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Introduction to American Literature

ENGL 080.001
TR 10:30-12

English 080 examines the varied forms and functions American writing has assumed from colonial beginings up to the 20th century. This spring we will take our bearings from Herman Melville, who once observed about a character's place of origin, "It is not down in any map; true places never are." Our subject will be the shifting boundaries and intersections between maps--the quotidian world of facts--and true places--the non-localaized region of imagination. We will read examples of writing that seems to "map," such as a collection of colonial travel narratives and a sample of realistic fiction (short stories by women regionalists, SISTER CARRIE); examples of writing that seems "true,' such as poetry, autobiography, and slave narratives (LEAVES OF GRASS, Franklin's AUTOBIOGRAPHY, Jacob's INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL); and examples of writing that borrows from both modes, such as the mixed genres of MOBY-DICK, WALDEN, Hawthorne's stories, and THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLK. We will also observe the development of American literature as a field and the process of canonization, as mapping has been imposed on writers by critics, theorists, marketplace forces, and considerations of race, gender, class. Lecture/discussion format with participation enhanced by oral presentations and other informal communcations; three papers of varying lengths And intentions, with revision opportunities; several screenings; either a final project or a final exam.