In his address ”The American Scholar”, held at Harvard University in 1837, Ralph Waldo Emerson called for the development of a distinctly American cultural identity in the face of a continuing European influence strongly felt sixty years after the Declaration of Independence. The early 19th century is often taken to be the decisive period when America discovered its inherent potential for shaping a unique (literary) culture, based on the tenets of transcendentalist philosophy (Emerson, Thoreau), inventive prose narratives rich with symbolism and Gothic atmosphere (Poe, Hawthorne, Melville), and vibrant cutting-edge poetry (Whitman, Dickinson). In this seminar we will read and discuss essential texts of the American Renaissance which established the complex mosaic of the nation’s literary heritage, tracing their uniquely American qualities and their appropriations of (European) Romanticist traditions.