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Intro to American Literature

ENGL 080.900
instructor(s):
T 5:30-8:40

Fulfills Distributional Course in Arts and Letters

In this introductory course to American Literature we will consider how American authors from the Puritans through the nineteenth century have exposed both hope and fears about the New World and the new nation through their writings. From John Winthrop's claim that the Massachusetts Bay Colony would be as a "City Upon a Hill" to Rip Van Winkle's startled awakening in the post revolutionary United States, fantasies and dreams- and indeed, fears and nightmares- about America have connected authors across a diverse range of identities, regions, and genres. How can we understand the relationship between the nightmarish landscape of slavery as expressed by Frederick Douglass and Walt Whitman's celebration of all things American? Class discussions will center on how American writers struggle with the paradoxical and conflicting issues that defined early America: freedom and slavery; individualism and federation; wilderness and settlement. As we make our trek from the austerity of Puritan culture to the decadence of the Gilded Age, we will read authors such as Mary Rowlandson, Jonathan Edwards, Benjamin Franklin, Phyllis Wheatley, Washington Irving, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edgar Allan Poe, Frederick Douglass, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and Edith Wharton.