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Intro. to American Literature

ENGL 080.601
R 6:30-9:10

This introductory course surveys American literature from the colonial era to the end of the nineteenth century. We will begin with a brief look at some early narratives of colonial contact and settlement, paying particular attention to the depiction of America both as a hostile wilderness and a land of religious and economic promise; we will then consider how subsequent writers embraced and challenged the notion of American promise and how themes of exile, immigration, and cross-cultural encounter found new expression in works of literary romanticism and realism. We will also examine the means by which writers attempted to inaugurate and sustain an American literary tradition: exploiting for subject matter the American past; speaking in dialect; evoking a national or regional landscape (be it the natural remove or the harrowing city); and taking on the ideologically charged task of delineating a national character. Likely writers will include Franklin, Douglass, Hawthorne, Melville, Stowe, Dickinson, Whitman, Thoreau, Twain, Davis, James, Dreiser.

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