Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Early American Literature

ENGL 043.001

To define a world new to Europeans and to establish their place within it, early American authors borrowed highly figurative language and narrative conventions from preexisting genres of writing. The literature they produced set the political foundations of the rapidly expanding and diverse world we’ve inherited. In this course we will read some key texts in this field with special attention to the interplay between literary techniques and New World agendas. We will begin with Native American oral narratives to consider the significance of writing and oral performance as practices of communication. From the colonial era we will read public histories and reports aimed at European audiences alongside accounts of personal introspection in poems and journals. Authors will include Thomas Hariot, John Smith, William Bradford, Ann Bradstreet, Edward Taylor, and Mary Rowlandson. Subsequent readings will include the political literature of revolution penned by such luminaries as Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, the poems of Phyllis Wheatley, Olaudah Equiano’s autobiography, and fiction by Charles Brockden Brown and Susannah Rowson. Given our Philadelphia location, we will also be sure to read Benjamin Franklin’s periodical writing and make use of the rich local resources to complement our syllabus. Requirements include regular participation in discussions, two papers, and a final exam.

fulfills requirements