Mayflower Compact

Declaration of Independence

LITR 4326 Early American Literature
(1492-early 1800s)

Homepage / Syllabus, Fall 2017
Tuesdays 1pm-3:50pm
, Bayou 2237

undergraduate companion course: LITR 4328 American Renaissance
(app. 1820s-1860s; generation before US Civil War)

Mayan heiroglyph

Maps of North America

Iroquois wampum

First Slave Narrative


Instructor: Craig White   

Professor White's Coursesite

Office: Bayou 2529-8 Office Hours: 4-7 Monday, 4-7 Tuesday, & by appointment

Phone: 281 283 3380    Email:


Instructional Materials

Course Policies

Attendance policy:
You are expected to attend every scheduled class meeting but are permitted one free cut
without comment or penalty.
More than one absence jeopardizes your status in the course.
If you continue to cut or miss, drop the course. Even with medical or other emergency excuses,
high numbers of absences or partial absences will result in a lower or failing course grade.

Model Assignments

This semester's assignments.

research plan & 2 research posts (30-40%)
(plan due 20-25 Sept.; posts due 4-8 Oct. and 1-4 Nov.)

midterm (20-30%)
(11-18 October)

final exam (25-35%)
(29 Nov.-12 Dec.)

student presentations & participation

discussion leader

poetry reader

web review / outside text

Final Grade Report

Reading & Presentation Schedule, fall 2017

(spring 2016 syllabus)

No Required Textbooks—all texts online


Tuesday,  29 August 2017: course introduction

Instructor presents: Enlightenment & The Federalist Papers, #1 & #10

Anne Bradstreet, "In Reference to her Children"17th Century / Baroque

Purposes of literature: mimesis; entertainment and instruction

Agenda: textbooks?

syllabus, daily windows;  periods

semester assignments, model assignments; presentations

ID forms + presentation requests (continue next week)


Why do we read literature of the past? What reactions?

periods; Renaissance, next week's assignments: Origin Stories

Objectives > obj. 4: which America do we teach?

todays texts: Enlightenment / Federalist + 17th Century / Bradstreet

Sacagawea, 1788-1812

Effigy Mounds, Iowa

Discussion Questions:

1. Why do we read literature of the past? What reactions do we have? What learn or gain?

2. Which America do we learn or teach? Dominant culture / Western Civilization, or Multicultural?

3. What advantages to each? What pressures to teach either?


Jefferson Nickel


The Renaissance (1400s-1600+)

early European Exploration and Settlement; First Contact with American Indians

19c Print of Columbus landing in New World

1992 Chicano student demontration at U. of Wisconsin
(re 500-year commemoration of Columbus)

European Renaissance Music

Native American Music

Tuesday, 5 September 2017: Creation & Origin Stories of Europe, America, Africa

Readings: Genesis (Creation Story from Bible) & Columbus's Letters (re discovery of America)

American Indian Origin Stories

Student Presentations

Reading Discussion Leader(s):  

Poem: Simon J. Ortiz, "A New Story"; Poetry Reader:  

Web Review: Native American music  Web Reviewer:  

Instructor presents Declaration of Independence; Narrative of Olaudah Equiano, the African; Virgin of Guadalupe as Origin Stories

terms : origins, intertextuality, syncretism; spoken-written literature; wampum; Art = imitation of reality; to entertain & instruct

Agenda: office hours, presentation assignments (& forms); roll, First assignment 16-21 February: research post topics proposal

creation / origin stories & objectives 1 & 2

reading discussion: 

Columbus, Genesis, & Handsome Lake: intertextuality / dialogue



web review: Nathan > pleasure as identity, defamiliarization?

next week's assignments research posts; maps

other creation stories . . .

Blake, Creation of Eve

Discussion Questions: 1. How is each creation / origin story unique to its culture? How does an origin story create a culture? What symbols, gender roles, ethics or morality, relations of humanity and divinity?

2. Or, how do today's creation / origin stories resemble each other? If they do resemble each other, is it because of cultural contact or universal human nature?

3. What literary qualities or pleasures do you find in these texts? What balance of instruction and entertainment?

4. What resemblances b/w Columbus & Genesis? With Handsome Lake? If they resemble or reflect each other, what are possible reasons? (Intertextuality)

4a. More directly, how much does Columbus appear to have rediscovered or re-entered the Garden of Eden?

5. What assumptions does Columbus make about the Indians, their land and resources relative to the Europeans, their empires, and desires? How do Columbus's attitudes still reflect those of America's dominant culture toward Native American Indians?

6. About "Creation Stories," what advantages to one story vs. many stories?

7. Which America do we teach? A "nation of many nations," or "one nation under God?"

Turtle Island

Tuesday, 12 September 2017: Early Explorers

terms: Renaissance, La Malinche, Mestizo

Readings: John Smith (1580-1631), from A General History of Virginia (1624)

Cabeza de Vaca (1488-1588), selections from La Relacion (1542)

Reading Discussion Leader(s): 

Poem:  Sor Juana Inez de Cruz (1651-95), "You Men" Poetry Reader:   

Web review: syncretism (obj. 6) & Virgin of Guadalupe origin story  Web Reviewer: Instructor

Web Review: European Renaissance music  Web Reviewer: Instructor

Agenda: obj. 4 Renaissance

research posts, midterm, obj. 2 origin stories; obj. 3; schedule; preview Puritans as dominant culture;

question re obj. 3

John Smith & Pocahontas: 

Sor Juana:  


origin story > captivity narrative

Cabeza de Vaca: reading experience?

origin stories > Virgin of Guadalupe origin story > Mestizo; Richard Rodriguez

Renaissance > Renaissance music: instructor

Discussion Questions: 1. How do today's reading assignments matter to us here and now? (historicism)

2. What kind of pleasure can be found in these readings? Information and learning, or escape and engagement? 

3. How are the stories by Smith and Cabeza de Vaca like or unlike fiction (which won't appear for about 200 more years)?

4. What different attitudes toward racial or ethnic mixing emerge from North America and Latin America? Term: Mestizo.

5. Since Cabeza de Vaca's story takes place in the Gulf Coast region (including Galveston and San Antonio), how do you see this area differently through that time and his eyes?

6. What picture emerges of the American Indians, and how does it comply or conflict with legends regarding this area's Indians?

Added question: How does the story of John Smith (and its various legends) make an early model of the USA's dominant culture? How may Cabeza de Vaca (and possibly Sor Juana) represent or model a multicultural North America?

Seventeenth Century (1600s)

Reformation & Counter-Reformation; Religion as War & Exaltation

St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, 1572
Assassinations and Mob Violence killing thousands of French Protestants
painting by Francois Dubois (1529-84)

Bernini, St. Teresa in Ecstasy (1647-52), Rome

Tuesday, 19 September 2017: Puritan utopias (1st generation Puritan settlement of New England)

Readings: the 17th Century; The Puritans in New England (and England); New England

Bradford,  Of Plymouth Plantation (i.e., "the Pilgrims"; selections)

John Winthrop (1587-1649), A Model of Christian Charity (Boston Puritans; excerpts)

Anne Bradstreet (1612-72), poems

term(s): utopia, literary & historical utopias, America's utopian pasts 

Student Presentations

Reading Discussion Leader(s):  instructor;   (1-2 Bradstreet poems) Poetry Reader

Web Review: Baroque music  Web Reviewer:  

Agenda: research topic(s) proposal; course structure

critical thinking, dialectic 17th Century, plain style

 > Baroque & Baroque music

Anne Bradstreet: 


Puritans; utopia + grad seminar (communitarian)

Bradford / Winthrop: dominant culture / multiculturalism

community / individualism; spiritual / material

next week

[Bradford as poet] . .


Stained Glass of Anne Bradstreet
St. Botolph’s Ch., Boston, England

Discussion Questions: 1. How do the Puritans (with John Smith & Virginia) represent an early model of the USA's dominant culture? How do their relations with American Indians represent or model the relationship between the USA's dominant and minority cultures?

1a. How does the pop-culture resonance of "the first Thanksgiving" with Pilgrims and Indians compare with the populariity of the John Smith-Pocahontas story?

1a. What glimpses do Puritan texts offer of American Indians, and what can we learn of both the Indians and their relations with European settlers? How do the Pilgrims'' perceptions of Native Americans conform to or differ from later attitudes? The Pilgrims tell a story of God's plan or story for them, but how do the Indians fit into that plan, or how do you see glimpses of more than one story?

2. How do the Puritans express attitudes that preview constitutional democracy, describe or imagine utopias or perfect worlds, or stand for "traditional family values," or the idea that America was founded by "Godly men?"

2a. How may New England still represent a "utopian community" in American thought or culture? What's changed?

2b. What problems or challenges do the Puritans present to modern America?

3. As lyric poems, Bradstreet's writings appear "timeless." But how do they reach across the centuries? To what do they connect? What parts don't connect? What combinations of family and religious identity make her appealing to popular as well as critical or historical audiences?

John Winthrop (1587-1649)

Research Post topic(s) proposal due 20-25 September

Tuesday, 26 September 2017: Puritan Captivity Narrative (2nd generation of Puritans)

Readings: Mary Rowlandson , A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration (1682)

introduction + chs. 1-3 of Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison (1725) 

Cotton Mather, The Wonders of the Invisible World (1693)

terms: captivity narrative; Iroquois Confederacy; romance

Student Presentations

Reading Discussion Leader(s):    (Rowlandson);   (Jemison)

Reading Discussion Leader(s):   (Mather) + Web Review: Salem Witch Trials 

Agenda: research proposals

how to read literature before it was literature; dialectic; plain style;  dominant culture & multiculture; color code; gothic

captivity narrative > Mary Jemison: 

Mary Rowlandson: Andrea (sick > instructor)


literacy and American Indian speech and writing

midterm; research posts > Salem Witch Trials > The Witch

Mather / Salem: 


later illustration for
Rowlandson's book

Discussion Questions: 1. Rowlandson, b. 1637, is part of the Puritans' second generation in America, with Mather third generation. (Jonathan Edwards [25 Feb] will be 4th generation.) How do their situations and attitudes differ from first, "utopian" generation of the Puritan immigrants? How do they struggle to "measure up" to the heroic first generation? (Compare immigrant narrative?)

2. See objective 6 re "biblical narratives" as an interpretation of American history. How does Rowlandson interpret both her experience and the Indians' in terms of a Christian allegory or world-vision?

3. Rowlandson writes the first "captivity narrative"—a popular genre in American literature. What are its attractions? Rowlandson's text was remarkably popular in its day. How does it resemble what we would now consider popular literature that people might enjoy reading? How does it anticipate fiction or the romance? How do Rowlandson's stylings anticipate "the gothic," esp. descriptions of Indians and the wilderness?

4. How do Rowlandson's stylings of Indians correspond to our stylings of terrorists? Even though Rowlandson writes from a dominant-culture perspective, what multicultural glimpses do we get of American Indian culture and the Indians' own struggles in the face of social upheaval? What is their story compared to the dominant-cultural story of righteous conquest?

5. As a woman writer, how do Rowlandson's and Jemison's concerns and style compare to Anne Bradstreet? What are the opportunities for women's writing in early and later New England? (It's easy to criticize the Puritans as sexists, but they were much more encouraging of women's literacy than most early colonial communities, if only so women could read the Bible and learn to obey.)

6. Mather (1663-1728) and the Salem Witch Trials occur in Puritans' third generation—what has changed for God's chosen people in America? Why do we remember the Salem Witch Trials and little else about the Puritans? If we don't believe in witchcraft then or now, what's going on in this trial? Why do Americans want to believe in witches, when they might better wonder why religious superstition was used to murder 20 innocent people and damage countless more? 

Cotton Mather (1663-1728)

The Enlightenment or Age of Reason
& the Scientific Revolution (late 1600s-late 1700s)

Transition from the 1600s to 1700s, from Religion / Revelation to Enlightenment / Reason

Jefferson Memorial, Washington D.C.
(Neo-Classical Style of Architecture)

John James Audubon (1785-1851)

^examples of Neo-Classical or Enlightenment art^

Tuesday3 October 2017: Last Puritan and First Founder

Jonathan Edwards, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God; Personal Narrative; Note on Sarah Pierpont; "Of the Rainbow" & "Of Insects"

Benjamin Franklin, Remarks on the Savages of America; from the Autobiography, proverbs / aphorisms

Reading Discussion Leader(s): 

Web review: Seventeenth Century (1600s); Baroque; Enlightenment, Deism (Franklin Autobio 19, 32), The Greak Awakening; irony Web Reviewer: instructor

Web review: remaining chapters of Narrative of Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison (1725)  Web Reviewer: 

Agenda: Professor Longhair; research post (research, organization, grading), midterm schedule

Religion & Literature; The Great Awakening & other terms

Edwards & Franklin: reader: 

Mary Jemison: 

Early American literature: formal or historical?

periods; dominant & multi-culture; fiction; gothic & "the other"


Jonathan Edwards (1703-58)
participant in the First Greak Awakening & author of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Discussion Questions: Above all, compare and contrast Franklin and Edwards, born 3 years apart but on different paths in writing styles and subjects; also public profile & sense of American community.

1. Which author or text seems most "literary" to present standards? What implications to your choice?

2. Edwards: How is Edwards "the Last Puritan?" What has changed? How does he follow earlier Puritan generations?

3. Why is "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" the "most famous sermon ever?" Why do readers remember it? Why does it matter now, whether we share its religion or not? How do Edwards's Personal Narrative & note on Sarah Pierrepont show a different side to religion?

4. Identify elements of the gothic and sublime. (Compare to Rowlandson's Captivity Narrative?)

5. Franklin: In contrast to Edwards as "the Last Puritan," how does Franklin represent the new Enlightenment generation that founds the USA? What aspects of Franklin are more or less attractive or admirable? How does his use of irony and humor allow him to criticize a sensitive subject like religion?

6. How do the religious postures or attitudes of Edwards and Franklin combine to constitute the USA's continuing status quo of "religious people, secular government?"

Benjamin Franklin (1706-90), contributor to both the Declaration of Independence & the U.S. Constitution, here conducting experiment w/ lightning / electricity

First Research Post Due 4-8 October

Tuesday, 10 October 2017: Enlightenment and Religion

Readings: Thomas Jefferson, writings on religious freedom

Thomas Paine, from The Age of Reason, from The Crisis, & from Common Sense

Biographical information on Thomas Paine

Abigail & John Adams on Dr. Franklin

Reading Discussion Leader(s): 

Poem: Jupiter Hammon, "An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ, with Penitential Cries" (1760) ; Poetry Reader: Instructor

Web review: The Enlightenment; Deism; The Great Awakening; Religion & Literature Web Reviewer: instructor

Web review: Adam Smith, from The Wealth of Nations (1776) Web Reviewer:  

Agenda: last week: dialectic: way to wealth or salvation? (obj. 3)

research posts, & assignments; writing more, not less

midterm (start with #3)



post-midterm assignments

The Enlightenment, modernization, secularism, materialism, etc. (obj. 5)

Adam Smith: 

poem: instructor (obj. 3, 4, 5)

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826);
2nd President USA;
ptg by Rembrandt Peale, 1805

Overall question: If what we're reading this week and after the midterm is "literature," how does that change or challenge what most of us love and enjoy as literature? What do we gain or lose by expanding the category or definition of literature? Since these selections concern "religion and politics," what are the risks and gains of reading and discussing? 

Discussion Questions:

1. Compare / contrast Enlightenment writings on religion with Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.

2. What's at stake in the debate over the Founders' religion? How does this debate count as a Creation / Origin Story for the USA in 2016? Consider values, heroes, traditions, change, gender roles.

3. What is the Enlightenment style? What are its attractions and detractions, its virtues and shortcomings? (Irony?)

4. The eighteenth century (1700s) or the Enlightenment is most Literature students' least favorite period of study, yet its literature and history establish the political and economic institutions we continue to live by: science, capitalism, public works, human rights, limited government, separation of church and state. What does this conflict between usefulness and entertainment tell us about literary study and what counts as literature?

5. As in previous class, what model of religion is developing in the USA so that religion remains alive without becoming oppressive or limiting?

John Adams (1735-1826):
2nd President USA;
portrait by Jn Trumbull 1792


Tuesday, 17 October 2017: official date for midterm exam, in-class or email;
no class meeting—attendance not required; instructor keeps office hours.
email submissions window: 11-18 October 11:59pm

Tuesday, 24 October 2017: Constitutional Government

Readings: review Mayflower Compact & A Model of Christian Charity (15 Feb)

The Great Law of Peace (Iroquois / Haudenosaunee); The Cherokee Memorials

The Declaration of Independence (and its echoes) + Texas Declaration of Independence

U.S. Constitution, Articles of Confederation,  

Instructor Presentation: selections from The Federalist Papers (students welcome to read but not required)

Reading Discussion Leader(s): instructor

Web review: The Trail of Tears  Web Reviewer:  

Agenda: schedule; research posts; final exam; midterm

Discussion questions, texts: instructor



Great Law of Peace; Cherokee Memorials > Trail of Tears: 

Hamilton cast at White House

Andrew Jackson,
U.S. Pres. 1828-36

Rationale for class on constitutions: Recent scholarship expands the definition of "literature" from creative writing (fiction, poetry, drama) to "extraliterary" texts including historical documents. What are the attractions and complications of such an expansion? What audiences or constituents does it serve? How does it change the "English Major" or "Literature Major?"—or the teaching of literature and language in public schools?

Discussion Questions: 1. What upsides / downsides to reading legal or historical texts as literature?

2. What parts of texts come alive for literary interests and why? Which parts did you skim or ignore, and why?

3. Using process of elimination, if today's texts don't count as literature, what does? How do such questions and analyses help us define literature or extend our definition of literature? As teachers of literature, what are we teaching our students to do? If we should teach historical and legal documents, how can we do so successfully? If we don't, how do we justify teaching the texts that we do teach?

4. Compare the social and religious communities Seventeenth Century represented by the Mayflower Compact & A Model of Christian Charity with the Enlightenment social contracts described by The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. How are the religious documents more "literary" than the Enlightenment documents?

5. As with zealously religious people who never read the Bible, many of the most avowedly patriotic Americans never read the Declaration or Constitution, even while claiming that these sources support their biases and ideologies. Instead they learn about the Bible from preachers or about the Constitution from family or office conversations or "hate radio." What happens when fundamentalists actually read their sacred texts for themselves?

6. How to avoid extreme reactions of apathy or rebellion? Readers of government documents often respond fatalistically with "so what?", avoiding controversy. Correspondingly, any effort to read critically can identify one as a silly radical fighting the tide of history or disrespecting the past.

7. If education and literacy are essential for democratic self-government, will aging white voters support education for children who don't look like them? Or will white population continue "white flight" to suburbs, heartland interior (Idaho), Bible academies, home schooling?

8. How do we regard the Founders (or Founding Fathers)? Are they superhuman thinkers, writers, and "statesmen" instead of politicians? Or are they slave-holding racists who ignored women's rights and broke off from England because they didn't want to pay taxes for their own defense?

Trail of Tears

Tuesday, 31 October 2017: Who's in and out of the Enlightenment State? (transition to Romanticism)

John Woolman, selections from The Journal (1753, 1762) on The Quaker Page

Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative . . . (1789; first slave narrative) (African American)

Samson Occom, A Short Narrative of my Life (1768) (American Indian)

Abigail & John Adams's letters on America's new government

Reading Discussion Leader(s):   (Equiano)

Poem: Phillis Wheatley, "On Being Brought From Africa to America"

Poetry Reader: 

Poem: Phillis Wheatley, "On Imagination"

Poetry Reader: Instructor 

Instructor presents:  The Quaker Page

Agenda: [copy poems] midterms, posts, finals, semester

review Founders

religion > politics? > literacy + question of universal humanity


Wheatley, "Africa to America": Michelle


Occom: instructor

Periods: Enlightenment & Romanticism; assignments

> Romanticism / fiction: the Adams letters

Wheatley: instructor

Quakers & Woolman: instructor

Olaudah Equiano

Overall Discussion Question: Continuing "which America to teach," what is gained or lost by reading "outsiders" to the nation's founding and its dominant culture? What literary power or prestige is gained? What do we learn about North American culture, both good and bad? (e.g., a history of exclusion and oppression still with us today, but also ideals and mechanisms for equality and progress?). How may attention to "outsiders" be a feature or value of Romanticism?

1. In both Equiano and Occom, note connections between religion and literacy (and literacy as a prerequisite for enlightened self-government—see Texas Declaration, para. 11). If religion is no longer part of the government (or the economics of capitalism), where does religion relocate and assert its power?

2. How does Equiano's writing in both style and content offer an African American voice and yet resemble the Founders and the Enlightenment? What qualities reconnect to the religious appeals of the Puritans or of evangelical culture?

3. Equiano shows slavery as horrifying, but in contrast to most later, Romantic slave narratives, he mostly advocates its reform rather than its abolition. How is this attitude representative of Enlightenment thinking? Contrast Romanticism.

4. Americans who feel defensive about slavery often point to the existence of slavery in Africa. What similairites and differences between traditional African slavery and modern American slavery?

5. Why do most Literature majors like reading works such as those by Equiano or Occom more than texts by the Founders? How do their lives or writings anticipate Romanticism?

6. Reading Woolman's Journal is like reading the life of a saint. What pleasures or rewards? What benefits and risks of reading moral or pious literature in public schools? What kinds of moral quandaries does Woolman face that prevent simple yes-no moralism? [43] How does Woolman differ from the Enlightenment? In what ways is he a potentially a Romantic figure, or not?

Jonathan Edwards

Second Research Post Due 1-4 November

Early Romantic Era

(late 1700s-early 1800s)

17th Century > Enlightenment > Romanticism


Tuesday,  7 November 2017: Peace, Change, Great Awakenings + begin Women's Romance

Readings: Crevecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer (1782)

Letters & journals of Abigail and John Adams on Benjamin Franklin

Charlotte Temple (read most of Volume One)

Student Presentations  Reading Discussion Leader(s):

Web review: "Classical" Classical Music (Enlightenment) Web Reviewer:

Web review: Sermon Selections of George Whitefield; The Great Awakening & The Second Great Awakening; John Adams, letter on southern preaching  Web Reviewer: instructor

Agenda: 2nd research post, final exam

purpose of literature: Entertain & Instruct

objective 4: Enlightenment / Romanticism

early Romanticism: Woolman, Crevecoeur, Great Awakening, Whitefield > 2nd Great Awakening 

classical classical music:

Enlightenment Architecture)


schedule, assignments

Charlotte Temple:

nature of fiction; final exam

Abigail Adams (1744-1818)

Overall question: How are thought, literature, and religion turning from the Enlightenment to Romanticism?

Crevecoeur: How does Crevecoeur describe "the American" as a new identity created by the Melting Pot? What contrasts to other cultures? Relate to American Exceptionalism.

How are African American slaves excluded from the Melting Pot?

How is Crevecoeur's attitude toward American Indians "Romantic?"

Charlotte Temple: What balance is struck between "instruction" and "entertainment?"

Entertainment: Why was Charlotte Temple a best-seller? What pleasures may be found in the story? (In what ways does Charlotte Temple exemplify "popular literature" compared to "classic literature?" (See popular, classic, and representative literature.)

Instruction: What moral lesson(s) does the novel offer? How  do the entertainment pleasures of the narrative contradict this moral? Does the novel proclaim a traditional moral while depicting its modern violation?

How does Charlotte's action of leaving her family parallel the USA's Declaration of Independence? Since the Founders and the Enlightenment virtually excluded women, how do Romanticism and fiction involve women in literature?

What is the nature of fiction, and how does Charlotte Temple fulfill the style or appeal of a novel?

Whitefield: After the Constitution's separation of church and state, where does religion matter? What about Whitefield's sermons is potentially Romantic or contrary to Romanticism? What features of popular evangelical Christianity are familiar even today?

John Adams: How is "southern preaching" representative of the Great Awakening? What religious values of New England does Adams pose in opposition to those of the Southern USA?

George Whitefield

Tuesday,  14 November 2017: complete women's romance

Readings: Charlotte Temple (complete); historical information on Susanna Rowson & Charlotte Temple

Thomas Jefferson, letter on women's education & novels

begin Edgar Huntly (chapter 1); term: gothic; novel; fiction; defamiliarization

Student Presentations  Reading Discussion Leader(s):   (Charlotte Temple) > 25 April

All students have a passage from anywhere in Charlotte Temple for question, comment.

Web review: Romantic Music  Web Reviewer:  

Web review:  Enlightenment / Romantic visual art   Web Reviewer:

Agenda: Enlightenment & Romanticism: review

novel, fiction review

Jefferson; instruct & entertain

conclude Charlotte Temple (1791):


student comments


Romantic art: Burgundy

Romantic music:

gothic > Edgar Huntly

Susanna Rowson

author of
Charlotte Temple

Class Assignment: All students have a passage from anywhere in Charlotte Temple for question, comment.

Discussion Questions: 1. For past generations of college students, Charlotte Temple would likely have been excluded from a Literature course on account of its sentimentality and its appeal to popular rather than critical tastes. What is gained from reading such a novel in terms of women's writing, the romance genre, cultural studies, popular culture, early American history?

2. By reading an early work of fiction like Charlotte Temple, what do you learn about the style of fiction you take for granted now?

3. How is Charlotte Temple like a telenovela, a soap opera, a chick flick, or other current genres of popular literature?

4. Compare / contrast Charlotte Temple as a sentimental romance novel with Edgar Huntly as a gothic romance novel.

Continue questions on Charlotte Temple from previous class: What balance is struck between "instruction" and "entertainment?"

Entertainment: Why was Charlotte Temple a best-seller? What pleasures may be found in the story? (In what ways does Charlotte Temple exemplify "popular literature" compared to "classic literature?" (See popular, classic, and representative literature.)

Instruction: What moral lesson(s) does the novel offer? How  do the entertainment pleasures of the narrative contradict this moral? Does the novel proclaim a traditional moral while depicting its modern violation?

How does Charlotte's action of leaving her family parallel the USA's Declaration of Independence? Since the Founders and the Enlightenment virtually excluded women, how do Romanticism and fiction involve women in literature?

What is the nature of fiction, and how does Charlotte Temple fulfill the style or appeal of a novel?

Tuesday, 21 November 2016: Edgar Huntly

Readings: Edgar Huntly through chapter 12

Reading Discussion Leader(s):

Web review: Life & Career of Charles Brockden Brown  Web Reviewer: Instructor

Web review: Texts for comparison as early fiction: (instructor reviews): Pilgrim's Progress (1674); Robinson Crusoe (1719); epistolary novel: Samuel Richardson, Pamela (1740); Frankenstein (1818) (>ch. 11) cf. Clithero & Weymouth; Legend of Sleepy Hollow & Rip Van Winkle  (1819)

terms: instruction and entertainment; mimesis;

Agenda: research posts

Romanticism and fiction, novel

conclude Charlotte Temple:


final exam; assignments

Brown biography > intertextuality


the gothic; Freneau

Charles Brockden Brown

Discussion Questions: 1. Edgar Huntly was never popular like Charlotte Temple. Why not? How does Edgar Huntly seem more like "classic literature" than Charlotte Temple?  What distinctions between popular and classic literature? What balance is struck between "instruction" and "entertainment?"

2. How can both be classified as Romantic (or occasionally anti-Romantic)?

3. Examples of the gothic and sublime in Edgar Huntly?  How and why is American gothic attached to the wilderness rather than gothic castles, etc.? What is the significance of the gothic? Why does it keep returning? How does it keep working?

4. Edgar Huntly is the first serious American attempt at serious or literary fiction. What does the author get right and wrong? What can you learn about fiction from these successes and errors, or from early attempts at fiction generally? What do you want more or less of?

5. What is the overall effect on a reader from reading Edgar Huntly? How does this effect or purpose differ from that of previous texts in Early American Literature? 

wilderness gothic

Tuesday,  28 November 2017: conclude Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Huntly

Readings: Edgar Huntly (complete)

All students have a passage from anywhere in Edgar Huntly for question, comment in relation to a discussion question above or below.

Student Presentations: Reading Discussion Leader(s):

Poem: Freneau, "The Indian Burying-Ground"  Poetry Reader:

Agenda: religion and Romanticism


final exam; models

Charles Brockden Brown

[break + evaluations]

Edgar Huntly: student comments


Philip Freneau (1752-1832)

All students have a passage from anywhere in Edgar Huntly for question, comment in relation to a discussion question above or below.

Discussion Questions: Ask any questions regarding expectations for Final Exam Assignment.

1. Does Edgar Huntly come to any satisfying end or resolution? What balance of instruction and entertainment? Since this is a book you never would have read if you hadn't taken this course, can its study be rationalized or justified?

2. Examples of Romanticism, esp. the gothic and sublime? How or why is the gothic attached to the American wilderness rather than gothic castles, etc.?What significance to the gothic? Why does it keep returning? How does it keep working? What about us responds to the gothic? How does the gothic respond to the Enlightenment?

2a. More on the gothic: How may Edgar & Clithero qualify as doppelgangers or twins? Examples of such twinning elsewhere in gothic literature? (e.g. Poe, the Brontes, Frankenstein) [Frankenstein (1818) (>ch. 11) cf. Clithero & Weymouth]

3. Edgar Huntly was never popular like Charlotte Temple. Why not? What distinctions between classic & popular literature?

3a. Edgar Huntly is the first serious American attempt at "literary fiction"—written not just to sell copies or teach a lesson but to extend and influence the evolution of imaginative content and literary style. What does the novel get right and wrong? What can you learn about fiction from his successes and errors? What do you want more or less of?

4. A captivity narrative makes part of the novel's action, only now it's fiction. Compare Mary Rowlandson or Mary Jemison.

5. How may Edgar Huntly maintain interest as an example of modern or even Modernist literature? Consider its interest in the unconscious mind (e.g., somnambulism or sleep-walking; gothic as unconscious nightmare-life; also 27.41, 27.47) and the unreliable narrator.

Tuesday,  5 November 2017: Final Exam — email anytime between 29 November till deadline 11:59pm Tuesday 12 December.

Course Objectives


1. To learn about early North American and U.S.texts and cultures and make them matter now. (Historicism)

2. To read Early American Literature as an origin story about the beginnings and evolution of North American culture and literature.

"Creation Stories" and "Origin Stories" available in course:

Native American origin stories

The Pilgrim or Puritan Fathers (& Mothers) of New England

Founding Fathers (& Mothers)

African American slave narratives

Hispanic, Latino/a, Mestizo, or Mexican-American: the Virgin of Guadalupe & La Relacion of Cabeza de Vaca

Genesis and Evolution

To explore related concepts of progress, utopia, decline, and apocalypse (or end-times)

3. To reconcile the "Culture Wars" over which America is the real America? Which America to teach?Dominant culture and / or multicultural?

Which America to teach?

  • "Founding" by "great white fathers" (dominant culture) and / or multicultural voices of African America, Native America, Spanish and French colonies, women, and others? (pluralism)

  • To acknowledge “heroes, villains, and victims” as symbols necessary for a good story but also recognize cross-cultural, intertextual, evolutionary, and other narrative dynamics.

  • In brief, can the interaction and exchange of different American peoples be seen and told as evolutionary progress, or must it be seen and told as an apocalyptic showdown between self & other or us & them? Is America in decline or making progress?

"American Exceptionalism": Is America a religious nation peculiarly blessed by God or a secular state with people of various beliefs devoted to material progress?

Is American government a strong, centralized national state or union commanding the world, or is it an isolationist confederation of state and local governments with prevailing rights?

Can there be a community of individuals? A nation of many nations?

Political Correctness: Language always evolves to match or control the realities it describes, but such change is not always comfortable.

  • Liberal political correctness: continual evolution of diplomatic language to respect differences, with threats of preachiness and over-sensitivity.

  • Conservative political correctness: code of silence on disruptive identities, though sometimes acknowledged by innuendo or symbolism.

To ask hard questions without simple or final answers by using dialectic discussion methods. (Answers evolve with changing world.)

4. To gain literary and cultural knowledge of historical periods & attempt trans-historical unity.

Renaissance / Age of Exploration (1500s)

Seventeenth Century: Religious Reformation and Warfare (1600s)

Enlightenment, Age of Reason (late 1600s-late 1700s)

Romanticism (late 1700s-1800s) (continues in LITR 4328 American Renaissance, fall 2016)

Can these periods align to produce a linear narrative of literary progress, if only one that approaches our own modern standards? What is won and lost by the evolution of one period into another?

How does the function of literature change or evolve from public legend, myth, or constitution to personal or private fiction or intimate lyric poetry?

How does “Literature” as we know it today evolve from earlier genres like letters, pamphlets, public documents; spoken and written literatures and cultures

5. Can American literary and cultural history tell a single story?  


Development of a distinctly "American Literature" as a national tradition expressing a unique national character of individualism, mobility, alienation or triumphalism, etc. (Contrast trans-Atlantic or multicultural literature.)

Providential history: from "fate / destiny" to Biblical narratives, incl. models for secular story-telling

Evolution as continuity + change

the romance narrative of quest or journey as progress or decline

Ongoing transition: tradition > modernity [> + religious or cultural reaction of retrenchment & revival]

Cross-cultural strategies


Mestizo identity


Multiculturalism and associated terms


6. Critical Theory / Critical Thinking

Close reading or formalism: attention to language and its mechanisms

Textuality & Intertextuality—not reading “one text at a time” but how texts create a network of shared meaning

Death of the Author: empowering readers, opposing autobiographical interpretations and "what the author meant to say"

Historicism: reading past literature in its historical context and ours

What aspects of the past do we relate to and why? If we don't relate, what can we learn from difference?

What is historical and what is timeless? If “timeless,” what is the connection between them and us?

How can we think of the past? What are mental powers of storytelling and limits to inclusion?

“History in their own words”—and not, say, in the language of a modern textbook

American Studies: the interdisciplinary study of American identity and culture in literature, history, religion, gender studies, and economics, whether dominant-culture or multicultural. 

People may exploit the past to exploit people who know nothing of the past and have to believe what they hear.

Spoken & Written Cultures

Critical thinking:

unity & diversity, identity and difference: How to tell a continuous story about America that involves “other Americas?”

succession and progression: is America in decline, in progress, or just evolving?

resistance to conspiracy theory while recognizing its attractions.



Class Organization

Course webpage as evolving teaching tool

online texts for a face-to-face classroom

Student-led discussions

Model Assignments for peer-instruction


Build on what students already know (or may recognize or relate to)

Emphasis less on what to think than on how to think and discuss, plus familiarity with a subject's terms of discussion

Research posts as knowledge gathering + exams as opinion and analysis

Begin inclusion of Meso-America, Spanish colonization, and Hispanic / Mexican identities


(webpages for later inclusion)

George Washington author's page

Review of Latino Catholicism: Transformation in America’s Largest Church (2012) by Timothy Matovina

Annie Murphy Paul, “Reading Literature Makes Us Smarter and Nicer”

North America