University of Georgia, English 2330: "Early American Literature : Beginnings to 1865” (Fall 2011)
This course surveys American literature from the beginnings (an ambiguous concept students are pushed to define) through the Civil War. Accessible to students from all majors, the course covers a variety of genres addressing a number of social, cultural, and political themes. Through class discussions, presentations, papers, and exams, students are challenged to define the nature of American literature and consider the legacy of an American literary tradition. The semester begins with a focused discussion on what is literature and what makes a writer American. Firstly, many of the initial texts we read in this course are nonfiction (treatises, sermons, personal narratives, and letters), and I encourage students to consider why they are considered literature and how they contribute to the definition of what constitutes literature. Secondly, many of the initial writers we read emigrated to America from Europe. I challenge students to consider by what definition do we then consider these writers as American authors and not simply British, French, or Spanish authors living in America. In addition to nonfiction works, students read poetry, short stories, and novels, such as Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838).
Here is a sampling of potential works for this course.