ENGL 209(F) American Literature: Origins to 1865 (Same as American Studies 209)

What is American literature? This course will examine the variety of answers that have been made to this question, and the way that those answers differently articulate both what counts as "America" and what counts as literature. In the nineteenth century, we will read major voices of the American Renaissance (Emerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau) and voices coming out of the abolitionist movement and the popular press (Stowe, Douglass, Jacobs). In the eighteenth century, we will read the autobiographical and political writings of figures including Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, and both the popular female novelist Susanna Rowson and the latter-day Puritan Jonathan Edwards. In the colonial era we will contrast the Puritan history of William Bradford with the pell-mell pillaging of John Smith in his accounts of Virginia. Working through the differences among different figures, eras, and genres we will be asking what makes a literary tradition: temporal progression, thematic consistency, national identity, etc.? And consider, too, what the way we construct American literature means for our understanding of the nation today. Format: lecture/discussion. Requirements: two papers, midterm, and final exam. Prerequisites: a 100-level English course, except 150. Enrollment limit: 40 (expected: 40). (1700-1900)

Hour: T. DAVIS