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Intro to American Lit.

ENGL 080.920
instructor(s):
MW 5:30-8:30

This class will introduce many important works of American literature by looking at the ways the various natural landscapes and environments of America have been imagined and claimed from the time of European contact through the end of the 19th century. American ideas of individualism, nationalism, freedom, oppression, and violence have found their expression in--and have been projected onto--the continent's wildly diverse natural expanses. We will examine literary and artistic responses to the promise of the New World and its specific natural forms, such as Columbus's anticipation of an earthly paradise, Douglass's use of maritime trading routes to make his escape, Crevecoeur's idealization of the American farm, and Twain's take on the Mississippi. Class readings will cover topics such as discovery and colonization, slavery, natural disaster, westward expansion, revolution, and captivity; authors may include Herman Melville, Cotton Mather, Emily Dickinson, Thomas Jefferson, Frederick Douglass, Jonathan Edwards, Henry David Thoreau, Phyllis Wheatley, and Mary Rowlandson. We will also consider American landscape painting and its revelations of nature and culture.