Nicolaus Mills

BA, Harvard University. PhD, Brown University. Special interest in American studies. Author of Winning the Peace: The Marshall Plan and America’s Coming of Age as a Superpower, The Triumph of Meanness: America’s War Against Its Better Self, Their Last Battle: The Fight for the National World War II Memorial, Like a Holy Crusade: Mississippi 1964, The Crowd in American Literature, and American and English Fiction in the Nineteenth Century. Editor of Getting Out: Historical Perspectives on Leaving Iraq, Debating Affirmative Action, Arguing Immigration, Culture in an Age of Money, Busing USA, The New Journalism, and The New Killing Fields. Contributor to The Boston Globe, The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Newsday, The Nation, Yale Review, National Law Journal, and The Guardian; editorial board member, Dissent magazine. Recipient of fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, American Council of Learned Societies, and the Rockefeller Foundation. SLC, 1972–

Course Information

Current undergraduate courses

Declarations of Independence: American Literary Masterworks

Year

On July 4, 1845, Henry Thoreau began spending his days and nights at Walden Pond. His declaration of independence from the America in which he was living epitomizes a tradition of rebellion that goes to the heart of American literature. Time and again, America’s best writers have adapted the values of the American Revolution to their own purposes. In rebelling against religious orthodoxy, slavery, a market economy, and the relegation of women to second-class citizens—to name just a few of their targets—America’s prose writers have produced a tradition at odds with the country but consistent with the spirit of the Founding Fathers. Declarations of Independence will focus on this tradition in terms of American literary masterworks that feature the writing of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Frederick Douglass, Mark Twain, Henry James, Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, Zora Neale Hurston, J. D. Salinger, and Sylvia Plath. Students will begin their conference work by putting the classic 19th-century American novel in perspective by looking closely at a series of classic 19th-century British novels. 

Faculty
Related Cross-Discipline Paths

The Nonfiction Essay: Writing the Literature of Fact, Journalism, and Beyond

Fall

The aim of this course is to have students produce a series of nonfiction essays that range from the profile to the review. We start with basic reporting and work our way up to long-form nonfiction. We will read a series of well-known nonfiction writers—among them Tom Wolfe, Joan Didion, John McPhee, and Henry Louis Gates. But the reading that we do is designed to serve the writing. This is not a course in the history of the nonfiction essay; it is a course in writing. Students are assigned essays with deadlines for drafts, rewrites, and final copies. The assignments are not “class exercises” but those that any editor would give. The aim of this course, to paraphrase Tom Wolfe, is to produce nonfiction as lively as fiction; but we will not be engaged in “creative nonfiction” or covert autobiography. The writer’s subject, not the writer, is our primary concern. Accurate reporting is a nonnegotiable starting and finishing point. The course will begin by emphasizing writing technique; and as we move to longer assignments, our focus will be on the role that research, interviews, and legwork play in completing a story. This course is not for students with remedial writing problems or for students taking another writing course. A sample of your work is required for admission.

Faculty
Related Cross-Discipline Paths

Previous courses

Declarations of Independence: American Literary Masterworks and Their British Counterparts

Year

On July 4, 1845, Henry Thoreau began spending his days and nights at Walden Pond. His declaration of independence from the America in which he was living epitomizes a tradition of rebellion that goes to the heart of American literature. Time and again, America’s best writers have adapted the values of the American Revolution to their own times. In rebelling against religious orthodoxy, slavery, a market economy, and the relegation of women to second-class citizens—to name just a few of their targets—America’s prose writers have produced a tradition at odds with the country but consistent with the spirit of the Founding Fathers. Declarations of independence will focus on this tradition in terms of a series of American literary masterworks that feature the writing of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Frederick Douglass, Mark Twain, Henry James, Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, Zora Neale Hurston, J. D. Salinger, and Sylvia Plath. Students will begin their conference work by putting the classic, 19th-century American novel in perspective by looking at a series of classic, 19th-century British novels.

Faculty