David Langston [email protected]

Syllabus Concord Visions / Berkshire Perspectives

Feigenbaum Center 121 – 1:00 p.m. June, 2019

Course Overview: Writers from in mid-19th-century disagreed profoundly about human character, about the basis for ethical action, and about the prospects for a nation facing deepening divisions that would soon develop into civil war. This brief course will examine texts that expose some dimensions and consequences of that quarrel. The organizing motif for the course is to imagine a debate between the Transcendentalists of Concord led by and the "tragic" writers from western Massachusetts, among whom are Nathaniel Hawthorne, Emily Dickinson and . Course texts will draw chiefly on the of Emerson, the fiction of Hawthorne and the poems of Dickinson.

Procedure: Each session will proceed with a mixture of lecture and discussion, and we will begin each day by inviting participants to identify issues, questions, and topics they have formulated in their study; those items will serve as an informal framework for discussion.

Course Texts: The readings for each session are listed in descending order of importance. So -- if you are pressed for time, the ones at the top of each day's readings are more crucial for the themes and issues for that day. Some people will naturally ask why bother to list more texts than can be reasonably prepared for discussion. The answer is that I have learned in other OLLI courses that participants often prefer to see a range of texts to sample when they identify a topic or issue to pursue further. But do not worry that the class sessions will glide past difficult questions in order to offer comments on each text.

While the course texts are readily available in many editions and online sites, the editions are not equally reliable. Through the OLLI bulletins, I have recommended the Norton Critical editions of works by Emerson and Hawthorne because they are reasonably priced and well-edited. The Little-Brown edition of Dickinson's poems compiled by Thomas Johnson is a reliable and easily available edition; Johnson's edition of the "complete poems" has been issued for Amazon's Kindle and in an inexpensive reprint. For those who foresee further scholarship with these poems, the 1998 Harvard edition reproduces ED's anomalous spelling and punctuation. Web sites where you can find the course texts: The Transcendentalists (note particularly the study text for Nature: .tamu.edu/emerson Nathaniel Hawthorne: www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/author/28 Emily Dickinson (the complete Little-Brown edition of 1960): library.globalchalet.net/Authors/Poetry%20Books%20Collection/ Emily%20Dickinson%20The%20Complete%20Poems%20of%20 Emily%20Dickinson%20%201960.pdf

Sequence of readings:

June 5: Ralph Waldo Emerson “To Ellen” (poem) Nature (1836), especially sections 1-4 "Self-Reliance" "The Poet" "Circles" "The American Scholar" (additonal context)

June 12: Nathaniel Hawthorne "Sights from a Steeple" "" "My Kinsman, Major Molineaux" "The Birthmark"

June 19: Nathaniel Hawthorne Rappaccini's Daughter" , Chaps. 1-13, 17-19, 24 "The Minister's Black Veil" ""

June 26: Emily Dickinson The selection and sequence for studying Dickinson's poems will be distributed in a separate document.