Survey of American Literature: Beginnings to 1865 (online)

Section 02
Aliki Barnstone
Asynchronous online
Course Description

In this Writing Intensive course, Survey in American Literature: Beginnings to 1865,  we’ll shift our understanding of history from that which we’ve received from the white Christian men in power to that which they erased with intention. To that end, I have created a menu of canonical texts and recovered texts so that we can listen to history from a “both/and” perspective,” that is, as it is told by writers who are long-recognized and by those marginalized peoples whose histories are under siege. I will provide possibilities for and solicit ideas from you about how we can amplify those silenced and forgotten voices. We will ask questions about the strictures against women's and enslaved people’s education and writing, self-determination, and agency, giving special attention to writings such as Anne Bradstreet and Phillis Wheatley, the two most significant American poets of the 17th and 18th centuries, respectively, Harriet Beecher Stove, Frederick Douglass, Frances Ellen Watkins, and Emily Dickinson. We will explore the idea of "woman's sphere," and representations of African-Americans, Indigenous people, and women.

Given the scope and quantity of these works the focus of the course is on reading, and I have designed my writing prompts to be fun, intriguing, creative, and engaging so that your writing can be most meaningful, as you synthesize the material and read more closely and carefully. There will be ample opportunities for creativity in this course. My experience shows me that if you feel you can read and write creatively, using your own strengths while making discoveries, you’re more motivated to actively participate in your writing process and education. Because this is an asynchronous online course, each week I will provide one or two prompts for discussion boards, as well as opportunities for you to brainstorm about your writing projects and to provide feedback to each other in small groups.

The writing consists of fun writing prompts for short (2-page) essays, a notebook, and a final project that can consist of a collection of your short writings with a preface, a video, a comic, a photo essay, lesson plans for a high school course, an anthology of your favorite writings from the period with a short introduction. The editing project is particularly important to me not only because I am an editor myself but also because you have a role in canon formation; you can choose to make your role active and advance social and art justice. I also offer students who are planning to apply to graduate school in the humanities the opportunity to write a research paper with my mentorship during the semester and beyond. My pedagogy is based on choice. I will give you a menu of readings, resources, and writing prompts so that you can enjoy and make the most of our time together, using your passions, talents, and chosen career path to come up with a meaningful closure for the course.