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Intro to American Literature

ENGL 080.401
instructor(s):
TR 12-1:30

Attempting to rethink notions of what it means to be "American," to possess a distinctively "American Voice," English 80 will offer a comprehensive survey of selected literary and cultural texts from the voyages of Columbus to Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. Rather than pursuing exclusively Euro-American routes of literary and cultural commerce, the course will examine voices of Native Americans in the Hopi Creation Stories, Africans who traversed the Americas in the Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano, Spanish conquerors in the voyages of Corronado. Concerned with myths, notions, and narratives of national "founding," we shall examine works such as Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation and Mary Rowlandson's captivity narrative, in conjunction with readings from Phillis Wheatley, Benjamin Franklin, the Declaration of Independence, and The Federalist Papers. Turning the century into the 1800's, we shall encounter elaborations of the "American" idea by reading such diverse works as: David Walker's Appeal, Hanry David Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience," Frederick Douglas's first narrative, and Harriet Jacob's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Herman Melville's Benito Cereno and Mary Jemison's 1823 captivity narrative serve to reveal the multiplicity of registers and timbres that mark the expressing of "America." Secondary materials, both primary (from poets and narrators) and secondary (from law, psychology, anthropology and other sites) will form part of the repertoire of the course. Lecture and discussion will characterize the conduct of the course.