Spring 2014 - Graduate Course Descriptions

Walsh, Dennis
Discipline and Number
HUSL 6345 Section 501
R Time 7:00 PM - 9:45 PM
Course Title
Early American Literature

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 Early American Literature is to explore the richness and variety of 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 print 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 the underlying ideological assumptions that contributed to shaping the nascent nation.

Required Texts:

The Norton Anthology of American Literature: Beginnings to 1820, 8th ed., vol A, Nina Baym, General Editor. N.Y.: W.W. Norton, 2011. Also, there will be several class handouts.

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

Students will be required to write two short formal papers (no more than four pages each) and one extended paper of about 20 pages in length. Topics for the long paper should be selected in consultation with the instructor. Topics for the shorter papers will be assigned. Papers will be evaluated for the quality of research, depth and breadth of understanding and gracefulness of presentation. The papers should demonstrate a strong understanding of the subject matter and the general context in which the subject occurred. The two shorter papers will account for 20 percent of final grade. The long paper will be valued at 80 percent of one's grade.

Moreover, student attendance and class participation are essential. Seminars flourish with student input and tend to flounder without it.Please ask questions, offer opinions, challenge the texts and the instructor.The class will cover a dozen or more authors and multiple concepts; missing more than one class may disrupt the continuity of the learning process and have a negative impact on one's final grade. Please let me know if you are going to be absent.

© The University of Texas at Dallas School of Arts and Humanities.
No part of this website can be copied or reproduced without permisssion.