English | Early American Writing and Culture to 1800
L350 | 27757 | Jonathan Elmer

Jonathan Elmer

9:30a-10:45a TR (30 students) 3 cr. A&H.

This class will survey the range of textual activity of early
American life, from settlement and plantation, through colonial
experience and the Revolution, and into the first decades of the
Republic. A governing question will be the nature and importance of
archiving–recording experience in textual, artifactual, and visual
form for the purposes of ordering life, explaining conflict,
gathering knowledge and forwarding imperial expansion. Of all the
technological achievements with which the early European settlers
came equipped, this power of archiving may arguably have been the
most momentous and powerful.

We will read some poetry and some novels (by C.B. Brown, Royall
Tyler, Hannah Webster Foster), but the “literature” of this period
often appears unlike literature as we define it today. We will thus
also read historical work, travelers’ accounts, sermons, trial
records (from the Salem witch trials), political pamphlets (from the
Revolution), captivity narratives, and the autobiographies of
Benjamin Franklin and Olaudah Equiano, who was captured as a child,
enslaved, eventually “bought” his freedom, and became an early
player in the British movement for the abolition of the slave trade.

Requirements will include a research presentation and final research
paper, a few midterm tests, and probably some take-home short essay