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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


· What is myth?

· Native American Oral Tradition, Myths and Legends


· “Definitions of Myth” 

· Myths and Legends of the Sioux


· Native Voices

· Native Literature: The Oral Tradition 

Week 2


· European Explorers Readings

· Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) - Report of the First Voyage (1493)

· Giovanni Da Verrazano (1485-1528) - Verrazano’s Voyage Along the Atlantic Coast of North America

· Álvar Núñez Cabeza De Vaca (1490-1559) - The Journey of Álvar Núñez Cabeza De Vaca (1542)

· Samuel De Champlain (1567-1635) - Voyages of Samuel De Champlain, 1604-1618

Week 3


· The Writings of the Pilgrims Readings

· Mourt’s Relation: The Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth (1622)

· Constitution of the Iroquois Nation


· John Smith (1580-1631) - The General History of Virginia (1624)

· William Bradford (1590-1657) - Of Plymouth Plantation (1656)

· John Winthrop (1588-1649) - A Model of Christian Charity (1630)

Week 4


· Age of Faith: Writings of the Puritans & Quakers


· Puritanism 

· Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672) - To My Dear and Loving Husband and Verses Upon the Burning of Our House, July 10th, 1666

· Edward Taylor (1642-1729) - Huswifery and Upon a Spider Catching a Fly

· Mary Rowlandson (1636-1711) - A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson (1682)

· George Fox (1624-1691) (Quaker) Ye are called to peace… An epistle

· John Woolman (1720-1772) (Quaker) - The Journal of John Woolman (134-145)


· Utopian Promise

Week 5


· Age of Faith: Puritans & Quakers

· The darker side of the Puritans 

· Puritanism and Witchcraft

· Puritans and Indians

· Examination of Mrs. Anne Hutchinson 1637

 · Cotton Mather (1663-1728) - The Wonders of the Invisible World (1693) 

· Mary Towne Easty (1634-1692) - The Petition of Mary Easty (1692)

· Samuel Sewall (1652-1730) - A Witchcraft Judge’s Confession of Guilt (1697)

· Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) - Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God (1741)

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

Week 6


· The American Enlightenment (Age of Reason)

· William Byrd (1674-1744) - The History of the Dividing Line (1728)

· Michel-Guillaume-Saint-Jean de Crèvecoeur (1735-1813) - Letters from an American Farmer: What is an American? (1782)

· Reason and Revolution

· Thomas Paine - Common Sense

· Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) - Autobiography (1791) 

· Spirit of Nationalism

Module I: Literature of the New World

Seneca "The Story Telling Stone"

Columbus - "The First Voyage: The West Indies"

Columbus - "The Second Voyage: The Cannibals"

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

Powhatan Exchanges Views With Captain John Smith - “What Can You Get By Warre”

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 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".

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 Version)

Benjamin Franklin - Introduction, Autobiography and The Art of Virtue

Samson Occom - Descriptions from his conversion

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

America the Story of Us: Life in Jamestown

Hamilton: An American Musical

OER American Lit Textbook