This course examines the relationship between nation and narrative: the collective fantasies that incited reading and writing into the 19th century. We will study the novel as a field of literary production both in dialogue with European models and expressive of changes in national culture, a form that both undermined and reinforced dominant ideologies of racial, gender, and class inequality during this turbulent period of national formation and imperial expansion. We will consider the ways the pleasure of novel-reading depends upon, even as it often disavows, the world outside the story. Throughout our reading, we will trace the ways these novels both reflect and participate in the historical development of the United States during a period that spans national founding, the consolidation of northern capitalism and an exacerbated North/South division, expansion into Mexico and the Pacific, and civil war. Through close attention to literary form, we will continually pose the question, What is the relationship between literary culture and historical change? We will examine who was writing, for whom they wrote, and the situation--political, commercial--in which the American novel was produced and consumed. We will begin with the novel of sentiment and seduction and conclude with reflections on slavery and racial revolution on the eve of the Civil War, all the time asking about the ways the novel might seduce us into either tolerating or resisting the way of the world.