Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Introduction to American Literature

ENGL 080.001
instructor(s):
TR 1:30-3

This course will examine the literary forms and cultural histories that give shape to early American writing. Beginning with oral narratives of Native American peoples, the course will explore the literature of colonial conflict, of religious vision and self-dissection, the formation of US nationhood and its links to an American literature of slavery, and new forms of fictional and poetic experimentation. Our survey of this rich range of writing will be focused through a close examination of some of the entanglements that define US cultural history -- entanglements between projects of freedom and enslavement, between dissent and social cohesion, and between forms of beauty and forms of domination. The works we will explore may include Nez Perce, Iroquois, and Navajo narratives; texts of colonial encounter by Columbus, Winthrop, Bradstreet, and Rowlandson; literature of the early republic by Jefferson, Franklin, Wheatley, Cooper, and Apess; and writings by Emerson, Douglass, Jacobs, Melville, Stowe, Whitman, and Dickinson that together provide multiple perspectives on the turbulent and innovative decades leading up to the Civil War.