Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Topics Early American Literature

ENGL 282.301
TR 10:30-12

"One step beyond the city was the bush. One step beyond the church door stood the devil."  Our examination of gothic fictions in the United States and the Caribbean take as foundation Derek Walcott's description of his childhood home in St. Lucia: where the spirits (whether called "devils" or "gods") lurked behind high church sacraments, and where a culture called "civilized" confronted the threat of "contamination" by the "primitive," "brute," or "barbarous."  We will examine how the law of slavery, the question of color, and narratives of punishment became crucial to the development of a uniquely American gothic tradition. Readings include selected legal, historical, and philosophical texts, as well as writings by Jonathan Edwards, Edgar Allan Poe, Lydia Maria Child, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Jacobs, Mary Prince, Herman Melville, and Jean Rhys.

Requirements for the course include one oral presentation, three short (5-7 page) papers and a final research paper of twenty pages.

Majors may take this course to fulfill the American requirement for the gender concentration (as well as the pre-1800 requirement)

fulfills requirements