English 573: Scientific Americans: Theories of Science in American Fiction, 1880-1940

Spring 2012

Tuesdays 2:50-5:30 p.m., Avery 102

Dr. Donna M. Campbell
357 Avery Hall, 335-4831
Email (best way to reach me): campbelld@wsu.edu
Office Hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays 1:25-2:30
Virtual Office Hours via Skype or Google chat: dmcampbellwsu

Course blog: http://scientificamericans.blogspot.com
Readings wiki: http://engl573.pbworks.com (Backup site: http://www.wsu.edu/~campbelld/engl573/science/index.html; password and username have been emailed to you.)

Required Texts

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. Tender is the Night. Scribner, 1995. 5978-0684801544
Frederic, Harold. The Damnation of Theron Ware. Modern Library, 2002. 978-0375760358.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wall-Paper, Herland, and Selected Writings. Penguin,2009. 978-0143105855.
Hopkins, Pauline. Of One Blood. Washington Square, 2004. 978-0743467698.
Twain, Mark. Huck Finn; Pudd'nhead Wilson; No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger; and Other Writings. Library of America, 2000. 978-1883011888.
James, Henry. The Turn of the Screw & In the Cage. Modern Library, 2001. 978-0375757402.
Lewis, David Levering, ed.Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader. Penguin, 1995. 978-0140170368.
Schuyler, George. Black No More. Dover2011978-0486480404.
Wharton, Edith. The Fruit of the Tree. Northeastern UP, 2000. 978-1555534509.
Wharton, Edith. Twilight Sleep. Scribner, 1995. 978-0684839646.

Course Description

This seminar explores the ways in which American authors from 1880-1940 incorporated the scientific theories of their times into novels, short stories, and nonfiction journalism. In a post-bellum, post-Darwinian, industrialized, and diverse nation increasingly bent on fulfilling its imperial aspirations and its dreams of global prominence, Americans sought to ground their sense of the country’s exceptional destiny less in John Winthrop’s religious and political vision of a “city upon a hill” than in the positivistic promises of scientific empiricism. Because it fit well with contemporary beliefs about the independent spirit, practical nature, and inventiveness of Americans, the paradigm of applied science promised to provide solutions both for real problems that could be solved, such as the contamination in packing plants exposed in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, and for socially constructed problems that reflected the anxieties of the time, as in novels promoting so-called “racial science,” eugenics, and theories of criminality and degeneration. To read these works today is to see theories lacking a valid empirical basis, such as those of racial hierarchies, juxtaposed with scientifically verifiable theories: for example, Pudd’nhead Wilson treats palmistry and the then-new science of fingerprinting as equally valid predictors of identity.

In this seminar, we will read primary texts in the framework of the scientific discourses that produced them. The course is divided into five areas in which theories of science, including those of emerging social sciences such as anthropology, sociology, and psychology, informed fiction: (1) Medicine, Sexuality, Psychology, and Health; (2) Race, Ethnicity, and Identity;  (3) Technology and Communication; (4) Evolution, Eugenics, Criminality, and Addiction; and (5) Social Experiments: Utopian Freedom and Industrial Regimentation.  

In addition to Twain, the of readings includes primary texts by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, S. Weir Mitchell, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, Harold Frederic, Jack London, W. E. B. DuBois, Edith Wharton, George Schuyler,and Angelina Weld Grimke.Theoretical and critical texts will include work by Priscilla Wald, Laura Otis, Jane Thrailkill, Lisa Gitelman, Susan Mizruchi, Cynthia Davis, and Brad Evans, among others. We will also read student-selected texts from periodicals of the era that will help to place the fictional presentations of science in perspective.

Some full-length texts in the public domain are available (linked below) from Google Books.
Secondary source readings will be linked on a separate wiki at http://engl573,pbworks.com.
A bibliography of suggested resources will be updated throughout the course, and there is a course blog, http://scientificamericans.blogspot.com, /for announcements.



Reading Writing and Secondary Readings







Medicine, Sexuality, and Health: American Nervousness
S. Weir Mitchell, "The Case of George Dedlow"
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, "The Yellow Wallpaper" and "Why I Wrote 'The Yellow Wallpaper'"
George Beard, American Nervousness
S. Weir Mitchell, Chapters 3 & 4 ("Seclusion" and "Rest" from Fat and Blood (Google Books)





"Race," Ethnicity, and Identity
Presentation: Owen
Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson
Twain, "No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger"

Wonham, Current, Waggoner



Hopkins, Of One Blood
Presentation: Erika

Nurhussein, Bergman, Binet

Proposal for Paper 1 due by email to campbelld@wsu.edu



Frederic, The Damnation of Theron Ware
Presentation: Dave

Bramen, Perrin, Urbanczyk



Technology and the Body

James,"In the Cage" and The Turn of the Screw

Menke, Soltysik, Thurschwell



Evolution/Devolution, Sexuality, and Eugenics
Presentation: Dave

Frank Norris, “A Case for Lombroso,” “Lauth,” "A Reversion to Type" (can be found here in Google books or in The Apprenticeship Writings of Frank Norris in the library; 2 copies available);
Chapter 16 from Vandover and the Brute
Jack London, Before Adam
Max Nordau,"Diagnosis," pp. 15-34 34 from Degeneration

Bender, Pizer

Paper 1 due



Wharton, The Fruit of the Tree


Garden, Kassanoff



Presentation: Erika

Thurman, from The Blacker the Berry
Grimke, from The Closing Door
Hughes,"Luani of the Jungles" and "Father and Son" from The Ways of White Folks
Fisher, from The Walls of Jericho
Larsen, from Quicksand

Evans, Macharia, Jarraway


10 3/13 Spring break  



Presentation: Owen

Schuyler, Black No More
Schuyler, "The Negro Art Hokum"
Du Bois, "Criteria of Negro Art"

Proposal for Paper 2 due by email to campbelld@wsu.edu




Wharton, Twilight Sleep



Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night




Paper 2 workshop

Bring a typed copy of Paper 2 to class



Professional development workshop: sending abstracts and articles to conferences and journals

Paper 2 due
Send conference version to respondent



In-class Conference  

Course Requirements

Attendance and Participation. Attendance and good class participation are essential.

Papers and Presentations

Assignments are all geared toward eventual presentation or publication, and they will y include the following: two brief oral presentations; minor presentations of critical material; a conference-length paper; an article-length paper (that may be on the same subject); a conference abstract based on the longer paper; and, for our “in-class conference” at the end, an oral response to another person’s paper.

  • Papers. You’ll write two papers in this course, the first a conference-length (8-10 pages) treatment of a topic, and the second an extended paper (15-25 pages; page limits are flexible) suitable for submitting to the journal of your choice or for using as the basis of a dissertation chapter.
  • Presentations. Each member of the class will give two brief presentations (20 minutes) at one point during the semester. See the information below.
  • Of these projects (two brief presentation and two papers), at least one must be on a subject that you don't write about: for example, you might choose to rework your first paper into the extended paper, or you may wish to use your one of the presentations and your first paper for the basis of that second paper. All four projects cannot be on the same subject, however.
  • Proposals and Responses. Since one of your professional responsibilities as scholars will be to submit proposals to conference, you’ll prepare a 100-200 word proposal for each of the papers you will write in this class. These will receive comments but not grades. You’ll also prepare a response to a classmate’s paper during the last two weeks of class, which you will then deliver as part of the conference-style presentations at the end of the course.

    Late Papers and Extensions. Late papers are penalized at the rate of one letter grade (10 points) per class day late; a paper that would have received a "B" on the due date will receive a "C" if handed in on the next class day. Papers turned in after 4 class meetings will receive a 50/100 toward your class grade.

    You have one automatic extension in this class, which means that your paper will be due on the next class day (in our case,a week).You must request the extension ahead of time, and you should save it for a true emergency, since no other extensions will be granted for illness, funerals, weddings, or any other reason.

    Presentations and Article Critiques

    Article Critiques. In addition to reading primary texts, we'll be reading some classic but mostly current criticism on the works so that you'll have a good sense of what approaches are being published now. We'll read all the articles, of course, but each week three or four people will be responsible for preparing a brief summary (5 minutes) and critique (no more than the front of 1 page) of one article each. You'll bring copies for your classmates so that they'll have a record.

    These need not be terribly formal; their purpose is to allow the "article expert" to raise questions and discussion points about his or her article rather than do a formal presentation of it. You'll all take turns being an "article expert," but you won't need to do this every week; you'll be the "article expert" about four times during the course of the semester.

    Here's what should be included.

    1. Brief summary of the article (can be in point form).
    2. Your thoughts on the article. What was its main contribution to understanding the work? Did it relate to other work in the field (If you know this)? Did it have any weaknesses?
    3. At least one question either that you had about the the article or that the article inspired you to put to the class.

    Remember these should be brief: No more than 5 minutes, and no more than the front of a page.

    Presentations. Each member of the class will give two 20-minute presentations at various points during the semester. The focus should be on critical contexts surrounding the author, although you may also want to touch on some biographical details. Other possibilities include posing ideas or questions for the class to consider; giving a new interpretation of the work; or analyzing and critiquing current critical perspectives from the perspective of earlier interpretations. You will need to provide a brief (1-2 pages) handout for the class, preferably one that includes the following:

  • a short annotated bibliography of your sources.
  • an outline.
  • relevant quotations or information from your sources.
  • In-Class Conference. During the last week of class, you'll present a conference-length version of your second paper to the rest of the class. The presentations at the end of the course will be based on the longer paper, which you’ll need to edit down to conference length.

    Plagiarism Policy. Plagiarism is the unacknowledged use of someone else's words or ideas. This definition includes not only deliberately handing in someone else's work as your own but failing to cite your sources, including Web pages and Internet sources. Penalties for plagiarism range from an F on the paper to failing the course. If you turn in a plagiarized paper, at a minimum you will receive a grade of F (0 points). You will not be allowed to rewrite the paper, and the incident must be reported to the Office of Student Conduct.

    WSU Statement on Academic Integrity. As an institution of higher education, Washington State University is committed to principles of truth and academic honesty. All members of the University community share the responsibility for maintaining and supporting these principles. When a student enrolls in Washington State University, the student assumes an obligation to pursue academic endeavors in a manner consistent with the standards of academic integrity adopted by the University. To maintain the academic integrity of the community, the University cannot tolerate acts of academic dishonesty including any forms of cheating, plagiarism, or fabrication. Washington State University reserves the right and the power to discipline or to exclude students who engage in academic dishonesty.

    WSU Statement on Disabilities. Reasonable accommodations are available for students with a documented disability. If you have a disability and may need accommodations to fully participate in this class, please visit the Disability Resource Center (DRC). All accommodations MUST be approved through the DRC (Washington Building, Room 217). Please stop by or call 509-335-3417 to make an appointment with a disability specialist.

    Approximate weights for grades:
    Paper 1, 20%
    Presentations, 20%
    Paper 2, 40%;
    Attendance and Participation (including proposals, "article expert" commentary, and short written responses to papers), 20%