L208 24757 TOPICS IN ENGLISH AND AMERICAN LITERATURE AND CULTURE
Barbara Lehr

9:05a-9:55a MWF (30 students) 3 cr., A&H.

TOPIC: “Puitanism and the making of the American literary soul”

L208 is intended to offer students an opportunity to explore a variety of American literary texts, from colonial to modern, while investigating and writing about a single topic. This version of the course will examine the specter of Puritanism that haunts much of American literature. We will begin the semester looking at foundational Puritan texts, including poems, prose, and sermons from Bradstreet, Mather, Edwards, Bunyan, and others. We will consider some of the basic tenets of American Puritanism, including industriousness, depravity of the human soul, guilt and redemption, and the questions of holiness, purification, and meaning. We will look at how the idea of Puritanism has influenced nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature, and finally at how modernist and postmodernist texts possibly have greater intimacy with early American religious thought than their authors may be willing to admit.

Reading for the course will include John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress; selections from Perry Miller, The American Puritans; Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter; Louisa May Alcott, Little Women; George Santayana, The Last Puritan: A Memoir in the Form of a Novel; and additional materials in a course packet. Work requirements: quizzes, one shorter (2-3 pages) and one longer (3-4 pages) paper, an end-of- semester presentation, and midterm and final exams.