Fall 2014 - Undergraduate Course Descriptions

Walsh, Dennis
Discipline and Number
LIT 3322 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
Also there will be class handouts.

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

Students will be required to write three formal papers (five to seven pages each). There also will be three spot quizzes based on the reading assignments. 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 presentation of your text will be evaluated on the quality of research, strength of organization, clarity of prose and overall effectiveness of presentation. Each paper is valued at 30 points, while the three spot quizzes are values at 10 percent of final grade.

Moreover, student attendance and class participation are essential. Classes 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. Please be patient when reading the texts, many written three hundred years ago: they are not "Twitter friendly."


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