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Introduction to American Literature

ENGL 080.910
instructor(s):
TR 11:40-2:50

This course looks at the history of American literature as the expression of a plurality of voices emerging from various ethnic, cultural, and religious contexts. Ranging among poetry, fiction, autobiography, folklore, and protest writing, we will begin with writings from before the first Puritans' arrival in 1620, including Indian legends and the journals of Christopher Columbus. We'll then examine how writings of early settlers like William Bradford, Mary Rowlandson, and Thomas Morton reveal ongoing struggles with native peoples and among the settlers themselves. For the years leading up to and following the American revolution, we'll consider the nexus of secular enlightenment, spiritual self-improvement, and political desire in work of Emily Dickinson, Jonathan Edwards, Benjamin Franklin, Henry David Thoreau, and Phillis Wheatley. The remainder of our time will be devoted to the literary incitements and responses to social upheaval of the pre-Civil War years, from Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville and Catharine Maria Sedgwick, to William Apess, Frederick Douglass and David Walker. Course requirements include regular attendance, active participation in class discussion, two critical essays and two exams.