Syllabus #2

English 361A: Introduction to Early American Literature
Fall 1993

Professor Norman Hostetler
University of Nebraska, Lincoln

Purpose of the course:

My fundamental assumption is that nobody reads pre-Civil War American literature for the fun of it, except for a few oddballs, like me. For everybody else, the question is bound to occur, why bother with this stuff? The language and style are often archaic or boring; the hot problems and concerns for the times now seem quaint and irrelevant. As a class, we will attempt to answer these objections by moving at once behind these surface appearances in order to examine the development and expression of some fundamental ideas--myths, assumptions, and concepts, both popular and intellectual--that still influence the ways in which Americans think about themselves and their society. Examples of problem areas include attitudes toward the environment, toward the nature of self and other, toward the need for communal shared values, toward the idea of individual identity (especially as embodied in concepts of race, class, and gender.)

The catalogue intent of this course is to provide intermediate and advanced undergraduate students with an introductory literary/historical survey of American literature from its beginnings to the 1860s. We will spend substantial class time in developing skills for analyzing individual works of intellectually sophisticated prose, poetry, and fiction, but our overall goal will be to relate these works to each other and to their socio-cultural influences, literary circumstances, and historical conditions. We should be able thereby to identify variant literary themes and styles within a particular period, and to see how and why some of the changes in different modes of thought and expression occur. The course is aimed particularly at two groups of students: 1) non-majors who are especially interested in the cultural context of what it means to be an American, and 2) majors in English, history, and related areas who are developing a base for their further reading and teaching about American experiences prior to the Civil War period. By committing yourself fully to the work of this course, you can anticipate improvement in your ability to read, discuss, and write about literature and its backgrounds.

Although the course does not assume any background in English (except freshman composition), you will be particularly well-prepared to contribute to class discussions if you have had other courses focusing on American literary, historical, cultural, or social experience. Some familiarity with American history is especially important for this course. As a minimum, I have assigned the four introductory chapters in the class text. If you have little previous acquaintance with this period, I suggest that you read a good history survey text.

Class text:

Lauter, Paul, and others eds., The Heath Anthology of American Literature, volume 1. Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath and Company, 1990. (Editor's note: Professor Hostetler and his students used the First Edition of the text for the course described here. Page numbers and titles of introductions have, however, been changed to correspond to the Second Edition, the text that most Newsletter readers will refer to now. Page numbers indicate the beginning of the selection; unless otherwise noted, students are expected to read the entire selection(s) named.)

Course requirements:

1) At a minimum, read the material assigned in the syllabus, including the four introductory essays about the literary context and the introductory literary biography for each author assigned in the syllabus.

2) Participation in discussion groups and other in-class activities is essential.

3) Keep a reading journal in which you record your reactions, questions, and comments on the assigned readings.

4) Write one formal essay of at least 5 typed pages which analyzes the significance of a piece of prose or small group of poems in the anthology in terms of the ideas developed and discussed in the course, or which otherwise develops some pertinent concept in some significant way.

5) Examinations: there will be an hour exam at mid-term and a final exam.

Class Schedule

Note: Don't forget to read all introductory essays and headnotes, as well as the assigned readings.

8/24: Introduction

8/26: Literature of European Exploration and Settlement

The Colonial Period: to 1700 (3)

Native American Oral Literatures (24)

Cultures in Contact: Voices from the Imperial Frontier (110)

Cultures in Contact: Voices from the Anglo-Americans' "New" World (179)

8/31: Ethnocentrism and Self-Identity I: Encounters with the Alien Other

9/2: Columbus: from Journal of the First Voyage to America (116)

de Vaca: from Relation of Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca (137)

The Coming of the Spanish and the Pueblo Revolt (Hopi) (483)

The Pueblo Indian Revolt and Spanish Reconquest, 1680-1692 (488)

Problems of Narrative I: Defining the New America

Smith: (184); from The Generall Historie, Book III (186); from A Description of New England (192)

Morton, T.: selections from New English Canaan [as assigned] (212)

Bradford: from Of Plymouth Plantation (247)

9/7: Labor Day Holiday--no class

9/9: Literature of the New Nation

Eighteenth Century (495)

Tradition and Change in Anglo-America (519)

Enlightenment Voices, Revolutionary Visions (705)

Contested Boundaries, National Visions: Writings on "Race," Identity, and "Nation" (928)

9/14: The Individual and the Community I: Puritan Experience

9/16: Winthrop: from A Modell of Christian Charity (226)

Rowlandson: from A Narrative of the Captivity and Restauration (343)

Sewell: from The Diary of Samuel Sewell (410)

Mather: (419); from Bonifacius (441)

Bradstreet: "The Prologue"; "The Author to Her Book"; "Before the Birth of One of Her Children"; "To My Dear and Loving Husband"; "A Letter to Her Husband"; "In Memory of My Dear Grandchild Elizabeth Bradstreet"(289)

The Bay Psalm Book; The New England Primer: (326); from The New England Primer (337)

9/21: Literature of the American Self I: The Sources of Moral Authority

9/23: Edwards: (561); from Personal Narrative (573)

Occom: (939); A Sermon Preached by Samson Occom (947)

Ashbridge: from Some Account of the Early Part of the Life (596)

Woolman: from The Journal of John Woolman (610)

Bleecker: "Written in the Retreat from Burgoyne" (690)

Paine: (851); from The Age of Reason (867)

Murray: "Desultory Thoughts" (1006)

Freneau: (1021); "The Wild Honey Suckle" (1031)

Foster: from The Coquette (1150)

9/28: The Individual and the Community II: A Pragmatic Role Model

9/30: Franklin: (708); "The Way to Wealth"; "The Speech of Polly Baker"; "An Edict by the King of Prussia"; "Information to Those Who Would Remove to America"; "Speech in the Convention"; from The Autobiography (715)

Problems of Narrative II: Defining the New American

de Crèvecoeur: (819); from "Letter III, What is an American?" (823)

The Individual and the Community III: Republican Virtue

John Adams and Abigail Adams: [all] (873)

Murray: "On the Domestic Education of Children"; "On the Equality of the Sexes" (1009)

Irving: (1284); "Rip Van Winkle" (1294)

Cooper: from The Pioneers (1328)

10/7: Ethnocentrism and Self-Identity II: Race and the New Nation

10/9: Woolman: from Some Considerations on the Keeping of Negroes (621)

Franklin: "Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America"; "On the Slave Trade" (745)

de Crèvecoeur: from "Letter IX, Description of Charles Town" (828)

Freneau: "The Indian Burying Ground" (1036)

Vassa (Equiano): from The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African (971)

Wheatley: "On the Death of the Rev. Mr. George Whitefield"; "On Being Brought from Africa to America"; "On Imagination"; "To His Excellency General Washington"; from "Letter to Samson Occom" (1048)

Occom: A Short Narrative of My Life (939)

10/12 Exam

10/14 Literature of American Romanticism

Early Nineteenth Century: 1800-1865 (1227)

Explorations of an "American" Self (1481)

10/19: Literature of the American Self II: Individualist Idealism (1529)

10/21 Emerson: (1498); "The American Scholar" (1499-1511); "Compensation"; "Ode, Inscribed to W. H. Channing"; "Hamatreya"; "Merlin"; "Brahma"; "Days"; "Terminus" (1599)

The Individual and the Community IV: An Individualist Role Model

Thoreau: "Resistance to Civil Government"; from Walden (2029)

10/26: Literature of the American Self III: Integration and Disintegration

10/28: Whitman: (2740); Song of Myself (2758)

Poe: (1361); "Ligeia" (1371); "The Fall of the House of Usher" (1382); "The Purloined Letter" (1410); "Sonnet--To Science" (1423)

11/2: Ethnocentrism and Self-Identity III: Testing the Role Models

11/4: Douglass: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1666)

Jacobs: from Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1751)

Copway (Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh): from The Life of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh (1482)

Seguin, from Personal Memoirs (1992)

11/9: Problems of Narrative III: Defining the New Inner World

11/11: Myths, Tales, Legends (1261)

The Flowering of Narrative (2110)

Hawthorne: (2112); "My Kinsman, Major Molineux" (2116); "Young Goodman Brown" (2129); "Rappaccini's Daughter" (2158)

Melville: (2440); "Bartleby, the Scrivener" (2445)

11/16: Literature of the American Self IV: States of Consciousness

11/18: Dickinson: Poems numbered 258, 280, 285, 315, 338, 341, 465, 520, 569, 670, 712, 721, 883, 986, 1129, 1624 (2869)

Finished paper draft due (Nov. 16)

Class workshop: discuss papers and critiques (November 18)

11/23: American Poetic Voices: The Sources of Moral Authority

Revised paper due

The Emergence of American Poetic Voices (2682)

Native American Oral Poetry (70)

Zuni [traditional]: "Sayatasha' s Night Chant" (74)

Songs and Ballads:

"Lay Dis Body Down"; "Steal Away to Jesus"; "Many Thousand Go"; "Go Down, Moses"; "Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel"; "John Brown's Body"; "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"; "Sweet Betsy from Pike"; "Clementine"; "Acres of Clams"; "Paper of Pins"; "Come Home, Father" (2685)

Bryant: "Thanatopsis"; "The Prairies"; "Abraham Lincoln" (2704)

Longfellow: "A Psalm of Life"; "The Jewish Cemetery at Newport"; "The Harvest Moon" (2733)

11/25 Thanksgiving Day--no class

11/30: Ethnocentrism and Self-Identity IV: The Sources of Moral Authority

12/2: Apes: "An Indian's Looking-Glass for the White Man" (1780)

Morton, S. : "The African Chief "(695)

Walker: from Appeal etc. (1810)

Whittier: (1843); "Massachusetts to Virginia" (1849)

Grimké sisters: Appeal to the Christian Women of the South (1856)

Higginson: from "Nat Turner's Insurrection" (1887)

Chesnut: from Mary Chesnut's Civil War (1922)

Lincoln: [all] (1931)

Stowe: from Uncle Tom's Cabin (2348)

Melville: Benito Cereno (2497)

12/7: The Individual and the Community V: The Sources of Moral Authority

12/9: Grimké, S.: from Letters on the Equality of the Sexes (1935)

Fern (Parton): [all] (1948)

Truth: "Reminiscences by Frances D. Gage of Sojourner Truth, for May 28-29, 1851" (1956)

Fuller: (1610); from Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1634)

Melville: "The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids" (2480)

Stoddard: "The Prescription" (2657)

Whitman: from Children of Adam (2819); from Calamus (2821); "The Dalliance of the Eagles" (2834)

Dickinson, Poems numbered 14, 249, 303, 322, 401, 613, 631, 640, 732, 754, 1670, 1737; Letters to Susan Gilbert (Dickinson) [all]; Letter to Austin Dickinson [27 March 1853]; Letter to recipient unknown ("Master") [about 1861] (2869)

Course and Instructor Evaluation (hand-out ) Dec. 9

12/14: Final Examination

Contents, No. XI