Voting and Democracy in US History, Literature, and Culture

Voting occupies a paradoxical position in the United States. The franchise is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for democracy. And yet, getting to and maintaining this minimal condition has been--and remains--an ongoing struggle in the United States. Focusing on the long nineteenth century in particular, but with regular forward glances, we'll deploy an interdisciplinary American Studies approach to explore the vicissitudes of voting through a mix of historical, literary/cultural, legal, and theoretical materials. Featured texts may include the Constitution; excerpts from African American political fiction (e.g., Frances E. W. Harper's Iola Leroy, Charles W. Chesnutt's The Marrow of Tradition); and the writings of racist white writers (e.g., Thomas Dixon's The Clansman), whose legacy unfortunately continues to haunt our world. We'll attend as well to our present and collective future by looking at recent bi-partisan efforts that recommend, among other things, reforms to the franchise as a way to repair our democratic culture (e.g., Our Common Purpose).