Syllabus #5

English 233 - American Literature
Fall 1991

Professor Clement Valletta
Kings College

Catalog Description:

A survey of maior American writers of the nineteenth century, notably Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, Fuller, Dickinson.

Course Introduction:

As our awareness of cultural, literary, and other forms of diversity changes, so does our understanding of American literature. Our individual and communal lives can derive identity by studying and perhaps furthering and remaking that diversity. America, the "brave new world," has inspired quite different visions about experience heard in oral as well as written sources of literature: poetry, speeches; changing cultural experience named and known through literary forms; invention of new forms to meet challenges and a not always receptive audience; conflicting ideas and principles derived from differing historical missions and mythic beliefs; ongoing issues or traditions of an author emerging in one time and significant ever since. We can ask how authors and speakers carry on old forms and invent new ones to understand changing historical circumstances and the significance of nature and how these forms both clarify and explore American conditions; to see, with Emerson, that "the experience of each new age requires a new confession, and the world seems always waiting for its poet."


The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Vol. 1, 1990.


Aug. 27-29

Discovery, Projections, and Myth

Myth and culture, orality and literature

Colonial period to 1700: Overview 3-21

Native American traditions 22-25

Navajo 40-52

Iroquois 56-59

Tsimshian 64-66

Sept. 3-5

Discovering a "New World" 67-69

Columbus 69-80 [Quincentennial]

Virgin of Guadalupe 81-89

Pueblo Indian Revolt 52-55

Spanish Reconquest 431-40


Sept. 10

Writing Assignment 1: How does the literature assigned reflect a conflict between Indians and Europeans? Support the view expressed with sources drawn from readings and class discussion.

Sept. 10-24

Settling and reimagining New England

Augustinian and other beliefs 146-48

Bradford 218-27 Mather 408-20

Winthrop 188-99, 204-10 Williams 232-43

Bradstreet 256-61 (Father), 269-73

Hawthorne Scarlet Letter

Young Goodman Brown, Mrs. Hutchinson, My Kinsman Major Molineux

Edwards A Divine and Supernatural Light

Quiz 9124

Sept. 26

Writing Assignment 2. Select one point of ambiguity in Hawthorne and consider (a) its differing possible interpretations to a Winthrop and (b) to a Hawthorne. Justify the differences on the basis of their beliefs.

Oct. 1-29

Inventing America

World of change, women's sphere, Enlightenment

Great Awakening, Cultural diversity 448-69

Jefferson, Declaration 952-64, Slavery 970-7, Natural Aristocracy 990-94

Wheatley 712-28

Franklin Autobiography

Douglass Narrative

Jacobs Incidents

Melville Billy Budd , Benito Cereno

Quiz - 10/24

Oct. 29

Writing Assignment 3: Define the concept of "rights" as interpreted in Franklin and Douglass or in Melville. Consider the concept in both actual and potential ways as the authors evidently do. Include in essay reference to one of the following writers concerned about rights: Child, Weld, Grimke, Garnet, Chesnutt, Stowe, Seattle, Ridge, or selected.

October 31-Dec. 10

American Styles, Identities, Diversities Personified

Crevecoeur What Is an American?

Irving Rip Van Winkle

Cooper fr. Pioneers 1282-92

Crockett A Pretty Predicament

Poe Ligeia, The Tell-Tale Heart The Purloined Letter, Selected poetry,

Philosophy of Composition

Apes, Indian's Looking Glass for the White Man 1753-59

Emerson The Poet, Nature, Circles, American Scholar, selected poetry

Fuller 1580-90 fr. Women in the Nineteenth Century 1604-26, Letter XVII

Truth 1908-1915, Stowe 2384-93 Uncle Tom's Cabin selections

Thoreau from Walden, Walking, Resistance to Civil Government

Whitman 1855 Preface, Song of Myself,

Vigil Strange, When Lilacs ...

Melville Bartleby the Scrivener, from Moby Dick (library on reserve)

Quiz- 12/3

Dickinson selected poetry from 21, 49, 67, 84, 211, 241, 249, 258, 288

30 1, 3()8, 3 15, 322, 435, 448, 632, 640, 668, 670, 754, 1 129, 1400, 1461

1545,1583; selected letters

Dec. 5

Writing Assignment 4: Select a subject of interest to you and three of the above writers and contrast in the form of poetry with annotation and commentary or in the form of an essay. Base part of work upon a scholarly article (from American Literature or other similar journal).



"Nations, like children, discover who they are by telling what they have done."

-- Peter Gay

"I would like to know the co-authors of my narrative." -- Alasdair MacIntyre

Some Expectations: Each author and tradition can be a co-author:

Defining personal and cultural identities means seeing how my story is unique and still part of living regional, cultural, and world narratives and traditions. That means I have to know many to know one, and know one well to recognize the many.

Discovering greatness in others is a way of seeing greatness in myself and in the future.

Choosing what matters means testing experience according to possible stories, so that I can discern an emerging pattern and project its outcome; however, I can also project an outcome and then build toward it.

Any live tradition is one whose future is in doubt which also means it is in conflict -- a timeless source of metaphor, narrative, and action; effective technique evokes a live tradition, imagines possible worlds.

Recognizing how my story is embedded in these others and how those are constructs of still others is part of our expectation; that, to extend Fuller's hope, "the sexes [and each `other'] should not only correspond to and appreciate, but prophesy to one another." These first Americans have invited us to find our own voices, prophesy our identities.

Contents, No. VII