American Literature I – 1600-1865 English 223 Fall 2005
Anne Cassebaum Office: Carlton 336
Office phone: 5622 Home phone: 449 6843
Office hours: TTh 10:15–12, Tu 4-5, F 1-2, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
others by chance or appointment.
Early American literature is found in oral tales, letters, diaries, sermons, spirituals, poems and novels, so
we will read widely from a Pawnee’s tale to Whitman’s Song of Myself, through five shifts in world views,
to make new discoveries about our country, our literature and ourselves. As we read to imagine and
reconstruct past cultures and lives, we will find in this literature, some answers to the questions: Who am
I? What is America? Why do I think and perceive as I do?
Let America be America. Langston Hughes
The literature of the time span we cover includes much more than we could possibly read in our lifetimes,
and many different surveys of this literature are valid. The selections made for this course will introduce
us to the worldviews of Native Americans, the People, at the time of Contact and after; the earliest
explorers and settlers, prominent among them the Puritans; Rationalists hoping for progress through the
American Revolution; Transcendentalists, New England Romantics believing anew in nature and the
individual; and other American Romantics shaping our images as they wrote the new nation’s literature.
The writing of this period is embedded in culture and history, and we will examine those connections as
we consider how literature and history are both constructs of reality.
As we explore the changes taking place in these two and a half centuries, the reading will reveal the
greatness and contradictions of American culture. We will study pivotal views on the natural world,
individualism, class, materialism, violence, freedom, and America itself that influence our thinking to this
day. You will likely find that our national literature is great enough to redeem and inspire us.
Art-speech is the only truth. An artist is usually a damned
liar, but her art, if it be art, will tell you the truth of her day….
Art has two great functions: First it provides an emotional
experience. And then, if we have the courage of our own
feelings, it becomes a mine of practical truth. D H Lawrence
Our goals in the course are to understand more fully:
-- our connection with the past and those who lived before us
-- ourselves and our values
-- the relationship of history and literature
-- individual writers and their connections to each other
-- different critical approaches to literature
By the end of the semester, you should be able to:
understand the essential methods and questions of literary criticism and several critical theories
use these methods, questions and published criticism to pursue your own study of texts
analyze how present culture and your own attitudes have been shaped by this literature
identify connections between culture, history and literature
describe the five worldviews studied and analyze texts for their values and beliefs
appreciate the pleasures of literature and its power to change oneself and the world
English 223 could be taught by lecture, but this is a discussion class which you have a major role in
teaching, so come prepared each day to start class with your questions or reactions to what we have read.
Required Course Texts:
Native American Songs and Poems
Native American Tales and Legends
The Crucible Arthur Miller*
Young Goodman Brown and other Stories Nathaniel Hawthorne
Selected Poems of Emily Dickenson
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Self Reliance and other essays Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Common Sense Thomas Paine
Walden Henry David Thoreau
Legend of Sleepy Hollow Washington Irving
Tales of Horror and Detection Edgar Allan Poe
Billy Budd Herman Melville*
Charlotte Temple Susannah Rowson*
TBA - The Scarlet Letter or Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne
* Not a Dover publication – the rest are.
The Machine in the Garden Leo Marx
Studies in Classic American Literature D.H. Lawrence
Any American History text covering 1600 – 1865
Texts on literary criticism on reserve- like Michael Meyers’s A Short Guide to Writing about Literature
15% - Paper on literary criticism – Many readings, many readers
15% - Paper on literary style - In the manner of…
15% - 3 out of the 4 – short essay papers
5% - Class presentation
15% - Final Exam
20% - Daily journals, in class writing, and quizzes
These are designed to help you reflect on the reading and to raise the level of class discussion and
your retention of the readings. Journals for class need to be typed. These daily writings will be
taken up at random, around once a week, and will not be accepted late.
15% - class participation grade
Your full participation is needed to make this class a community of learners. Every class, you
should be ready to…tell someone you do not understand or hear. . . challenge me and other students. . .
be honest and thorough with others' writing. . . ask the class to explore a hunch or question you have. . .
come to class ready to start discussion. . .be fully involved in your group. . . support others' views with
specific references or examples. . .
ATTENDANCE = BEING HERE PREPARED. Missing or being unprepared for class lowers your
participation grade and carries a penalty –see below. If you are absent, it is your responsibility to be
prepared at the next class. Because sometimes you may have to miss, save the leeway I give you here for
5 -5 …you get the progression.
Late papers: Papers are downgraded for lateness - 10 points per week or part thereof. Daily class writing
is not accepted late.
Honor Code: Elon’s Honor Code applies here as in all courses, but I trust that your own honor code makes
this reminder unnecessary. Major papers for this class may not be or have been submitted for credit in
another class without my approval. www.elon.edu/students/handbook/academic_honor_code/asp]
Individual Needs: Whether you have a documented learning disability or not, I will be glad to meet with you
to talk about what we can do to make your learning easier in this class. Please see me early in the
semester though I am open to making changes anytime.
(NB: 1] These assignments are not written in stone – It is your responsibility to check with someone in
class about any changes
2] ff = and the following pages
3] Daily journals will be assigned in class and are not on the syllabus.
4] Questions given below may help you find a journal topic if none is assigned or serve as a
study guide for the readings.
The People and the Land: Native American Worldviews
Tu 30 Introduction
Timeline of history and literature
“Let America be America” Langston Hughes
Concept: Reading for cultural values and attitudes –
Native American poetry: What is literature or poetry to us? To the People?
That which is written on the people’s tongues.
September John Smelcer
Th 1 Readings: 1-8. 10-14, 21, 26-27, 32-34, 36, 39, 42, Native American Poems & Songs
53ff,64ff, 69ff, 74ff,78ff, Native American Tales and Legends
Questions: What common themes or attitudes emerge in this collection? How does an oral
delivery change the literature? Which poems/stories matter to you? What are the stories
we tell ourselves?
In class-- Concept: considering worldviews --Mander’s native and technological people [handout]
Through European Eyes: Explorers and Puritans
Tu 6 Readings: Hand-outs on Reports from Verazzano, John Smith, John Lawson
John Winthrop, William Bradford
Questions: Whose account do you trust? What images of America come through? Do they shape
our sense of America today?
Concept: Exploring literature by theme
Th 8 Readings: Hand-outs on Anne Bradstreet, Michael Wigglesworth, Samuel Sewall, Edward
Questions: What do we learn if we view these readings as cultural and historical documents?
What questions open up the readings so we discover the culture?
ESSAY # 1 - due
Tu 13 Readings: Hand-out on Mather and Edwards, “Devil You Say” article and “Young
Goodman Brown” in Hawthorne/Dover
Questions: How does Hawthorne’s view [writing 150 years later] differ from Mather’s and yours?
Th 15 Readings: The Crucible – Arthur Miller
Question: Does Miller’s view of the witchtrials shed light on the Puritans or his own age only?
What does it highlight about the Puritan world view and our own?
Concept: New Historicism and criticism
Enlightenment: Faith in Reason
Tu 20 Readings: Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin/Dover
Questions: How does Franklin capture the spirit of Rationalism? What American myths
Does he embody?
Concept: Figuring out philosophy from autobiography
ESSAY # 2 - due
Th 22 Readings: Hand-out on Thomas Jefferson, Common Sense – Thomas Paine/Dover
Questions: How are these writers revealed as rationalists? How has America’s image shifted?
Popular Writing and World views
Tu 27 Readings: Charlotte Temple – Susannah Rowson
Questions: What does this novel tell you about the culture that made it a best seller? Compare it
with other very popular works by Wigglesworth and Franklin. Is it literature? In what sense is it
literature? What subliminal images of America and Europe emerge here?
ESSAY # 3 due
Romanticism in its Many Forms
Th 29 Readings: Legend of Sleep Hollow & Rip Van Winkle – Washington Irving
Questions: What’s new in this style? How might Puritans and Rationalist react to it?
Tu 4 Reading: Tales of Horror and Detection, Poe
Questions: Henry James thought that Poe wrote for chambermaids; in France, he is often
considered one of our greatest writers? What is your view and criteria?
Concept: History, criteria and literary reputation
Th 6 Reading: Scarlet Letter or Blithedale Romance
Questions: How does D.H. Lawrence’s dictim of trust the tale and not the artist or teller apply?
What do the opening pages signal about the whole book?
Concept: Critical Theories
Tu 11 contined & reading on critical theories
Question: What are the essential questions and methods of your critical theory
Concept: Close Analysis
Th 13 Fall Break
Th 20 Reading: “The Birthmark? And “ Rappacini’s Daughter”
What themes and elements of style identify this work as Hawthorne’s?
Tu 25 Reading: Poetry of Bryant [hand-out]
In class: Romanticism in Art: The Hudson River School
Questions: What attitudes and beliefs about nature emerge here? What is Romantic?
How did historical events influence this?
PAPER DUE - Many Readings, Many Readers
Th 27 Readings: “Self – Reliance” and other Essays – Emerson
Questions: What are the fundamental beliefs of Transcendentalism? What would other writers
we have read think of it?
Tu 1 Readings: “Oversoul” and “Divinity School Address” plus “Each and All” hand-out
Questions: How does Emerson’s view of nature compare with others, including your own?
Th 3 Readings: Walden - Henry David Thoreau
Questions: What is Thoreau’s definition of economy? How does it fit his life and philosophy?
What kind of dialogue would you and Thoreau have about his ideas on living fully?
What is Transcendental in his style?
Tu 8 Readings: Walden
Questions: How are nature and sin viewed in this work compared to other Romantics?
What do you learn from a close reading of a passage?
Th 10 Readings: “Civil Disobedience” - hand-out
Questions: What history is behind this essay? And what history came from it? What exactly is he
telling us we must do to be a person of conscience? How would your
conversation/argument with Thoreau about the Duty of Civil Disobedience” run?
How could his ideas be applied today?
ESSAY # 4 due
Tu 15 Readings: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass & hand out on George Moses Horton
Questions: What were the dynamics of the institution of slavery? How was it able to suppress
even a majority of the population?
Romanticism in New Forms
Th 17 Readings: Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson
Questions: How does the maxim that “style is content” fit here? What layers of interpretation are
Tu 22 Readings: Whitman’s Song of Myself
Questions: How does Whitman’s vision of American compare with others this semester?
What defines his Romanticism and his style?
PAPER DUE – In the Manner of…
Tu 29 Reading: Billy Budd - Melville
Questions: What interpretations does Melville suggest to us? What is your view and evidence?
Th 1 Readings: Civil War Poetry of Melville and Whitman
Questions: How does their poetry reflect their philosophy?
Tu 6 Review for Final
Questions: How did this survey of American literature shape perceptions? What changes
would you make? For what reason? To what effect?
Exam: Wednesday, December 14th , 11:30 to 2:30
Includes timeline, essay, quotation id, passage analysis