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American Literature & Culture: Early American Lit

Early America

In 1782, J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur confidently asserted, “We have no princes, for whom we toil, starve, and bleed; we are the most perfect society now existing in the world.” Published just one year after the end of the American Revolution, Letters From an American Farmer captures the hope and enthusiasm of a young republic, and inaugurates some of our most enduring American mythologies: America as a pastoral ideal, America as a classless society, America as a racial melting-pot, and America as a land of limitless opportunity. And yet given the realities of the displacement of Native peoples, the systematic enslavement of Africans, and the indentured servitude of European immigrants in early America, Crevecoeur’s idealism appears at best naïve.

Reading List

Week 1


· Introduction and Orientation to the Course

· What is myth?

· Native American Oral Tradition, Myths and Legends

· Universal Truths


· Syllabus, Start Here module, and Week 1 module

· “Definitions of Myth” at

· Natives and Explorers 

· Native Literature: The Oral Tradition 

· Myths and Legends of the Sioux at:


· Watch the video Native Voices at

· When you get to the American Passages website, you must scroll down on the page to see the list of videos to choose from. Choose the Native Voices video.

· Click the “VoD” symbol to the right of the video title to watch it. You must disable popups on your web browser. If it does not stream, try a different browser.

· DO NOT use the video in the upper right hand corner of the page to respond to—the one with the family sitting on their porch. That is not the correct video. Scroll down to find the “Native Voices” video.

Week 2


· Accounts of the European Explorers Readings

· Exploration and the Colonies

· Christopher Columbus (15-16) Report of the First Voyage (16-17)

· Giovanni Da Verrazzano (18) from Verrazzano’s Voyage (18-22)

· Alvar Nunez Cabeza De Vaca (22-23) from Narrative of Cabeza De Vaca (23-26)

· Samuel De Champlain (28-29) Voyages of Samuel De Champlain… (29-32)


Week 3


· The Writings of the Pilgrims Readings

· Mourt’s Relation 1622 at:

 (Parts I-VI) When you reach the page, scroll down to see the text. You will also see links to all of the other sections to read.

· The Constitution of the Iroquois Nation at:


· The Colonies/John Smith (33-34) from The General History of Virginia (34-42)

· William Bradford (42-43) from Of Plymouth Plantation (44-58)

· John Winthrop (58-59) A Model of Christian Charity (59-66)

Week 4


· Writings of the Puritans & Quakers (Age of Faith)


· Puritanism (67-69)

· Anne Bradstreet (69-71) To My Dear and Loving Husband (77-80) Upon the Burning of Our House, July 10th, 1666 (78)

· Edward Taylor (105-106) Huswifery (109) Upon a Spider Catching a Fly (111-112)

· Mary Rowlandson (80-81) from A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson (81-105)

· George Fox (Quaker) Ye are called to peace… An epistle at:

· John Woolman (Quaker) (132-133) from The Journal of John Woolman (134-145)


· Watch the video Utopian Promise at

 (Don’t forget to scroll down on the page to find the correct title).

Week 5


· Puritans & Quakers (Age of Faith)

· The darker side of the Puritans Readings

· Puritanism, Indians, and Witchcraft (113-114)

· The Examination of Mrs. Anne Hutchinson 1637 at:

 · Cotton Mather (118-119) from The Wonders of the Invisible World (119-125) Indian Powaws and Witchcraft (114-115)

· Mary Towne Easty (115-116) The Petition of Mary Easty (116)

· Samuel Sewall (117) A Witchcraft Judge’s Confession of Guilt (117)

· Jonathan Edwards (162-163) Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God (170-181)

· George Keith (Quaker) An Exhortation and Caution to Friends Buying or Keeping of Negroes 1693—Believed to be the first printed protest against slavery—at:

Week 6


· The American Enlightenment (Age of Reason) Readings

· The South and the Middle Colonies (126-128)

· William Byrd (129-130) from The History of the Dividing Line (130-132)

· St. Jean De Crevecoeur (145-146) from Letters from an American Farmer: What is an American? (146-155)

· Reason and Revolution (157-160)

· John Locke from An Essay Concerning Human Understanding: Chapter 2, “No Innate Principles in the Mind” (Handout)

· Benjamin Franklin (190-192) from The Autobiography (193-224) [Especially, the section that begins on p. 215 with “And now I set on foot...” and ends with p. 218 “...with regard to the appearance of it.”] Video

· Watch the video Spirit of Nationalism at

Module I: Literature of the New World

Seneca "The Story Telling Stone"

Columbus "The First Voyage: The West Indies"

The Second Voyage: The Cannibals"

Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca "The Narrative of Núñez Cabeza de Vaca" 

“What Can You Get By Warre”: Powhatan Exchanges Views With Captain John Smith, 1608"‚Äč

Powhatan "Letter to John Smith"

Captain John Smith

"When Thomas Jefferson remarked in a letter to a friend in 1787 that citizens of the new United States should study the Spanish language, he gave as one of the reasons the fact that “the ancient part of American history is written chiefly in Spanish” (Jefferson 11:558). Jefferson had in mind the accounts of the earliest European exploration, conquest, and settlement in the Americas that are found in narrative texts that extend from Columbus’s letters from the Antilles through the reports, chronicles, and histories of the conquests of Mexico and Peru".

Columbus' First letter to Isabella & Ferdinand

Module II: Colonial America

William Bradford Of Plymouth Plantation

Anne Bradstreet Introduction and three poems

Jonathan Edwards "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" & Introduction

                                Audio of Sermon

Benjamin Franklin Introduction, Autobiography and The Art of Virtue

Samson Occom

Phillis Wheatley “Brought from Africa to America”

George Keith (Quaker) An Exhortation and Caution to Friends Buying or Keeping of Negroes 1693—Believed to be the first printed protest against slavery—at:

America the Story of Us: Life in Jamestown

Module III: Literature of a New Republic

Thomas Paine

Michelle Guillaume Jean Crevecoeur

Olaudah Equiano The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African (Middle Passage) 

James Madison

Washington Irving

James Fenimore Cooper

Hamilton: An American Musical

Hamilton The Full Musical

TransAtlantic Slave trade