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American Literature to 1870

ENGL 082.001
TR 10:30-12

This is a survey of early American literature until 1870, from the earliest European exploration and settlement of North America through the Civil War period. In order to have a reasonably coherent focus as we explore writings from throughout this unwieldy length of time and vastly complex geographical and political field, we will concentrate on narratives of persons--women and men, slaves and masters, invaders and invaded, businessmen and artists, tradesmen and aristocrats, and so forth. It has sometimes been said that people change in America, or human nature is different in America; that America is a space of new personal freedom, or conversely a place of terrible personal conformism. In reading different forms of writing from Puritan New England and the colonial South, from the city and the frontier, from Native America and immigrant America, we'll test these ideas about the relationship between personhood and America. Readings will include such classics as Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography and Frederick Douglass's Narrative, but also less familiar works such as (perhaps) the as-told-to narrative of a cross-dressing Revolutionary War soldier, or the story of a disappointed and suicidal steamboat inventor.

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