This seminar aims at analyzing major American protest movements from the middle of the 19th century to the end of the 1930s, while understanding how the United States have built their identity as a protest nation. We will not retrace the sociology and evolution of abolitionism, feminism and anti-capitalist movements, but rather try to think about the rhetoric of protest. How do those who rise against injustice use the American creed, founded on freedom and equality, to justify their claims? Students will be working on philosophical and political texts (Emerson, Thoreau, Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Eugene Debs…) as well as fiction (Walt Whitman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, John Dos Passos…) to analyze how dissenters try to break the bars of « the sunlit prison of the American dream » (James Baldwin).