Course Content and Calendar – Fall 2009:
8/24 Syllabus. Reading and note-taking strategies. Introduction in text, (pp. 1-14). “O brave new world” and our American literary heritage. What are the historical contexts? What ideas today were shaped by those who came before us?

[Note: The course will concentrate on writers whose works were widely read and
thus influential in their lifetimes.]

8/31 Early impressions of the New World that were widely published in Europe:

Christopher Columbus (pp. 31-35),
Bartolome de las Casas (35-39)
Cabeza de Vaca (pp. 40-48),
Thomas Harriot (pp. 48-55), and
Captain John Smith (pp. 55-72)

We will look at a few selected passages from the pages above to give you an idea of
the portrait of the New World that was presented to the Old World in Europe by
these widely-read accounts. Look for passages to answer these questions:

What is the portrait of the land and its bounty?
What is the portrait of the native Indian peoples?

We’ll also discuss Spanish contact in the New World and the story of La Malinche
and the conquest of the Aztec people.

9/07 No class – Labor Day Holiday

9/14 The Puritan Experiment – William Bradford of Plymouth Colony, established 1620.

What do we learn from Bradford’s thirty-year history “Of Plimouth Colony”? Read
excerpt from Bradford’s “Historie,” (pp. 104-126).

What do you learn about Puritan beliefs? The Mayflower voyage? The colony? The
hardships? Indian relations? The first “thanksgiving”?

John Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, his bio (pg. 147) and journal (pp.
158-167) about the unusual case of Anne Hutchinson.

Why did the Puritans write such detailed journals and histories throughout the 1600s? Anne Bradstreet (pp. 187-188) and her poems “The Prologue” (188), “The Author to Her Book” (204), and “To My Dear and Loving Husband” (206). America’s first published poet is a woman in the mid 1600s! What does this devout Puritan lady write about? What are her topics, themes, images, memorable lines? We’ll look at a few selected passages in her poems, some of them quite intimate.

What do we learn about Puritan beliefs and her life in the new world? Her poems were the first published poems by a resident of the new world. First published in London in 1650, they were widely read. Do you think she believed in the Puritan experiment? Do you think that perhaps in the new world she felt more “free” to write, considering the accepted view in Europe about the role of women?

Mary Rowlandson’s capture by Indians (pp. 235-247, through the eighth remove). What portrait of American Indians is presented in this widely published (in 1682) and popular narrative by this devout New England lady? How does she describe her captivity? Note: A “remove” is a change of place and thus each section of her narrative is called “the first remove,” “the second remove,” etc., as she is forced to travel with the Indians. How do you think her widely-read portrait affected the attitude of settlers toward Indians for generations to come?

9/21 Samuel Sewall, bio (pp. 288-289), and “The Selling of Joseph: A Memorial” (pp.
303-306). Written in 1700, this was the first antislavery tract written in America.

Cotton Mather writes a history of New England from 1620 to 1698 (pub. 1702).
The excerpt from Cotton Mather’s “A People of God in the Devil’s
Territories,” (pp. 307-313) tells about the famous case of Martha Carrier in Salem,
Massachusetts, in 1692. What do you know about Salem in 1692? Perhaps you
have read Arthur Miller’s
The Crucible.

Robert Calef, skeptic of the Salem witch trials: read bio and response to Cotton
Mather, titled “More Wonders of the Invisible World” (pp. 334-342).

Read Norton introduction to American Literature 1700-1820, (pp. 357-367).

Jonathan Edwards (384-386) was a fire and brimstone preacher seeking to revive
religious fervor that he thought was lost in New England. We’ll look at a few
passages from his sermon preached in 1741, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry
God,” (pp. 425-436). At first he converted many people with this kind of
preaching, but eventually he was thrown out of his church. Based on their writings,
what do you think Bradford and Winthrop and other Puritans would have thought
of Edwards’ preaching? What do you think Benjamin Franklin, a contemporary of
Edwards, thought of his preaching?

9/28 Let’s jump several generations forward and look at a Puritan descendant, Nathaniel Hawthorne (bio pp. 1272-1275), a major figure in American literature because of his novels (he called them “romances”) and short stories, many of which are set in Puritan New England in the 1600s. Why, in the mid-1800s, did Hawthorne dwell on the issues of America’s beginnings in Puritan New England?

Hawthorne’s short story “Young Goodman Brown” (pp. 1289-1298). What are the Puritan elements in this story about a young man’s journey into the forest? Is Hawthorne fair to his Puritan ancestors?

Also read “The Birth-Mark” (pp. 1320-1332).

Highlights of The Scarlet Letter (read chapters I-VIII, pp. 1377-1415). What is Hester Prynne’s situation as the story opens? When and where is the story set? Where are Hester and her child being led? Why? Who is Master Dimmesdale? What is Hester’s trade or “handiwork”? How is Pearl described? Why does Hester go to the Governor’s hall? What happens there?

What themes or “messages” reappear in Hawthorne’s stories? What were American’s “sins” in the 1800s? Did their roots go back to the 1600s and 1700s?

10/05 Exam 1 – The explorers, Puritans, and Hawthorne

10/12 Writers of the 1700s: emerging ideas about slavery, the treatment of Indians, the “new race of man,” and independence. Let’s briefly touch on these writers and the contributions they made.

Native American writers: intro (pp. 437-438), Pontiac (438-440), Red Jacket (445-
447), Tecumseh (447-449).

Samson Occom (pp. 440-443), one of the earliest Native American writers and preachers. Scan his “Short Narrative of My Life.” What injustices does he record?

Olaudah Equiano, bio and chapters I-IV of his “Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, the African, Written by Himself” (pp. 674-693). What information does he share about his life in Africa and his capture and transport on a slave ship? Scan his widely-read narrative. Whom does he blame for allowing the injustices of slavery?

Phillis Wheatley, bio (pp. 751-752). What is her message in her poem “On Being Brought from Africa to America”? (pp. 752-753). Read her tribute (pp. 761-762) “To His Excellency General Washington” (written in 1776). Why is she praising George Washington? Why did the American Revolution give hope to Black people? Also read “To Rev. Samson Occom” (pp. 763-764).

John Woolman bio (pp. 587-588) and his journal (588-595). How did Woolman’s childhood experiences shape him into a more moral person? What are his views on slavery?

**Note: Friday, 10/16 is the last day to withdraw in the Registrar’s Office.

10/19 Benjamin Franklin bio (pp. 449-451) and his essay “The Way to Wealth” (pp. 451-457), composed for the 25th anniversary of his Poor Richard’s Almanac, an American classic in his lifetime, filled with maxims for achieving wealth and preaching hard work and thrift. Also read the excerpt from Franklin’s Autobiography, part two only (pp. 518-534).

J. Hector St. John De Crevecoeur bio (pp. 595-596) and the third letter from his
work,
Letters from an American Farmer titled “What is an American?” (pp.
596-605), widely published in 1782 after his travels in America. What is his
observation and prediction about “this new race of man”?

Thomas Paine (pp. 629-630) and the excerpt from his pamphlet
Common Sense
(pp. 630-637). Excerpts from these popular pamphlets were read to the
Revolutionary soldiers to shore up their morale and inspire them to fight for
freedom from British tyranny. What is perhaps Paine’s most famous line? Have
Paine’s ideas been relevant at other times in American history?

Thomas Jefferson (pp. 649-657) and his draft of the Declaration of Independence.
What specific elements of Thomas Paine’s writing are reflected in the Declaration?

***Proposal for research papers due. Sign up for time/date of oral presentation.

10/26 Lydia Marie Child bio (pp. 1078-1081) and selections from Letters from New York:
Letter I (pp. 1081-1083), Letter XIV (pp. 1083-1087), Letter XXXIV (pp.
1096-1100), and Letter XXXVI (pp. 1100-1106). What do we learn about the
differences between the supporters of women’s rights and the common beliefs
about “race”?

Judith Sargent Murray (pp. 724-725) and her essay “On the Equality of the Sexes” (pp. 726-733). What are her arguments about the strengths of women?

Fanny Fern (pp. 1792-1794) and the articles “Aunt Hetty on Matrimony” (pp.
1794-1795), “Hungry Husbands” (pp. 1795-1796), and “Male Criticism on Ladies’
Books” (pp. 1799-1800).

Scan Norton introduction to volume B, (pp. 929-950).

Washington Irving (pp. 951-953) and his fanciful short story “Rip Van
Winkle” (pp. 953-965). What major event did Rip miss by sleeping for twenty
years? What is a “counter-hero”? Why were Irving’s stories so popular in his day?

11/02 Harriet Beecher Stowe (pp. 1698-1701) and her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin,
published in 1852. Read only Chapters I, III, and VII (pp. 1701-1721). Upon
meeting Mrs. Stowe, President Lincoln supposedly said, “So you are the little lady
who started this big war!” What is her portrayal of slavery? Why did it touch the
American conscience? Who are the major characters? How are they portrayed?

Angelina E. Grimké, from “Appeal to the Christian Women of the South” (pp.
1692-1695).

Sojourner Truth, Speech to the Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, 1851
(pp. 1695-1696).

Harriet Jacobs, from Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Read Chapters I, VII, and
X (pp. 1808-1819).

Frederick Douglass (pp. 2060-2064) and excerpt from an 1852 speech, “What to
the Slave is the Fourth of July?” (pp. 2140-2143).

Oral presentations 7:00 – 7:30 p.m.

11/09 Major Test 2 – Native Americans, Slavery/Slave Trade, writers of the 1700s,
Franklin, Paine, Jefferson, Douglass, Jacobs, Beecher Stowe

Oral presentations 7:00 – 7:30 p.m.

11/16 Ralph Waldo Emerson (pp. 1106-1110) and Chapters I-IV of his essay Nature (pp. 1110-1122).

Emerson’s Concord group: Hawthorne, Thoreau, the Alcotts, and others.

Henry David Thoreau (pp. 1853-1857) on civil disobedience (pp. 1857-1872). His existence at Walden Pond.

Margaret Fuller (pp. 1637-1640) and an excerpt from her work “The Great Lawsuit. Man versus Men. Woman versus Women” (pp. 1640-1655).

Oral presentations 7:00 – 7:30 p.m.

11/23 Edgar Allan Poe (pp. 1528-1532), “The Fall of the House of Usher” (pp.
1553-1565) and “Philosophy of Composition” (pp. 1617-1625).

Emily Dickinson (pp. 2554-2558) and her poems “‘Faith’ is a fine invention” (pg. 2561), “I heard a Fly buzz – when I died” (pp. 2579-2580), “This World is not Conclusion” (pg. 2572), “Because I could not stop for Death” (pg. 2578) and “Much Madness is divinest Sense - ” (pg. 2581).

Oral presentations 7:00 – 7:30 p.m.

11/30 ***Research Paper due.

Walt Whitman biography (pp. 2190-2195) and his poems “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” (pp. 2263-2267) “Live Oak, with Moss” (pp. 2296-2300), selection from “Song of Myself” (stanzas 1-14 only, pp. 2210-2219).

Herman Melville (pp. 2304-2308) and his “wicked book” Moby Dick (intro and
excerpt pp. 2320-2342 up to Ch. 41).

What is “wicked” about this story of hunting a whale? Why is it tragic? Melville
seems to make the whale highly symbolic. What is the nature of the white whale?

Oral presentations 7:00 – 7:30 p.m.

12/07 Final Exam: Emerson through Melville. 7:00 – 9:45 p.m. (in classroom)


Congratulations! You have finished the course. I hope you have enjoyed it!