American Literature I

American Literature I is a survey of American literature from the Colonial Period to the Civil War. This literature covers everything from the oral literatures of the indigenous populations of the continent, the literary production of the Spanish, French, Dutch, and English settlers, and the literary output of the Africans dragged into slavery. The beginning of American literature is thus scattered across diverse languages, cultures, and dramatically opposed historical experiences, all of which we will examine. This survey then aims at presenting the complex cultural crossings that shaped the Americas, paying close attention to the interests, plights, and visions of the various communities that were, more often than not, in conflict with each other. From the indigenous peoples we will read their poems, ritual songs, creation narratives, and political writings. We will also read about indigenous grievances over European encroachment. Slave narratives and various other texts documenting the experience of Africans brought into slavery will be a central focus of this course. Lastly, we will read the literature of the European colonizers. Its themes ranged from religious and contemplative questions to issues concerning the relationship between human will and nature. Chroniclers emphasized the power of reason to conquer and subdue wilderness, both regarding the human spirit and the environment, as much as they examined the cultural differences between the European cultures they had left behind and the new indigenous cultures they were encountering. This literature then captivates by its immense cultural diversity.

Week I: Indigenous Culture

Native American Oral Literatures: Creation narratives

Native American Oral Literatures: Ritual Poetry, Song, and Ceremony

Week II – “New Spain”

Christopher Columbus excerpts from “Journal of the First Voyage to America 1492-1493

Cabeza de Vaca excerpts from Relation of Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz “In Reply to a Gentleman from Peru, Who Sent Her Clay Vessels While Suggesting She would Better Be a Man”; also selected poems

Week II “New France”:

Rene Goulaine de Laudonnière excerpts from A Notable Historie Containing Foure Voyages Made by Certain French Captaines unto Florida

The Jesuit Relations excerpts from The Relation of 1647 by Father Jerome Lalemar

“New Amsterdam”: Adriaen Van der Donck, excerpts from A Description of the New Netherlands

Week IV – “New England”

John Winthrop from A Model of Christian Charity and The Journal of John Withrop

William Bradford from Of Plymouth Plantation

Week V – “New England”

Anne Bradstreet, selections from The Works of Anne Bradstreet in Prose and Verse

Selections from The Bay Psalm Book and The New England Primer

 Week VI – Captivity

Mary White Rowlandson, selections from A Narrative of the Captivity and Restauration of Mts. Mary Rowlandson

Cotton Mather, selections from The Wonders of the Invisible World

Week VII – Eighteenth-Century Puritan Writings

Jonathan Edwards, selections from Images of Divine Things

John Woolman, from Some Considerations on the Keeping of Negroes

Week VIII – Native American Political Texts and Oratory

Handsome Lake, How America Was Discovered; Letter from Cherokee Indian Women, to Benjamin Franklin Governor of the State of Pennsylvania

Benjamin Franklin, selections from The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Week IX – Tales from the Hispanic Southwest/Narratives from the Mexican and Early American Southwest:

La comadre Sebastiana; Los tres hermanos; El obispo

 Pio Pico from Historical Narrative; Alfred Robinson from Life in California

 Week X – Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau

Emerson, “Nature”

Thoreau from Walden

Week XI – Marguerite Fuller and Lydia Maria Child

Fuller from Women in the Nineteenth Century

Child from Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans called Africans

Week XII – Frederick Douglass and Harriet Ann Jacobs

Jacobs from Incidents in the Life of Slave Girl

Douglass from Narrative from the Life of Frederick Douglass

Week XIII – Washington Irving and Nathaniel Hawthorne

Irving, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”

Hawthorne, “Young Goodman Brown”=

Week XIV – Edgar Allen Poe and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Poe, “The Fall of the House of Usher;” “The Oval Painting”

Longfellow, “The Warning,” “Nature” “The Harvest Moon”

Week XV – Herman Melville

Melville, Billy Budd, The Sailor

Melville, Billy Budd, The Sailor

Week XVI – Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman

Emily Dickinson, selected poems

Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass