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Early American Literature

ENGL 043.001
instructor(s):
MWF 12-1

This is a survey of early American literature from the late sixteenth century to the early nineteenth. As we explore the disparate yet overlapping literatures of this complex period, during which North American colonies come to be a conceptual "America" which unites otherwise incongruous identities, we will trace an evolving rhetoric of personhood in various literary forms. In autobiography, the novel, and the political treatise we will explore a progression away from the colonial sense of a person's social identity as a god-given, immutable fact of existence toward the secular model of self as a dynamic product of conscious social engagement. With the rise of democracy on the North American continent comes the rise of a socially mobile, civic self in early American literature. Benjamin Franklin's autobiography will serve as a center of gravity for the course as a text that will define the civic self in comparison to the ideas of self in literature before and after Franklin. Other readings will likely include: selected Native American oral natives, and the writing of Olaudah Equiano, Anne Bradstreet, Cotton Mather, Cabeza de Vaca, Mary Rowlandson, Sarah Kemble Knight, Jonathan Edwards, Thomas Harriot, James Madison, Thomas Paine, Susanna Haswell Rowson, Edgar Allen Poe, and Frederick Douglass.