ENAM 3750

Course Name: 
Sex and Sentiment

Focuses on the rise of sentimental novels and sensational novels between the American Revolution and the Civil War. "Do's and Don'ts for the Unmarried Woman" would be a fitting subtitle for many of the best-selling novels of nineteenth-century America.  The texts we study in this course point out the paths that lead to Christian virtue, matrimony, and a happy home, and warn against the transgressions—especially sex out of wedlock—that lead to prostitution and the grave.  Why do these novels matter now, when sexual morals have changed so much? Of course, they tell us something about the limitations on women's lives in an earlier period.  But they also have a lot to say about what it means, more generally, to be a human being with some freedom of choice. They ask how we know when to act on our desires, and when to refrain; they wonder how much willpower we need to get by; they ask how to make a good life when cast out in the wide, wide world. Nineteenth-century stories of women's lives are about more than what women should do with their virginity; they are about what anyone should do with his or her free will. Course texts may include tales of sentiment like Catharine Maria Sedgwick's A New-England Tale and Maria Susanna Cummins' The Lamplighter; and narratives of scandal, sex, and seduction like Susanna Rowson's Charlotte Temple, George Thompson's City Crimes, and William Wells Brown's Clotel.

Emily Ogden