ligeia"
and "Fall of the House of Usher." Also, Hawthorne shows some evidence
of the dark side of American Romanticism with "Minister's Black Veil."
With Cooper, I planned to use the character of Magua. And, I may use Irving in
addition to those mentioned above.
I went to the library, and I gathered some general information about the
authors above and also American Romanticism. It was somewhat helpful, as there
were bibliographies to refer to more criticism about the literature. I will
search for more criticism regarding the texts and the idea of terror and beauty
mixed together. I plan to probe the idea of what makes us turn the pages when we
read what appears to be horrible, but really is pleasurable. I suppose this may
lead into some psychological analysis.
1 October 2000
So far, so good. You might
search our library's holdings on gothicism in American literature, as I've
ordered several new books in that area over the last few years. See if they
discuss the sublime in relation to the gothic. I'm especially intrigued that the
gothic may have its own form of sublime, in which the pain is emphasized for the
sake of an edging of pleasure, in contrast to the "open-air" sublime,
which is generally pleasure tinged with pain.
Check in again as you like.
29 September 2000
I am having trouble coming up with an interesting topic
for my research paper. I am thinking about doing something about Poe because I
am a big fan of his stories. I can't think of anything interesting to do,
I was thinking about possibly researching the topic of how
his romantic gothic writing is connected to modern horror genre films (he seems
to have influenced everyone making good horror movies). Can you help me develop
something around this subject? Can you also help me by suggesting resources to
You're very welcome to read Poe
and modern horror films. I'm intrigued by the possibility that he may have
influenced them, but I'm skeptical that he and they are all just operating
within gothic conventions. Can we identify modern horror films' materials as
deriving from Poe instead of just being more gothicism? I'd have to give it a
lot more thought, but then you may well know modern horror films much better
than I do, so, if you're on to something that connects directly to Poe, tell me
I have one other suggestion
along these lines, but it jerks you from your generation to mine. In the 1950s
and 60s Roger Corman and a number of other Hollywood B-movie directors adapted a
number of Poe stories to films. Most of them are pretty bad, but a few, like The
Pit and the Pendulum and Tales of Terror and also The Conquering Worm (on Ligeia)
are at least kind of stylish--the American equivalent of the stylish British
Hammer-studio films that were being produced around the same time. Anyway, if
you want to do Poe and Horror films, there's a definite connection.
On the other hand, if you want
to do newer (and maybe better) horror films, you could consider not emphasizing
Poe as much as the gothic in general. One gothic development I found interesting
was the Nightmare on Elm Street series. I never saw any of them, but from what I
understand there was an interesting physical / psychological correspondence
between the street's sewers and the teenagers' dreams, sort of like Poe's
castles and his tortured mind. But since I didn't see the movies, I may be
making this up. Anyway, some examination of how current horror films continue to
develop the gothic (and in some cases make it new) would be a real possibility.
But this is just a suggestion for you to run with or not or branch off from.
P. S. I've ordered a number of
new books for the library regarding the gothic, including one that may be
helpful on the film topic we discussed. To find these books in general, you
might do a subject search of "gothic." The book I'm remembering has a
title like "Nightmare on Main Street," and concerns the absorption of
the gothic into American popular culture, I think. (I still haven't read it, but
ordered it for reasons like this.)
I like the Nightmare on Elm street connection. I think
that is very fertile
ground for American gothic. Thanks for the information.
Discuss and examine opposing dimensions of American
Romanticism in terms of its social, political and cultural context. This
dichotomy is reflected in the philosophical and indulgent nature of works such
as Nature and Walden and the opposing reflective social commentary
of Uncle Tomís Cabin, the slave narratives and social philosophical
writings such as "Resistance to Civil Government." I am not a great
fan of Transcendentalism and I am hoping to gain a better understanding of its
relevance in my research. I view Transcendentalism as a indulgent undertaking by
individuals who seem oblivious to the social and ideological struggles (esp.
dealing with race and gender) of the nineteenth century that would later
Your goal of comprehending
transcendentalism sounds like a good base or "problem" to work from. I
mean "problem" first in the way that it's good to have an itch to
scratch in developing a topic. Second, I mean that you're on to a standard
problem for Transcendentalism: was it just lofty and escapist (or, as you say,
"indulgent") ponderings by an elite group who don't want to be
bothered, or did it in some way engage with the larger social scene.
Thoreau is the most interesting
figure in this regard, as we'll see over the next few weeks--how does the same
author write Walden and Civil Disobedience? You could stay with just Thoreau.
That is, my only misgiving as I started your proposal was that it sounded a
little like an exam question in the way it "surveys" a number of big
writers, which may threaten superficiality. On the other hand, all of these
authors raise interesting issues. Stowe, for instance, wasn't considered a
Transcendentalist (you may already know this, but I wasn't sure from what you
wrote). In fact, her family, headed by the great evangelist Lyman Beecher,
diverged from the Unitarianism that gave rise to the Transcendentalists. You
could conceivably contrast the careers and writings of Stowe and Emerson.
Anyway, all you've written so
far has the essential element of interest, so continue, and try to zero in on a
smaller portion of the topic. (Probably two writers would be maximal. However,
if you organize tightly, three would be possible, so just consult or advise as
Thanks for staying with the
question--I enjoyed the discussion that rose from it last week.
5 October 2000
I wanted to deal with the (romantic)individual and his
relationship to nature. I was thinking of a comparative paper between Hawk-eye
and Cormac McCarthy's protagonist from All the Pretty Horses dealing with
"Romantic Spirit"--touching on desire and nostalgia especially. Also,
critiquing that romantic character in his given place in history. At this point,
I am leading towards having my Master's Thesis deal with nostalgia in
post-modern America and hope to have to be moving in that direction with this
semester's term paper. I am very early in the research process, mostly, there
are just ideas floating around in my head.
I was wondering if post-Romantic was an
"official" term and if so what would it be? The pointing out of any
critical texts would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
The topic sounds good so far,
and worthy of a thesis. Not to pile books on you, but probably the ideal Cooper
novel would be The Prairie (1827), which immediately follows Mohicans and
finds "the scout" (as Hawk-eye is now known) on a journey somewhat
like that (I think) in Pretty Horses. But there's bound to be plenty in
Mohicans (and our excerpt from Pioneers) for you to work with, so stay there if
you like. For "nostalgia" and "post-romantic" you might
start with an MLA search for articles that use the words and work backward from
them to find theoretical sources. Especially the latter seems tossed about
casually--I used it just 10 minutes ago in my early American lit class--as a
kind of selective or spectatorial romanticism, a fantasy of beliefs without
commitments or conviction. Or, along the lines of some of our discussions,
romanticism provides a way to honor "traditional values" without
having to follow them. But, lest I do the same by indulging in further cant
without texts to reference, I'll stop now and wait for further developments.
Amana Marie Le Blanc
Literature 5535: American Romanticism
October 6, 2000
Romance of "Winter Dreams"
The notion of a desirable object or subject that is either inaccessible
or lost is a fundamental element of Romantic ideology. Much has been said of
this phenomenon relative to the likelihood that the desirability of the
object/subject in question is, in fact, a consequence of its inaccessibility.
Scholars have also explored the possibility that there is some psychological
mechanism in play that propels the pursuit of an unattainable item (whose
unattainability may or may not have been created by the pursuant) in order that
the devastation of the loss, or its inaccessibility, might fulfill some
emotional need to experientially replay this exhaustive cycle of desire and
However intriguing these musings, there is, I believe, a
consciousness that moves beyond this classic cycle and considers it with a
disinterested melancholy. The relevance of such a consciousness would be the
definitive justification of romance as reflective rather than merely impulsive.
The traditional romantic cycle (as outlined above) appears decidedly mechanical
and deterministic. What is at stake here is human agency and rationality. F.
Scott Fitzgerald in his "Winter Dreams" explores the consciousness to
which I refer and I intend to show this through a close analysis of that text.
One criticism of my argument that I will preemptively
consider, is the possibility that if there is melancholy in the reflection on
the vanished, simply non-existent, or consciously fabricated cycle (of desire
and loss), then this cycle has merely extended itself beyond object and subject
to include the ideal; whose loss it will bemoan in the customary fashion. I
believe, however, that the loss of an ideal is distinct from object or subject,
and outside the traditional cycle, in that it is disinterested (Immanuel
Kantís term, to be explored more thoroughly). While the loss of object or
subject in the standard schema is characterized by intense emotion, the
loss of the ideal is instead represented by a strangely poignant
9 Oct. 2000
I enjoyed reading your proposal.
The concept is intriguing in itself, but that raises the risk that you will ride
that intrigue and not be forced into a careful analysis. And I might not know
the difference, as I felt a little dreamy and non-analytical as I went along,
derfting from the suddenly abhorrent mechanism of the desire-loss cycle into the
comparatively sweet ineffability of poignant apathy. Perhaps you yourself need a
rhetorical mechanism to control or sharpen the distinctions you're making. As an
instance of this potential problem, we shift from an impulsive, deterministic
mechanism to a reflective, rational objectification. This very nearly works,
nearly enough that you should continue to align or coordinate the terminology so
that the metaphors are more consistent with each other, and the solution meets
the problem on its own terms (or, if not, the solution may self-consciously
dispose of the terms in which the problem is conceived and substitute more
useful terms). Well, with that parenthetical qualification you've got me talking
like you, which brings me to my only other immediate suggestion: avoid
overqualification in the form of alternative phrasings ("subject or
object"). Such are sometimes necessary while drafting, and here I take them
no more seriously than as a draft; however, as you revise your paper toward
completion, make the hard choices. Overall I do agree with your reading of
"Winter Dreams." Listen to the Tchaikovsky symphony (his first?) with
the same title.
Dear Dr. White,
Thank you for your comments and suggestions on my Essay
Proposal. It took me a while to get back to you on this because your comments
really set me off in quite a few different directions. The whole proposal
process is a great way to help you reassess your own ideas and get outside
perspective (Iím sure you know this).
Tchaikovsky Symphony (it is #1) was WONDERFUL! Very
You are SO right about the real need to work out a precise
semantic strategy, and adhere to it so that my argument does not become too
elliptical. My distinctions between consciousness in the desire and loss cycle
versus consciousness in the state of "poignant apathy," will have to
be precisely delineated and perhaps reconfigured based on my findings.
Iím working on another project (my Thesis) that deals
with Fitzgeraldís The Great Gatsby (of which I believe Winter Dreams is an
early version) as a Romantic text whose romance consists of a desire for the
real (the embodiment of the idea). The next stages in my analysis are: the texts
of Literary Realism in which desire itself becomes the real, and Postmodern
texts in which there is a definitive absence of the desire and the real.
Given the above parameters, it almost seems that I am
arguing for Winter Dreams and a postmodern text. I suppose I could make this
argument (there seems to be ample evidence to support it), or I could opt for
consistency and argue for Winter Dreams as strictly Romantic in my context (a
desire for the real NOT beyond the desire loss cycle). Perhaps that would be
more comparable to the goals of this class. Nevertheless, even in fixing this
limitation, it seems that I would still be taking Fitzgeraldís Romance beyond
(or to the pinnacle of) the traditional Romance in that rather than dealing with
the loss of tangible objects (people, places, or things), he is dealing with the
loss of the idea.
What do you think?
I'm so glad you liked the Winter
Dreams symphony. Around your age I rushed out and bought it after watching the
Ken Russell movie, the Music Lovers (a.k.a. Tchaikovsky and the Music Lovers),
which I dunno whether to recommend or not. The opening 5 minutes were great, but
then the rest was fairly sordid, reminding the audience repeatedly that the
greatest non-Germanic composer's life was anything but Romantic.
About FSF's "Winter
Dreams," you're the selection respondent, so please consider including
something about the story being a warmup for Gatsby, as most of the other
students will know the novel.
Without insisting on any of the
periodization schemes too strictly, it may be that "Winter Dreams," as
a Modernist text, is both Romantic and Postmodern. That is, it retains a pale
imprint of past Romantic efflorescences (woman as nature, youth) while
anticipating the postmodern revisions of the desire cycle (or is it the desire
object)? Maybe this is too glib, as I'm not quite able to conceptualize and thus
grapple with the revisions you're considering, but glibness has its attractions,
so use it as far as you like.
See you tomorrow. Whitman's
"A child went forth" may be relevant to the desire cycle--jump in if
5 October 2000
Hi Dr. White,
Here's an attempt at an essay proposal. Can it work?
Possible title: Beyond the Dream/ Beyond the Romance of
The idea would be to look at the idea of the American
Dream of individual striving, new growth/ development in a new land, new avenues
to be explored, new structures etc. The romantic spirit of new world people in a
new world and how the literature presents same. I would seek to explore desire
and loss as intrinsic features of romanticism, look at instances where the
desire of some has the effect of marginalizing the dreams of others. Explore the
plight of the dispossessed in the American context; those on the fringes of the
dream eg. the American Indians and the African Americans.
Works to consider might be those of Cooper, Apess,
Rowlandson, McKay, Hughes and possibly Wheatley.
6 October 2000
Your paper has a good impulse
and initial focus, so follow these out. I'm particularly struck by your
suggestion that desire by some impinges on the desire or dreams of others. In
the Minority Literature seminar we often observe how the American Dream of the
dominant culture becomes an "American Nightmare" for minority
cultures. Yet the Dream-Romance narrative is so compelling that at least in some
cases the marginalized people adopt aspects of it, become individuall empowered
by it, etc. Probably 2 or 3 authors is plenty for a paper of this kind. The
choices you make for authors may determine your content considerably. Feel free
to continue to check in with me as you proceed. One further note: since the
content is somewhat more cultural than literary, you may want to compensate
somewhat by brining forward some literary terms such as narrative, romance,
etc., or using some techniques peculiar to literary study, such as juxtaposing
comparable elements such as scenes or characters from different texts.
October 3, 2000
Romance - As one of many closet romance readers, I find
myself constantly defending my choices of reading materials. I am a
well-educated adult seeking a Master's degree in literature and yet my idea of
an indulgent relaxing evening revolves around some solitude, a bubble bath,
candles, and the latest Nora Roberts book. I know, I know - it's trash - hardly
worth the paper it's written on. But is it really? This is what I have heard but
as I broaden my intellectual horizons, I keep returning to them. There must be
I took Love in Western Literature with Gretchen and I was
drawn to Aristophanesí depiction of the androgyn. The argument that men and
women were actually two halves of a whole that sustained each other until death
seemed to be carried throughout European literature. Tristan, "Romeo
and Juliet", Wuthering Heights, Women in Love are all
examples of this blinding, doomed love.
But, with American Romanticism, I don't see this at all.
In fact, the theme of individualism seems to apply to women as well as men and
Romance begins to cross boundaries of race, and experience -- with more of an
emphasis on "happy ever after" and less emphasis on "I canít
live without you." Romance is alive and well in many different forms but
the audience seems to be more and more often, women.
Romances instruct, much like Charlotte's story.
They comfort, as in the domestic romances which let women know that they
weren't by themselves in their lonely frontier existence. They challenge,
as in The Last of the Mohicans. Cora is an intelligent, quick-thinking,
kind woman who approaches danger and difficulty with bravery. I'm not sure how
Fanny Fern or Annie Dillard's writings fit in but I'm interested in finding out.
The romance genre has literally exploded over the last 15-20 years.
Romance writers are churning out books at an amazing rate. Iíve read a lot of
them and Iíve thrown away my share. Iíve also wept over them, passed them to
my friends, and kept a collection of my favorites. I see patterns of Romanticism
in this modern popular brand of literature.
Yes, they are formulaic. Yes, there is always a tall, dark and handsome
guy or some variation. Yes, they usually end with a Ďhappy ever afterí
ending but they instruct, they comfort, they challenge, and probably some other
things that I havenít actually thought through. If Poe is a catalog of
Romanticism, then the modern romance novel is an encyclopedia. I hope to show
that American Romanticism is still evident in Romance novels near the turn of
the 21st century.
What do you think? I know this reads kind of like stream of consciousness
Ė probably because it is! And yes, I know Iím long winded. Can I do
something with this? I think modern romances support the Romantic idea of the
individual in a unique way. Where do I go from here?
4 October 2000
It's a large but worthy topic,
so start some research and see what you can manage in a paper of our assigned
length. My main questions from your proposal rise in its third paragraph. The
opening about individualism as opposed to love is very striking, and could form
the core of your investigation. But after the dash you say the opposite of what
I expected from before the dash.
I'll recommend two important
studies of the subject. Janice Radway's Reading the Romance: Women,
Patriarchy, and Popular Literature (UNC Press, 1984, 1991) is a terrific
survey of romance readers, and it usefully summarizes some standard plots and
appeals of the genre. I've also recommended this to Stacey Burleson in our
class, who's considering the topic of historical romances.
UHCL library may or may not have
a copy, so check soon and use interlibrary loan as necessary, or I have a
precious copy for brief loans.
Another, older major study whose
thesis conforms to the opening of paragraph 3 is Leslie Fiedler's Love and
Death in the American Novel, which confirms that there's little happily ever
after. He mainly traces the artistic triumphs of the male gothic and outdoor
forms of the American novel in contrast to the sentimental romance, which is
consigned chiefly to popular literature. Some efforts have been made to redeem
the literary merits of the popular sentimental romance, so you don't need to
accept all of Fiedler's conclusions, but he does represent the ways the
"canon" of authors like Twain, Poe, Cooper, etc. triumphed in the
academy even while selling less in the marketplace than the popular romances.
Also read the introduction to
Fanny Fern's Ruth Hall for Hawthorne's take on this subject, which
launches the "trash" metaphor.
Always more to say, but I'll
wait for more from you. So far, much potential.
Dear Dr. White,
I am having trouble coming up with a concrete essay topic,
but I know
the women writers we have read so far this semester appeal
to me. I
might compare the similarities of these authors on some
detail of their
style. Maybe, that they seem to channel their writing
areas like poetry, letters, and journals. I know this is a
so far, but it seems like an interesting study. I welcome
suggestions, as they are always helpful.
I kept looking your way today
because I was trying to think of something I'd thought of that would help with
your essay, but couldn't come up with it. When I got back to my office, I saw
it--I'd pulled a book for you but forgot to haul it on the TV truck. I'd meant
to show you the _Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States_ as a
possible source to consult. Besides articles on all our major women writers from
the course, it has entries on such topics as "Diaries and Journals,"
"Letters," and "Poetry," along with several other genres and
historic movements. The UHCL library has a copy in the reference section (PS),
or you can borrow mine if you catch me. One possible angle for the subject would
be how women's writing shifted from private genres to published genres.
I'll reserve further comment
till I hear again from you. G'day--