Syllabus # 1

English 961K American literature to 1865: teaching early American literature
Spring 1992

Professor Charles W. Mignon
University of Nebraska

Professor Mignon writes: "I would like to mention that even though I am "giving" this course, I intend to "take" it just as the students are--with hopes to learn something new from the anthology."

Texts: The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Vol.l

Ideology and Classic American Literature, ed. Bercovitch and Jehlen

Redefining American Literary History, ed. Ruoff and Ward

Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, ed. Murfin

Course description: this course is designed for those beginning to look ahead to the specific problems of teaching early American literature at a time when there is a great deal of curricular ferment in the air. The course will only begin the continuous formulation--by each person and in the group collectively--of solutions to the basic questions: what is American literature, what is the canon, what critical approaches are appropriate, and what will be the best methods of classroom presentation. To set up our work on answers, I propose:

Purposes: to consider the current issues of canon in American literature to 1865; to read primary materials, both canonical and non-canonical works in this period; to read selected secondary works relevant to these works and issues; to teach four sessions relating non-canonical to canonical works; and to prepare a draft outline (with a rationale and list of grouped readings) for an undergraduate course in the period. All these plans are related to building up your own perspective toward the material, and to beginning the process of growth toward the practice of teaching. To affect these aims, I propose:

Requirements: l) four teaching sessions, any combination of twenty- and forty-minute periods; 2) a portfolio of summary reports (reproduced for each member of the class) from a list of secondary works, 10 to 12 pp. total (one book, or the equivalent in sections of large books, chapters, or articles)this portfolio must include one summary on learning or development; 3) a draft outline with rationale for an undergraduate course in the period; 4) a reading journal (double-column: summary and response) of 50 pages (roughly 4 pages a week for 13 weeks)- from time to time I will ask you to consider a few selected topics; and 5) a mid-term evaluation and a final course evaluation.

Modus operandi: for the purposes described above we will be adopting the workshop format. The key will be sharing: of information, and of all the ideas we come up with during the course both in regard to the material itself, and to our approaches to teaching it. (The result will not even be clear when we finish; things will probably come together only in actual practice later on when you have been assigned a class to teach.) At any rate there will actually be 5 schedules: reading, journal, summary, teaching, and course outline.

First, the reading schedule. Your reading, both of the primary and secondary materials, is for reflection. No memorizing; you are building your own perspective. Included in this material you will find the "Guideline" schedule which divides the course (after the fourth week) into nine sections of primary material, roughly of three hundred pages each. It would be unrealistic to expect ourselves, in the time we have, to read everything in every section, especially given the fact that we do have a certain amount of secondary reading as well. So my proposal is this: that, within each of the nine sections, we be responsible for the selective reading of works of two canon writers and of four non-canonical writers. (I will list the canon writers in each section.) This way we can all choose what we want to read and feel no obligation to "cover" or try to absorb everything. So, turn now to the "Guideline" schedule which is both the reading and the teaching schedule and have a look.

Next, the summary schedule, also included in this material. Turn to it. I have tried to arrange these readings so that they are relevant to the authors as they appear in the schedule, but summaries may be submitted at any time. For example, for the eighth week (Humor and the American Self) Smith-Rosenberg's Disorderly Conduct is especially relevant: her ideas on gender roles are very illuminating and relevant to writers in other sections like Cooper, de Crevecoeur, Hawthorne, as well as to Fuller and Jacobs, and the Crockett Almanacs. So, a portfolio including summaries of chapters in her book would be quite useful. In any case, you will be free to range at will between sections to find your summaries.

The teaching schedule will begin for you at the fourth week when you will be taking over the class on subjects of your choice within the structure I provide you: combinations of works in the Heath anthology. You will, with such tactics as you can invent, be guiding the rest of us (as your "class") on how to understand and read the materials you will have assigned us the previous week. The ground-rules are simple: the combination of works in each of your teaching sessions must include one canon work; you may range freely between sections to find your materials; and, everyone has to respond to each other's efforts. For your third presentation you will prepare a rationale (1-2 pp.) describing l) some preliminary assumptions about how your students learn (see list attached), 2) the purpose behind your activities, and 3) what specific changes in your students' minds you wish to make. As you begin to think about your teaching sessions any work on the rationale will help focus on the actual exercises you want your "class" to undertake. So, the real schedule for the course will be created by the class itself as it chooses the four sessions each.

Guideline schedule

(reading and teaching)

Numbers on the left indicate the weeks in the course; reading assignments for the first part of the course are due on the weekly meeting specified. From the third week onward all the section descriptions are from the Heath Anthology, vol. 1, to guide us in our choices for teaching sessions.

1 Introduction: rationale, presentation of the secondary lists and the reserve book list in the library, general bibliography; learning theory; specific justifications (why canon and non-canonicals); reading assignments

2 the reassessment of American literary history.

The following readings on reserve:

-Robert E. Spiller, "The Cycle and the Roots: National Identity in American Literature," in Toward a New American Literary History, ed. Budd, Cady, and Anderson.

-Perry Miller, "Errand into the Wilderness" in his Errand into the Wilderness.

-William C. Spengemann, "Early American Literature and the Project of Literary History," in Prospects: A Conference on Early American Literature.

The following from Redefining American Literary History:

-any one essay in the first section, "Redefining the American Literary Canon"

-Theresa Melendez, "The Oral Tradition and the Study of American Literature"

-Andrew Wiget, "His Life in His Tail...."

-Houston Baker, "Archaeology, Ideology, and African American Discourse"

Read also the first part (xxxiii-xxxviii) of "To the Reader" in the Heath Anthology.

-since I will be presenting the material in the following section, I will hand out additional materials the second week in preparation for this class. But the basic reading is as follows:

3 Native American Traditions: section introduction (Colonial Period to 1700, pp.3-21 in Heath) and Native American Traditions pp.22-66, Heath.

-at the beginning of the fourth week in the semester you will be taking over the classes. The sections in the Heath anthology which follow for each week comprise the reading materials from which you will be drawing for your teaching materials:

4 Literature of Discovery and Exploration: European Settlement: pp.67-310. canons: John Smith, William Bradford, Anne Bradstreet, Edward Taylor, and Cotton Mather

5 Seventeenth-Century Wit, American Voices in a Changing World Poetries before the Revolution: pp. 311-677. canon: Jonathan Edwards

6 Emerging Voices of a National Literature, and Enlightenment Voices, Revolutionary Visions: pp. 678-1021. canons: Benjamin Franklin, de Crevecoeur,Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson

7 United Voices and Myths, Tales and Legends: pp. 1022-1425. canons:

Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, Edgar Allan Poe

8 Humor, and Explorations of an "American" Self: pp. 1426-1751. canons: Ralph

Waldo Emerson, Frederick Douglass; mid-term evaluation

9 Pre-Civil War: Indian Voices and the Literature of Abolition: pp. 1752-1885. canon: Abraham Lincoln

10 Pre-Civil War: Women's Voices the Southwest, and Thoreau: canon: Thoreau; pp. 1886-2062.

11 and 12 The Flowering of Narrative: canons: Hawthorne, Melville; pp. 2063-


13 and 14 Emergence of American Poetic Voices: canons: Whitman, and Dickinson; pp. 2638-2922.

15 present draft outlines for group discussion; hand in portfolios; evaluation

Summary schedule

(keyed to secondary list)

some basic secondary readings for summary reports keyed to the "Guideline" scheduled by author, page number, and work, appropriate to the readings of the week indicated, and due that class meeting

-since we're doing some heavy secondary reading for the second week, I've set some summary reports on into the third week so we won't get too overburdened. 3a is thus related to week two, and 3b to week three, but they're both due on the same date: January 27.

January 27

3a reassessment: Smith 21 in Ideology and Classic American Literature (hereafter as ICAL); Pease chapter one in Visionary Compacts; Prologue in Kolodny's The Land Before Her; Epilogue in Jehlen's American Incarnation; Smith 290 in the Virgin Land; "American Dream" 192 in Literary History of the US; Introduction in Nash's Red, White, and Black; Fiedler 29 in his Return of the Vanishing American; chapters one and five in Reising's The Unusable Past; chapter one in Lawrence's Studies in Classic American Literature; Smith-Rosenberg's "Hearing Women's Words" in her Disorderly Conduct; Kolodny's "A Map for Rereading: Or, Gender and the Interpretation of Literary Texts," New Literary History 6.3 (1980): 451-467

3b Native American Traditions: Paula Gunn Allen, 55-75 in her Sacred Hoop: Graff 91 in ICAL; Nash Introduction and chapter 4 in his Red,White,and Black ; chapter one in Gunn Allen's Studies in American Indian literature; chapters six and seven in Lemay's book on John Smith; Wallace 6-18 in The Way We Lived

February 3

4 Discovery, Exploration and Settlement: Baker 145 in ICAL, and Introduction and chapter one in Jehlen's American Incarnation; chapter one in Kolodny's Land; chapter one in Tichi's New World. New Earth; VanDerBeets, The Indian Captivity Narrative (50 pp. book); chapters one, two, and three in Nash's Red, White, and Black; the first five chapters as a unit in Drinnon's Facing West; Breen 25-36, and Mintz and Kellogg 43-54 in The Way We Lived

February 10

5 pre-revolutionary wit and poetries: Prologue in Kolodny's The Land Before Her; chapter two in Tichi's New World, New Earth; chapters six and seven in Perry Miller's Errand; chapter two in Lynen's Design; Bonomi 82-93, and Young 117-27 in The Way We Lived.

February 17

6 National Voices: Marx 36 ICAL; Jehlen chapter two in American Incarnation; chapters one through four (= one book) in Binder's The Color Problem in Early National America; Gates 44 in Afro-American Literature; chapter three in Tichi's New World New Earth; Gates 44 in Afro-American Literature; Sollors 181 in The American Identity: Fusion and Fragmentation; Mannix and Cowley 60-75 in The Way We Lived

February 24

7 United Voices and Tales: Reynolds, chapter 8 in Beneath the American Renaissance (hereafter as BAR); Pease chapter 5 in Visionary Compacts; chapter 3 in Kolodny's Land; Ziff, chapter five in Literary Democracy (hereafter as LD); Byer 221 in ICAL; Renza 58 in The American Renaissance Reconsidered; Thomas Goudge, "Philosophical Trends in Nineteenth-century America," UTO 16 (47): 133-42; William Charvat, chapter three in The Profession of Authorship in America 1800-1870; Smith 64 in Virgin Land; Tompkins 94 in Sensational Designs; chapters one, two, and three in Chase's The American Novel; chapter three, and four in Lynen's Design

March 2

8 Humor and the "American Self": Reynolds chapter one, chapter two, fifteen, and sixteen in BAR; Ziff, chapter two, three, and eleven in LD; Ruoff 251 in Redefining American Literary History (hereafter as RALH); Pease chapter six in Visionary Compacts; Jehlen chapter 3 in American Incarnation; Baker 157 in RALH; chapter six in Kolodny's Land; chapter nine in Ziff's LD; Stepto 178, O'Meally 192, or Gates 212 in Afro-American Literature; "Democratic Vistas" 345 in LHUS; Smith 138 in Virgin Land; Kern 245 in Transitions in American Literary History; Douglas 313 and 331 in her Feminization; Reising 256 in The Unusable Past; Smith-Rosenberg's "Bourgeois Discourse and the Age of Jackson," "Davy Crockett as Trickster" and (for Fuller et al) "The Female World of Love and Ritual" in her Disorderly Conduct; chapter one in Matthiessen's American Renaissance; chapter three in Chase's The American Novel; chapters 24-29 in Schlesinger's Age of Jackson (equals 2 articles); Faust 262-75 in The Way We Lived

March 9

9 Indian Voices. Abolition: Allen "The Sacred Hoop" in Studies in American Indian Literature; chapters five and six in Binder's The Color Problem in Early National America; Sundquist, "Slavery, Revolution, and the American Renaissance," in The American Renaissance Reconsidered; Nash 183 in Red, White, and Black; Smith-Rosenberg's "Beauty, the Beast, and the Militant Woman" in her Disorderly Conduct; Brown 162-72 in The Way We Lived

Spring vacation!

March 16 10 Women's Voices, the Southwest and Thoreau: Jehlen 125 in ICAL; chapter six in Tompkins's Sensational Designs (pay particular attention to the references in the footnotes in this chapter); chapter one in Smith's Democracy and the Novel; chapter twelve in Reynolds's BAR; Gilmore 293 in ICAL; chapters twelve and thirteen in Ziff's LD; chapters six and seven in Reynolds's BAR; chapter four in Matthiessen's American Renaissance; Kasson 139-56, and Faragher and Stansell 181-95 in The WayWe Lived

March 30 and April 6

11 and 12 The Flowering of Narrative: chapter seven in Kolodny's Land; chapter ten in Ziff's LD; chapters one and five in Tompkins's Sensational Designs; chapter four in Jehlen's American Incarnation; Arac 247 in ICAL; chapters eight and nine in Kolodny's Land; the following in Murfin's edition of the Scarlet Letter: Diehl 235, Leverenz 263, Benstock 288, Ragussis 316, and Bercovitch 344 ; chapters seven and eight in Ziff's LD; chapters two and three in Pease's Visionary Compacts; chapters four, nine, and thirteen of Reynolds's BAR; Michaels 156 in The American Renaissance Reconsidered; chapter two in Smith's Democracy and the Novel; chapters one, sixteen and seventeen in Ziff's LD; chapter seven in Pease's Visionary Compacts; Royster 313, and Kavanagh 352 in ICAL; Pease 113 in The American Renaissance Reconsidered; chapters five and ten in Reynolds's BAR; chapter three in Smith's Democracy and the Novel; Hulme 3 in Stallman's Critiques and Essays in Criticism: 1920-1948; Crews 136 in his Sins of the Fathers; Douglas 293, and 349 in her Feminization of American Culture ; Milton Stern, "Towards `Bartleby, the Scrivener'" in Duane MacMillan, ed. The Stoic Strain in American Literature (19-41); R.E.Watters, "Melville's Metaphysics of Evil" University of Toronto Quarterly 9 no . 2 (Jan 1940), 170-182; Nina Baym, "The Head, the Heart, and the Unpardonable Sin" NEQ 40 no .1 (March 1967), 31-47; chapters four and five of Chase's The American Novel; part two (counts for half a book) in Matthiessen's American Renaissance; part three (counts for half a book) in Matthiessen's American Renaissance

April 13 and 20

13 and 14 Emergence of American Poetic Voices: chapter six in Tichi's New World, New Earth; chapters three, eleven, and seventeen in Reynolds's BAR; Grossman 183 in The American Renaissance Reconsidered; chapter four in Pease's Visionary Compacts; chapters fourteen and fifteen in Ziff's LD; chapter fourteen in Reynolds's BAR; Smith 47 and 246 in Virgin Land; Floyd Stovall, "Walt Whitman and the American Tradition" Virginia Quarterly Review, 31 (Autumn 1955), 540-57; Charles R. Anderson, Introduction to Emily Dickinson in American Literary Masters Vol. 1, 1965; Alfred J. Gelpi, "Seeing New Englandly: From Edwards to Emerson to Dickinson" in his Emily Dickinson: The Mind of the Poet; chapters thirteen and fourteen in Matthiessen's American Renaissance; chapter five in Lynen's Design

April 27 last class

Contents, No. VII