SYLLABUS: "Poetics of Conversion"
English 583. 
Instructor. Susan Howe
Room 309
T. 3:30-5:50

We will begin by examining the literature of Puritan New England. In 17th century American literature (particularly in the Massachusetts
 Bay Colony) there can be found a number of transgressive or marginal figures (converts, heretics, captives, slaves, itinerant preachers,
 native Americans, and witches). Here we can trace an anxiety between the spoken and the written, innocence and experience, 
authenticity and artifice. We will explore a variety of genres with a particular concentration on 17th and 18th century conversion 
narratives. We will then concentrate on the powerful subliminal influence (sometimes not so subliminal) these earlier issues and texts 
exert on certain 19th and 20th century North American writers. We will choose from among the following; Thomas Shepard, Mary 
Rowlandson, Hannah Dustan (via Mather and Thoreau), Mercy Short (Cotton Mather), Jonathan Edwards, Phyllis Wheatley, Charles 
Brockden Brown, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, Frederick Douglass, Charles 
Sanders Peirce, Hart Crane, Marianne Moore, and Wallace Stevens.  We will enter our discussions via: Nancy Ruttenburg's 
Democratic Personality: Popular Voice and the Trial of American Authorship. Ruttenburg will visit the seminar. Susan Stewart 
and Lyn Hejinian will give readings and lectures. Both are contemporary poets and scholars whose writing continues to explore the 
relations between lyric and history. 
	What remains when written thought enters into a political economy of values? What does it mean be a visionary poet--is there such
 a thing? How does editing translate or control a visionary work? Does it?

Each session will consist of a relatively short talk on the assigned reading for that week, an oral report and, most importantly, group 
discussion of the reading. There will be two visiting lecturers and I will also ocassionally use slides. 

[Available at "Makin Copies" UB Commons.]
A Xerox packet containing  much of the early reading and other material (Shepard, Rowlandson, Mather, Edwards, Peirce, Moore, 
Reinhardt etc.).
[Available at Talking Leaves:]
Brockden Brown, Charles. Wieland and Memoirs of Carwin the Biloquist. (Penguin).
Crane, Hart. Collected Poems and Prose. 
Dickinson, Emily. The Master Letters (Ralph Franklin, ed.)
Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass an American Slave; written by himself.  (Penguin). 
Emerson, Ralph Waldo. "The Poet," "Experience," and "Nature," from Essays:Second Series.  
Ruttenburg, Nancy. Democratic Personality; Popular Voice and the Trial of American Authorship. 

Cavell, Stanley. The Senses of Walden.
____________  This New yet Unapproachable America.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo.  Nature. (1836).
H.D. The Gift. (Texas University Press edition). 
Hall, David. The Antinomian Controversy 1636-1638;  A Documentary History. 
Hejinian, Lyn. The Cold of Poetry.
___________    My Life.
Howe, Susan. The Birth-mark: unsettling the wilderness in american literary history. 
___________    Pierce-Arrow. 
Grossman, Allen. The Long Schoolroom: Lessons in the Bitter Logic of the Poetic Principle. 
Lang, Amy Schrager. Prophetic Woman: Anne Hutchinson and the Problem of Dissent in the Literature of New England. 
New, Elisa. The Line's Eye: Poetic Experience, American Sight. 
Olson, Charles. Call Me Ishmael. 
Stewart, Susan. On Longing.
___________ Crimes of Writing. 
___________  The Forest.
Stevens, Wallace. The Necessary Angel. 
Williams, William Carlos. In The American Grain. 

Special attention should be paid to:
_____________The Manuscript Books of Emily Dickinson  ed., Ralph Franklin.  
_____________The Letters of Emily Dickinson, vols 1-3, eds., Johnson and Ward.
_____________The Poems of Emily Dickinson; ed., Ralph Franklin. 
Werner, Marta.  Emily Dickinson's Open Folios; Scenes of Reading, Surfaces of Writing. 
Tracy, Joseph. The Great Awakening. A History of the Revival of Religion in the time of Edwards and Whitfield (1842) an 
invaluable source of information and anecdote. 

Most recommended reading on the schedule has been placed on reserve at the library or can be found in the Silverman Room for 

One  brief (10 min.) oral report or presentation to be worked out at our first meeting.
A final paper, fifteen -twenty double-spaced pages in length, due on the last day of class. 


First Meeting (Sept 1)
Introduction. Overview. Intentions for the semester etc.

Second Meeting  (Sept 7)
Anne Hutchinson and the Antinomian Controversy.

Jon Butler. Ch 1 "The European Religious Heritage," in Awash In A Sea Of Faith..
David Hall. Introduction to The Antinomian Controversy, 1636-1638:A Documentary History and Chs 9 &10 "The Examination 
and Report of the Trial." Amy Schrager Lang. Introduction and Ch. 2 "Disturber in Israel." in Prophetic Woman: Anne Hutchinson and 
the Problem of Dissent in the Literature of New England.

Suggested reading:
Ann Kibbey. Ch. 5  "The Pequot War and the antinomian controversy," in The Interpretation of Material Shapes in Puritanism.  
Susan Howe. Introduction to The Birth-mark:unsettling the wilderness in American literary history. 
Ross J. Pudaloff. "Sign and Subject in Massachusetts Bay. " Semiotica, 54:1 (1985), 147-163.  (xerox copy at Silverman room). 
Teresa Toulouse. Ch 1  "John Cotton and the Shaping of Election " in  The Art of Prophesying: New England Sermons and the 
Shaping of Belief.

Third Meeting  (Sept 14)
Captivity Narratives and Tales of  Possession. 

Mary Rowlandson, Hannah Swarton, Hannah Dustan, Mercy Short. Cotton Mather (material included in Packet). 
Nancy Ruttenburg. Ch.1 "The Devil in the Damsel, Spectral Evidence" and Ch. 2 "Spectacular Conversion," in Democratic 
Personality: Popular Voice and the Trial of American Authorship.
Phyllis Wheatley. "On Being Brought from Africa to America."
Jon Butler. Ch 3 "Magic and the Occult," and Ch 5 "Slavery and the African Spiritual Holocaust," in Awash In A Sea Of Faith. 

Suggested reading: 
Kenneth Silverman.The Life and Times of Cotton Mather, chapters on Mercy Short and the witchcraft persecutions. 
Mitchell R. Breitweiser. American Puritanism and the Defense of Mourning. 
John Demos. Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of New England. 
Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum. The Salem Witchcraft Papers. 
Carol Karlsen. The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England. 

(Sept 21 Monday schedule so no class; but there is reading!)
Conversion. Be sure you have read the following before Nancy Ruttenburg's visit even though we wont be meeting this 
week. We will discuss this material during the sixth meeting. 

Patricia Caldwell.The Puritan Conversion Narrative: The Beginnings of American Expression, Origins. (Xerox copy in Silverman).
Thomas Shepard. Conversion Narratives in packet and on reserve in library.
Jonathan Edwards.The Great Awakening-- "Narratives of Surprising Conversions" xerox in Silverman) also Sarah Edwards narrative
of her conversion in packet.
Ruttenburg.  Ch 2 "Spectacular Conversion: George Whitfield and the Rise of Democratic Personality," Ch 3 "The Advent of the 
Individual and the Spectral Self" in Democratic Personality.
Hart Crane. "Voyages." 

Suggested Reading:  
Janice Knight, chs 7 and 8 in Orthodoxies in Massachusetts: Rereading American Puritanism. 
Susan Howe, "Incloser" in The Birth-mark. 
Perry Miller, Ch 7 "The Rhetoric of Sensation' in Errand into the Wilderness." (packet).
Susan Juster. Ch 2 "All Things Become New: The Conversion Experience," in Disorderly Women: Sexual Politics & Evangelicism in 
Revolutionary New England. 

Fourth Meeting (Sept 28)
Susan Stewart lecture. [Reading 29th]

Susan Stewart. "Preface to a Lyric History," in The Uses of Literary History, Duke U P, 1995. "Lyric Possession,"in Critical Inquiry, 
Autumn 1995, "Letter on Sound" in Close Listening:Poetry and the Performed Word  1998,  xerox copies on reserve in Silverman
___________ The Forest (U of Chicago Press, 1995)
___________ Recent poems in APR summer  1999 (issue at Lockwood or copy in Silverman.)   
Marianne Moore. "Feeling and Precision," "Abraham Lincoln and the Art of the Word" in The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore, 
in packet and on reserve.
Allen Grossman. "Hart Crane and Poetry: A Consideration of Crane's Intense Poetics with Reference to 'The Return.'" in The Long 
Schoolroom. (xerox copy at Silverman). 
Tacita Dean.  Catalogue from Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennyslvania, PA. (On reserve at Silverman.) 

Fifth Meeting.(Oct 5) 
Nancy Ruttenburg. Paper. "The Memoirs of Carwin; A Theological Political Reading." 

Phyllis Wheatley. "On the Death of the Rev. Mr. George Whitfield, 1770."
Charles Brockden Brown, Wieland and Memoirs of Carwin the Biloquist
Jay Fliegelman, Introduction to Penguin edition of same. 
(Ruttenburg asks you in your reading to focus on the status of Carwin's voice especially in "MC" note its genesis, its attributes, its role 
in the plot and its impact on genre (it suspends the narrative thus  preventing it from developing into a novel, it can only be a fragment 
that refers back to the novel Wieland which refers forward to it which refers back etc. & etc.).  

Suggested Reading:
Harry S. Stout, George Whitfield and the Rise of Modern Evangelicism. 
Nancy Ruttenburg, ch 4 "The Voice of the People, the Voice of the Specter" and part 1, Ch 5 "The Crisis of American Character" in  
Democratic Personality
Jon Butler, ch 6 "The Plural Origins of American Revivalism," in Awash in a Sea of Faith. 

Sixth Meeting (Oct 12)
Conversion.  We will discuss reading done during the week of Sept. 21st. 

Seventh Meeting ( Oct 19)

Perry Miller. "The Rhetoric of Sensation," and Edwards "Notes on the Mind" in packet.
Jonathan Edwards. "Personal Narrative," and other Edwards material in packet.
Jonathan Edwards. "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." (xerox copy in Silverman and copy on reserve. American Sermons; 
The Pilgrims to Martin Luther King Jr. (American Library edition, 1999).
Rafia Zafar. Ch 2 "Capturing the Captivity; African Americans Among the Puritans,". from We Wear the Mask; African Americans 
Write American Literature 1760-1780." (Xerox copy at Silverman).

Suggested Reading:
John Freccero. Ch 5  "Infernal Irony" and  Ch 7 "The Significance of Terza Rima"  in Dante and the Poetics of Conversion. The 
Gates of Hell. 
Perry Miller, Jonathan Edwards. 

Eighth Meeting (Oct  26)
"What went ye out in the wilderness to see."

Thoreau's reading of Dustan's narrative in Thursday chapter of A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. I will hand out 
Xeroxes in advance for this class.. 
Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and American Slave; written by himself.
Robert B. Stepto, Behind the Veil , ch.1 "I Rose and Found My Voice: Narration, Authentication, and Authorial Control in Four Slave 
Narratives." xerox copy in Silverman. 
Wallace Stevens. "Dutch Graves in Bucks County." "The River of Rivers in Connecticut." 

Suggested Reading: 
Captain John Underhill, " Newes from America," xerox copy Silverman,
Samuel Danforth, "A Brief Recognition of New Englands Errand into the wilderness." in American Sermons. 
"What to the Slave is the Fourth of July," in The Oxford Frederick Douglass Reader. 
William Cronon, Changes In The Land: Indians, Colonies, and the Ecology of New England..
Stanley Cavell, The Senses of Walden.
Eliza New, ch 1 "Range-Finding." in The Line's Eye, Poetic Experience,  American Sight.
Lawrence Buell, The Environmental Imagination. 

Ninth Meeting. (Nov 2)
Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Emerson. "The Poet," "Experience," "Nature."  
"Quotation and Originality" (xerox copy at Silverman). 
Perry Miller. Ch 8 "From Edwards to Emerson" in Errand into the Wilderness. 
Wallace Stevens. "To an Old Philosopher in Rome." 

Suggested Reading: 
Stanley Cavell, This New Yet Unapproachable America: Lectures after Emerson after Wittgenstein.
Henry James. "Ralph Waldo Emerson," --(two reviews--) "The Correspondence of Thomas Carlyle and Ralph Waldo Emerson," and 
"A Memoir of Ralph Waldo Emerson, by James Cabot Lowell," (xerox copy in Silverman)
George Santayana.  "The Genteel Tradition in American Philosophy." (Xerox in Silverman).
Joseph N. Ridell.  Ch 2 "Emerson and the 'American Signature" in Purloined Letters; Originality and Repetition in American 
Literature.  (Xerox in Silverman).

Tenth meeting. (Nov 9) I am away. 
Anti-conversion narratives

Nathaniel Hawthorne. "Young Goodman Brown 
Herman Melville. "Bartleby the Scrivener."

Go, if possible, to Charles Bernstein's seminar Thursday the 11th at 12:30. Lyn Hejinian will be present. 
Lyn Hejinian. The Cold of Poetry
__________ My Life.
(Handouts of her new essays xerox copies available through Poetics Program.) 

Eleventh Meeting. (Nov 16)
Emily Dickinson

"The Master Letters," and assigned poems from early and late fascicles. 
Marianne Moore-- "Emily Dickinson," in Complete Prose of MM
Hart Crane, "Quaker Hill," and "To Emily Dickinson." 

Suggested Reading: 
Consult bibliography in Silverman. 
Sharon Cameron, Choosing not Choosing. 
_____________  Lyric Time. 
Martha Nell Smith, Rowing in Eden. 
Susan Howe, My Emily Dickinson. 
Eliza New,  Ch 3 "Thoreau, Dickinson, and Mooore," in The Line's Eye.

Twelfth Meeting. (Nov 23) 

Consult Marta Werner's new electronic edition of late fragments and poems. Web address to be announced. Werner will visit the 
seminar to discuss this edition funded by University of Michigan Press.
Yvonne Schwemer-Scheddin. "From Notebook to hyperbook" in EYE. (Xerox copy in Silverman Room).
Marta, Werner. Emily Dickinson's Open Folios; Scenes of Reading, Surfaces of Writing.

Thirteenth Meeting. (Nov 30) 
Charles Sanders Peirce

Reading to be announced.
Charles Sanders Peirce. Exerpts from Pragmaticism as a Principle and Method in packet,
________"Letters to Lady Welby" Xerox copy in Silverman and on reserve.
Ad Reinhardt material in packet.

Suggested Reading:
Richard Poirier. Poetry and Pragmaticism. 
Don D. Roberts. The Existential Graphs of Charles S. Peirce. 

 Fourteenth  Meeting. (Dec 7)
"Reflective Conversion of all things" Hart Crane and Marianne Moore.

Allen Grossman. "Hart Crane and Poetry: A Consideration of Crane's Intense Poetics with Reference to 'The Return.'" in The Long 
Schoolroom. (xerox copy at Silverman). 
Elisa New. Ch 6 "Work, Works, Working:Edwards, Moore, and Frost," in The Line's Eye.
Other Reading material to be announced.
Suggested Reading:
The Letters of Hart  Crane.
The Collected Prose of Marianne Moore.
William Carlos Williams. In The American Grain. 
Alfred Hanley. Hart Crane's Holy Vision: "White Buildings."


									It is a Euclid of the heart.
                                              						  		 -Marianne Moore

									The imaged Word, it is, that holds
									Hushed willows anchored in its glow.
									It is the unbetrayable reply
									Whose accent no farewell can know.
                                									-Hart Crane

									It is life that one is trying to get at in poetry.
                               									 -Wallace Stevens