Fordham University: Violence in American Literature
Fordham University---English 5848---Violence in American Literature---Spring 2010
Instructor and Collaboratory lead: Glenn Hendler, Fordham University
At least since Richard Slotkin's 1973 American Studies classic Regeneration Through Violence, "violence" has been a keyword in the study of American literature and culture. This course will trace a literary history of violence in 19th and early 20th-century writing, viewing violence primarily as a problem of representation. Is state-sanctioned violence (e.g. war, Indian removal, suppression of slave revolts) represented differently than is non-state or anti-state violence (riots, strikes, lynchings)? Do collective forms of violence raise issues of literary form different from the depiction of individual violence? Is "violence" a sufficiently coherent and capacious category to cover all of these diverse practices?
Early in the semester, I will show you how to sign up for an account here in the Keywords Collaboratory. We will also discuss the structure and purpose of a keyword essay. (We'll get to that explicitly in the third week of the semester when we read the introduction to Keywords for American Cultural Studies). Our collective task this semester will be to write a keyword essay on a term that does not have an entry in that volume: "Violence." As you’ll quickly see, the scope of our collaborative keyword essay is quite different from that of the essays in the book; the book takes as its archive the field of American cultural studies as a whole, while our archive is the body of critical work on the works of literature we're reading in this course, and—secondarily—the subset of 19th-century American literature that we encounter in this course. From early in the semester, everyone should begin collecting and archiving on the collaboratory site important usages of the word “violence.” We need not be picky; include obvious variants like "violent" and "nonviolent" as well. It will be helpful to archive usages of closely related terms as well—to choose one example, "brutality." By the middle of the semester, we will begin the process of writing and revising the essay, a process that I will consider complete at 5pm on Wednesday, May 12. I will give the keyword essay a grade as if it were written by a single student, but I will also give each student a grade based on his or her level and quality of participation in the construction of these keyword essays. The actual grade each student will receive on this assignment will be the average of these two numbers. Do note that the Keywords Collaboratory is a public space, and anyone at all can look at—and even comment on--what we write there (though not just anyone can revise what we have written). Also, if the essay we produce is of a high enough quality, the editors may choose to publish our essay on the site permanently. If you do not wish your name to be attached to such a publication, please let me know by the end of the semester.
This link leads to the collaboratory area where you'll collect and discuss usages of the keyword violence:
Write, edit, and discuss our class keyword essay on violence by clicking on this link.
You can (and are encouraged to) sign each time you post something by using the "signature" widget you'll see at the top of the edit page. It looks like a piece of a handwritten signature, and is next to the horizontal line widget on the far right of the list of widgets.
Instructions for First-Time Users
Students: If you're a student enrolled in this class, you'll have access to edit and create pages. First, you'll need to create an account and email me your user name so I can give you special editing privileges. Please note: You will only be able to modify pages once I have activated your account.
- To create an account, click on the link in the top right-hand corner of this page.
- Submit all the information requested on the registration page. Make sure to remember your user name and password.
- email me your user name so I can activate your account.
- Until I activate your account, you're welcome to experiment with editing pages in the Sandbox. Check out the Help and FAQs pages for tips on how to format pages.
- After I've activated your account, you should sign up for a group by clicking on the discussion tab on this page.
- Add your name, your user name, and your email to the list. Spaces are limited by the number of secondary/critical texts that are coordinated with each novel.
Other Visitors to the Site: If you're not enrolled in this class, you can still read and comment on the work that we're generating throughout the quarter. This will be a work in progress, so please check back for new additions and developments. You're also welcome to email me with any questions or comments about our course.
As soon as you've been approved as a collaboratory participant (and to make sure you have been approved), go into the page linked below. In it you'll find the e-mail addresses of all members of the class, including yours. Open the "edit" tab for the page, change the e-mail address to your actual name, and feel free to add a couple of words afterward. For example, if your name is Jane Doe, you'll change "email@example.com" to Jane Doe, and can add "was here" after your name. Save the page, and you should see a sentence that says "Jane Doe was here." If you can't make this change, you aren't properly signed in or haven't been approved yet. Make sure you're signed in, and if you are, check with me to get yourself approved as a participant.
If you were involved in a collaboratory project in a class in the past, and you remember your username and password, you can continue to use them. Even if so, please do go into the test page and follow the instructions above, just to make sure you're still authorized to use the site.