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Revisiting Colonial America and the Early Republic

ENGL 782.301
R 12-3


This course will read the literatures of early America through three themes: empire, migration, and loss. The field of "colonial America" has been radically transformed from one based on a teleology leading to the founding of the nation; we will examine how this critical reframing has developed to resist reading colonial writing as proto-American. Toussaint L'Ouverture We will revisit exploration narratives, captivity narratives, and documents of colonial settlement (in Spanish as well as English) within an international context of multiple imperial conquests and colonial encounters. Though our focus will be on texts written in English, we will look at them through comparative perspectives when possible. We will also apply current theories of loss and trauma, which mostly deal with twentieth century catastrophes, to the enormous displacements and upheavals of the conquest of Indian lands, the slave trade, imperial wars, and revolution. Documents and literature of the revolution and early republic will also be read from an international perspective, in relation to the Haitian revolution for example, movements across the Black Atlantic, and Barbary captivity narratives. In political writing about constitutional foundations, we will look at the contradictions of reconciling empire and republic. Finally, we will take advantage of the resources in Philadelphia to consider the representations of this urban space as an international crossroads, of diplomacy, commerce, migration, refuge, and the circulation of disease in the yellow fever epidemic.

Readings may include works by Columbus, Las Casas, Cabeza de Vaca, Thomas Hariot, John Smith, Mary Rowlandson, John Winthrop, Ann Bradstreet, Olaudah Equiano, Nancy Prince, Samson Occom, Phyllis Wheatley, Benjamin Franklin, Toussaint L'Ouverture, Thomas Jefferson, Susan Haswell Rowson, Richard Allen and Absalom Jones, Charles Brockden Brown, Sarah Knight, as well as the Federalist Papers, Barbary captivity narratives, and the Alien and Sedition Acts. Supplementary reading will include criticism, theory and history, including recent work by Dana Nelson, Ralph Bauer, Jill Lepore, Saidiya Hartman.

Fulfills #4 requirement.