Survey of American Literature, Beginnings-1865

English 3300
Beginnings to 1865
Section 1
Maureen Konkle

This course looks at the confluence of stories told by European settlers, indigenous peoples, and enslaved Africans of multiple nations in North America and later the US from the 1600s through 1865.  We'll trace a line through this material that begins with explorers telling stories about a supposedly empty landscape ripe for the taking and that ends with tenuous narratives of freedom in the wake of a disintegrating war.  In between, we will spend some time with witches in New England, savages in the woods, scientific gentleman in strange landscapes, and political types on the make.  We will pay special attention to how the different groups of people living in North America imagined the land and their relationship to it, and what implications that may have even to the present moment.  We'll look at how the early nineteenth century saw the beginnings of multiple writing traditions--including those of indigenous people, African Americans, and middle class white women--and the relations among and between those traditions.  We'll look at the business of writing in the antebellum US, contrasting a sensationalist, nationalist popular culture with an emerging group of self-conscious writers of fine literature, who had grander plans for themselves and their writing.  Assignments include several tests and one analytical paper.  Texts include Norton Anthology of American Literature, volume  A and Herman Melville's The Confidence Man:  His Masquerade (1857), as well as numerous works available online.