American Literature I: Origins to 1865

The Bay Psalm Book (1640) was the first book printed in British North America.

This course will examine the literature of what is now the United States of America. By reading texts from the very early seventeenth century to the middle of the nineteenth, we will trace how literature emerges from moments of cultural ferment to shape our contemporary sense of the United States and its literary heritage.

Students will be ask to read widely and to conduct original research.

  • First, we will be reading texts in clusters. These are groups of texts drawn from the same historical period, but which complicate each other because they are written and read by different — often conflicting, often porous — communities. With each cluster, our goal will be to trouble easy assumptions about the practices of reading, writing, and publishing.
  • Second, each student will complete a single, semester-long project — culminating in a 10-page, conference-style essay and presentation. Students will conduct original research on one of the texts from our syllabus. This project will have several stages:

I will offer detailed instructions and one-on-one feedback at each stage of the process.