Graduate Program

350:553 - Early American Literature

Course No:  350:553
Index # - 18720
Distribution Requirement:  A2, A3, D
Thursday - 4:30 p.m.
MU 207

Early American Literature

Meredith McGill


This course provides an intensive introduction to the field of early American literary studies. Ranging in time from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries, and in space from New England through the British West Indies, readings will familiarize students with the major texts, themes and conceptual problems that have shaped the study of early American literature since the rise of the field in the context of post World War II cultural nationalism. We will endeavor to survey colonial and early republican writing in its full generic diversity—encompassing colonial reports, travel narratives, sermons, natural histories, georgic poems, political pamphlets, and sentimental and gothic novels. Major topics will include New World epistemology, the aesthetics of provinciality, “representative” selves, sentiment and cultural refinement, race and citizenship, and the cult of literary nationalism. Attention will be paid to recent Atlantic and hemispheric approaches seeking to revise established critical genealogies, characteristically beginning with the proto-nationalist “errand” of New England Puritanism. Primary readings will include some of the following authors: Thomas Harriot, John Smith, Cotton Mather, Aphra Behn, Mary Rowlandson, Jonathan Edwards, Benjamin Franklin, William Byrd II, Susanna Rowson, Hannah Foster, James Grainger, St. John de Crèvecoeur, Phillis Wheatley, Thomas Jefferson, Olaudah Equiano, and Charles Brockden Brown. Critical readings will range from foundational and now standard works by Perry Miller and Sacvan Bercovitch, to more recent interventions by Joseph Roach, among others. Requirements will include weekly journal entries, three short papers, and lively class participation.