“We must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill.” – John Winthrop
“I am obnoxious to each carping tongue / Who says my hand a needle better fits.” – Anne Bradstreet
“You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave
was made a man.”
– Frederick Douglass
Course Summary and Learning Goals:
Our objective in English 251 is to introduce you to representative writings from the geographical area that would become known as the United States, from the time of European exploration through 1865. The above quotations, representing a diverse range of authors and genres, provide just a sampling of the wide expanse of American literature. Consequently, this course emphasizes the ongoing conversations on the important issues of the age: identity (both national and individual), art and aesthetics, and spirituality and religion.
In addition to reading well-known canonical works, we will listen to competing voices and see how class, gender, sexuality and race influence and inform each aspect of what would become American culture. How, for instance, does a leader like William Bradford imagine and create identity in the new world, and how do writers like the Native American teacher Samson Occom respond to these ideas? How is the transcendental philosophy articulated by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau reinterpreted by women writers like Margaret Fuller or African Americans like Frederick Douglass? In general, how does this multiplicity of voices complicate and enhance what we mean when we talk about American literature? These questions will guide us through our course.
At the end of the course, students will be able to identify the varied characteristics of this period’s literature, apply techniques of literary analysis, use these skills in careful reading and clear writing, and demonstrate an understanding of the diverse social and historical contexts in which these texts were written.
Lauter, Paul, editor. The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Volumes A and B.
Jacobs, Harriet. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.
Other texts available on e-reserve.
1. Reading Assignments: We will do quite a bit of reading in this class, so it is important to keep up with class assignments and take the time to read carefully and thoroughly.
2. Short Responses: Four times this semester, you will complete a short (2 page) response on our reading. Specific guidelines for these responses can be found on a separate handout. Late papers are not accepted.
3. Reading Quizzes: Regular (and very simple) quizzes will be given to check that students are keeping up with the reading.
4. Paper: You will write one longer paper (4-6 pages) based on an idea you begin discussing in your short responses. More information on this paper will be given later in the semester.
5. Discussion Leadership: Once during the semester, you will lead class discussion for 20 minutes, providing either important biographical or critical information about an author or text and connecting that information to the day’s reading. Specific guidelines can be found on another handout.
6. Participation: Participation in class discussions, combined with regular attendance, is a key to success in this class. Even if you are bit shy, try to speak up and make your opinions and ideas heard. Just as important as speaking, of course, is active and respectful listening.
7. Final Exam: There will be a final exam, designed to help you synthesize
the materials and show your ability to discuss them in an intelligent, coherent,
and creative matter.
Other Items to Note:
Attendance: In this class, attendance is crucial and missed class time cannot be made up. Therefore, you are allowed THREE absences. Any more will reduce your grade by one third a letter grade. More than six absences and you will fail the class. Additionally, being late to class is rude and disruptive. Don’t do it. If you are more than 10 minutes late to class twice, that will count as one absence. Finally, if you miss class it is your responsibility to contact me or a classmate to find out what you have missed before the next class meeting. An absence is not an excuse for being unprepared for the next class.
Email/Internet Access: Please activate your UNCG email account as soon as possible and make sure you can get onto the internet and Blackboard. Email is the best way to get into contact with me. Plus, internet access is absolutely necessary for downloading the e-reserve materials.
Conferences/Office Hours: Remember that I am available during my office hours (and alternative times, if necessary) if you have questions about the course or your status in it. The best way to contact me outside of class is via email. I am committed to your success in this class and look forward to working with you.
20%: Short Responses
20%: Reading Quizzes
25%: Final Exam
10%: Discussion Leadership
Academic Honor: Plagiarism will not be tolerated. Please see the section on academic honor in the UNCG Handbook if you have any questions. If you are still unsure about citing something, see me. There’s no shame in asking for help.
The Writing Center: This free resource is available to all UNCG students. You may make an appointment or just drop in to have a one-on-one conference with writing consultants. They can assist you on any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming topics to revising a final paper. The center is located in 101 McIver and is open Sun. 5-8, Mon-Thur. 9-8, and Fri. 9-3.
Subject to revision
Always read the introduction to individual writers or selections, and the general introductions to the periods.
Week One: Contact and Colonization
M, 8/15: Introduction to the course.
W, 8/17: Columbus, Journal of the First Voyage to America, 120-128; Handsome Lake, “How America Was Discovered,” 803-804.
F, 8/19: Smith, The Generall Historie of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles, A Description of New England, “Advertisements for the Unexperienced Planters…” 255-269.
Week Two: New England Colonies and Religion
M, 8/22: Winthrop, “A Modell of Christian Charity,” 309-324.
W, 8/24: Bradford, Selections from Of Plymouth Plantation, 324-346.
F, 8/26: Bay Psalm Book and The New England Primer, 435-437, Mather, The Wonders of the Invisible World, 507-514.
Week Three: Women’s Voices in Early America, Revolution and Federalism
M, 8/29: Bradstreet, “The Prologue,” The Author to Her Book,” “Before the Birth of One of her Children,” “To My Dear and Loving Husband,” “The Flesh and the Spirit,” “Upon the Burning of Our House, July 10th, 1666,” 394-410.
W, 8/31: Rowlandson, A Narrative of the Captivity and Restauration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, 437-468.
F, 9/2: Franklin, “The Speech of Polly Baker,” 815-817; Selections from The Autobiography, 828-890.
*FIRST SHORT RESPONSE DUE BY 9/2*
Week Four: Revolution and Federalism, continued
M, 9/5: Labor Day – No Class
W, 9/7: Paine, Common Sense, The American Crisis, 957-970.
F, 9/9: Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 990-1012.
Week Five: Early American Voices from the Margins
M, 9/12: Wheatley, “On the Death of the Rev. Mr. George Whitefield,” 1245-1246; “On Being Brought from Africa to America,” 1247; “To the University of Cambridge, in New England,” 1249-1250; “Letter to Samson Occcom,” 1056.
W, 9/13: Occom, “A Short Narrative of My Life,” “A Sermon,” 1115-1137.
*SWITCH TO VOLUME B*
F, 9/15: Apess, “An Indian’s Looking-Glass for the White Man,” 1459-1465.
Week Six: The New England Renaissance and Transcendentalism
M, 9/19: Emerson, “Self-Reliance,” 1621-1638.
W, 9/21: Thoreau, “Resistance to Civil Government,” 1735-1752.
F, 9/23: Thoreau, Selections from Walden, 1753-1787.
Week Seven: Romanticism and the Gothic Imagination
M, 9/26: Poe, “The Philosophy of Composition,” 2521-2529; “The Raven,” 2539-2542; “Annabel Lee,” 2545-2546.
W, 9/28: Poe, “The Fall of the House of Usher,” 2472-2485; “The Cask of Amontillado” (e-reserve).
F, 9/30: Poe, “William Wilson” (e-reserve).
*SECOND SHORT RESPONSE DUE BY 9/30*
Week Eight: Romanticism II
M, 10/3: Hawthorne, “Young Goodman Brown,” 2258-2267, “The Minister’s Black Veil,” 2267-2275.
W, 10/5: Hawthorne, “The Birth-mark,” 2276-2287.
F, 10/7: Hawthorne, “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” 2287-2306.
Week Nine: Romanticism III
M, 10/10: Fall Break – No Class
W, 10/12: Melville, “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” 2621-2651.
F, 10/14: Melville, “Benito Cereno,” 2669-2726.
Week Ten: “The Woman Question,” Race and Slavery
M, 10/17: Fern, “Hints to Young Wives,” 2101-2102; “Soliloquy of a Housemaid,” 2103-2104; “The Working-Girls of New York,” 2107-2109; Fuller, Selections TBA.
W, 10/19: Larcom, “Getting Along,” “A Little Old Girl,” “Unwedded,” “Weaving” (e-reserve)
F, 10/21: Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, 1879-1945.
*THIRD SHORT RESPONSE DUE BY 10/21*
Week Eleven: Race and Slavery, Political Romanticism
M, 10/24: Child, Selections from An Appeal in Favor of that Class of Americans Called Africans, 1842-1845; “Letters from New York,” 1846-1857.
W, 10/26: Stowe, Selections from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 2547-2588.
F, 10/28: Stowe discussion continued.
Week Twelve: Race, Gender, Power, and Slavery
M, 10/31: Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, 1-37, also read Preface by Jacobs and Introduction by Child.
W, 11/2: Incidents, 37-83.
F, 11/4: Incidents, 83-123.
Week Thirteen: Race, Gender, Power, and Slavery, continued
M, 11/7: Incidents, 123-166.
W, 11/9: Incidents, 166-208.
F, 11/11: Incidents, 208-end.
*FOURTH SHORT RESPONSE DUE BY 11/11*
Week Fourteen: Poetry, Publicity, and Privacy
M, 11/14: Dickinson, “Success is counted sweetest,” 3047-3048; “I'm Nobody! Who are you?” 3051; “The Soul selects her own Society,” 3053; “Much Madness is divinest Sense,” 3059; “This is my letter to the World,” 3059; “This was a Poet—It is That,” 3061; “I dwell in Possibility—,” 3068-3069; Letters to T.W. Higginson, 3088-3093.
W, 11/16: Dickinson, “Some keep the Sabbath going to Church,” 3056; “A Bird came down the Walk,” 3056-3057; “It sifts from Leaden Sieves –,” 3054-3055, “A narrow Fellow in the Grass,” 3074-3075.
F, 11/18: Dickinson, “Wild Nights – Wild Nights!” 3049-3050; “After great pain, a formal feeling comes,” 3057-3058; “I heard a Fly Buzz—when I died—,” 3061-3062; “I cannot live with You,” 3067-3068. Letters to Susan Gilbert Dickinson, 3084-3095.
Week Fifteen: Poetry, Publicity, and Privacy II
M, 11/21: Whitman, Preface to Leaves of Grass, 2920-2937; “Song of Myself” (focus TBA).
W, 11/23 and F, 11/25: Thanksgiving Break – No Class
Week Sixteen: Poetry, Publicity, and Privacy II, continued
M, 11/28: Whitman, “A Woman Waits for Me,” (link available on Blackboard under “External Links”); “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking,” 3000-3005; “Vigil Strange I Kept on Field One Night,” 3009-3010.
W, 11/30: Whitman, “As I Lay with My Head in your Lap Camerado,” 3013; “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed, 3013-3020; “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer,” 3007.
F, 12/2: Make-up/Catch-up Day
M, 12/5: Final Exam Review
F, 12/7: Final Exam