Syllabus #1

American Literature

Professor LaRene Despain

In this course we will make a complete if abbreviated, survey of American literature, beginning with accounts of explorations (Spanish, French, English) and ending with four contemporary novels. The emphasis will be on the diversity of the American tradition and the literature that has come from it. I will attempt to place the literature in the political, cultural, and aesthetic backgrounds which produced it. The course will be roughly chronological, but I will also pay attention to the development of various genres.

Following is a detailed schedule for the first term (until the Christmas break) and a general schedule for the rest of the year. After the schedule, I have given a description of written work required for the course. The course demands a fair amount of reading, thinking, and analysis. I will give some lectures, but much of the course will be carried on by class discussion. We will look at the texts in detail.

For the first term, all readings (except for the novels) are from the Heath Anthology of American Literature, Volume I. Ten copies of this anthology are available in the department library. The three novels: The Last of the Mohicans, Uncle Tom's Cabin, and The Scarlet Letter, are also available in the library. There are 15 copies of Letter besides three copies of a special edition containing critical articles. There are three copies of each of the other two.


October 24: Europeans consider Native Americans, and Native Americans consider Europeans:
Europeans: p.70, Columbus; p. 92, de Vaca (esp. Chapter XXIV, p. 94); p. l00 Chapter IX; Fl. 111 Aviles esp. "Letter to a Jesuit Friend"; p. 125, Perez de Villagasa; p. 132, Champlain; p. 149, John Smith; p. 176-180, Thomas Morton; p. 317-342, Mary Rowlandson; pp. 505-509 Byrd; p. 794-806 and 815-819, Franklin. Native Americans: p. 52 Hopi (p. 433 same event from the Spanish point of view); p. 56 Iroquois; p. 751 Mahican narrative; Apes (Pequot).

October 29 and October 31: The Last of the Mohicans

November 5: Puritanism:
p.199, p. 205-210, Winthrop; pp 217-277, Bradford; pp. 234-255, Williams; pp. 401-06, Mather; pp. 581-610, Ashbridge and Woolman, Quakers; p. 790, Franklin on witch trials.

November 7: Theoretical underpinnings of the new nation:
Pages 925-990 have selections from John and Abigail Adams, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson; read a little from each one. You might also look at the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers (p. 1007)

November 12 and 14: Transcendentalism and Emerson:
Read Emerson's essay, "Self Reliance, " page 1511.

November 19: Margaret Fuller, Read "Summer on the Lakes, and "Woman in the Nineteenth Century, page 1590-1626.

November 21: The Place of Women:
Read from the section Women' s voices: pages 1886-1914.

November 26: Henry David Thoreau:
Read "Resistance to Civil Government " and the selections from Walden, pages 1967-2007.

November 28: Abolitionist Literature:
Read from the section on pp. 1781-1885.

December 3-5: Read Afro-American narratives, pp. 679-728; 1637-1750; and p. 2584, Clotelle, p. 2628, Our Nig, and Harper's pieces, especially Iola Leroy.

December 10 and 12: Continue with Afro-American narratives and read Uncle Tom's Cabin

December 17 and 19: The Scarlet Letter

Schedule for 2nd and 3rd Terms

Jan 14-16: Continue with Scarlet Letter

Jan 21-23: The short story: Poe, Hawthorne, Melville

Jan 28-30: Henry James

Feb 4 and 6: Sister Carrie

Feb 11-Feb 20: The short story:
Chopin, Davis, Freeman, S. Crane, Cather, Anderson, Hemingway

Feb 25-27: Poetry:
Whitman and Dickinson

Mar 3-Mar 24: Poetry:
T. S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, e.e. cummings, Ginsberg, Sexton, Rich, Harjo, among others.

Mar 31-Ap 2: Short Stories:
Baldwin, Cisneros, Alice Walker, among others.

Ap 7-Ap 16: Faulkner, Sound and the Fury, along with critical articles.

May 5-7: Invisible Man

May 12-14: Woman Warrior

May 19-21: Love Medicine

May 26-28: Beloved

Contents, No. VIII