Mills were established on the falls of rivers and tidal currents of the first permanent British colonies in North America for a variety of purposes and eventually became the location for the early stages of the industrial revolution in the new United States. Despite the history of industrial decline in the Northeast, mills remain central to the imagination of what many communities of New England and the northeast U.S. once were and still are. Starting from the base of contemporary memoir and returning to earlier times, we will look at the blend of fact and fiction in the tradition of “mill stories.” What is unique to these stories and how do they contribute to our understanding of the experiences of people and place? What role does the image of the “mill town” and the “mill” play in our imagination of the lives of others — ancestors, immigrants, the “other half” — and themes of aspiration, accomplishment, and despair. Representative writers from the 19th to 21st centuries include Harriet Robinson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Sarah Orne Jewett, Edwin Arlington Robinson, Gérard Robichaud, Jack Kerouac, Monica Wood, and Kerri Arsenault, among others. The instructor will provide URLs or PDF copies for texts. Reading will include about three short stories or chapters per week (poems in the case of Longfellow and E.A. Robinson), plus optional background readings and videos for those interested (not required for discussion). Class Limit: 14
Instructor Stephen Hahn
is professor of English, emeritus, William Paterson University (NJ) and a member of the Curriculum Committee of Costal Senior College, where he previously taught the course “Literature Encounters Aging.” He was born in Lawrence, MA, and attended Northern Essex Community College before transferring to Amherst College, where he graduated magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, in 1975. He received his M.A. (1979) and Ph.D. (1983) from Rutgers University. He serves on the Executive Council of the William Carlos Williams Society and the Editorial Advisory Board of the William Carlos Williams Review. He has published widely throughout his career. His current research interests involve not only William Carlos Williams, but also Henry David Thoreau, the literature of aging, and the literature of contact and conflict between colonial settlers and Indigenous people in what is now the Northeast United States.