Summer 2012 - Graduate Course Descriptions
Description of Course:
"For we must Consider that wee shall be as a City upon a Hill," John Winthrop, 1630
"Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just," Thomas Jefferson, 1787
The goal of American Literature Before 1800 is to explore the richness and variety of literary texts written in and about America from the early 1500s to 1800. In particular, we will concentrate on Colonial and Federalist writers from the North and the South as America realizes itself as much in texts as in works. We will examine a sweep of literary forms-- history, fiction, poetry, sermons, political tracts, diaries, essays and personal narratives-- that were written by divergent voices over a period of more than two and half centuries. Moreover, students will confront the principal ideologies, myths and historical realities that inform much of the readings about this "brave new world," America, which was as much an invention of the European and religious imagination as it was a historical, material reality. We will pay particular attention to such large issues as God and nation, democracy and slavery, Nature and man, spiritual and physical journeys, the complex concept that Americans are a "people of the word," and underlying ideological assumptions that contributed to shaping shaped the nascent nation.
The Norton Anthology of American Literature: Beginnings to 1820, 8th ed., vol A, Nina Baym, General Editor. N.Y.: W.W. Norton, 2011.
Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:
Students will be required to write either a single lengthy paper of 20 pages, as well as three shorter papers on assigned topics. Moreover, student attendance and seminar participation are essential. The seminar will cover a dozen or more authors authors and multiple concepts within a highly condensed time frame; missing more than one class may disrupt the continuity of the learning process. Additionally, while contemplation is laudable, please be vocal during the seminar: ask questions, voice opinions, criticize the texts, challenge the instructor!