English | American Literature 1609-1800
L651 | 26019 | Elmer

L651  26019 ELMER (#3)
American Literature 1609-1800

1:00p – 2:15p TR


DESCRIPTION: The primary goal of this course is to give students a
broad and deep acquaintance with many of the major texts and
historical and cultural motifs of the first few centuries of the
European occupation and settlement of North America. Because the
notion of what constitutes “major” texts and problems is not simply
given by tradition, but constructed historiographically, we will at
almost every turn match primary texts with twentieth-century and
twenty-first century scholarship. The course aims to provide a wide-
ranging foundation for those students who are thinking of continuing
in Americanist studies:  you will have a chance to think about
colonization as a textual problem; the importance of genre in the
period (e.g. captivity narrative, or spiritual autobiography); the
rise of the sentimental vocabulary in the novel; the ideological
force of the concepts of covenant, contract, and declension; and the
omnipresent disturbances created by the Europeans’ racialized
understanding of everything they did or aspired to. Because early
America is a volatile outpost of early modern, mercantile Western
Europe, many of these same issues will also be relevant to those
students who do not intend to focus on American culture and

REQUIREMENTS: I ask for two larger pieces over the course of the
semester, each of approximately 10-12 pages. These essays are not to
be thought of as seminar papers exactly: they need not require
extensive research (though I would never outlaw such), but are
rather to be considered as chances to put more pressure on local
detail on a text or group of texts than we are able to do in
classroom discussion. I also expect the essays to connect the
details being analyzed to a larger historical, theoretical, or
literary context. Each paper is, in other words, an effort to think
out from a specific textual site into the vastly more complex world
in which it is embedded.

I also ask that you provide two summaries of secondary readings, one
in each half of the semester.