Ross J. Pudaloff
Wayne State University
Early American Literatures
The plural in the course title is meant to tell all.  The field known as colonial literature or early American literature barely existed 40 years ago; many departments didn’t have specialists in the area and texts from the period were often missing from standard survey courses in American literature.  What there was focused primarily on the Puritans in colonial New England with some brief looks at eighteenth-century figures such as Franklin and Jefferson.  It was the Rodney Dangerfield of literary specializations.

Since then things have changed.  Critical theory, post colonial studies, New Historicism, interest in the early modern period, multiculturalism, Atlantic world studies, rethinking nationalism, and critiques of American exceptionalism (among others) have transformed the field.  When once the canon and approach were set, now neither the texts nor the ways in which we read and study them can be limited to anything resembling a manageable number.  This makes it an exciting time to study early American literatures (if a bit frustrating because there’s so much left undone).

This course begins with an overview of the field and then moves on to a diverse selection of primary texts.  My questions will focus on exchange, cultural creation, border crossing, representation and discursive practices.  We’ll look at how Europeans, Africans and Native Americans utilized written language to articulate self, race, gender, sexuality, others, nature, God, etc.  At the center is writing (and often its corollary, print) as the means by which individuals created, expressed, articulated and sometimes denied who they were and how they lived.  Also at the center is the fact of colonialism, an experience that shaped persons and texts from the beginnings until well into the nineteenth century.  We’ll look at texts that appeal to the widest audience; we’ll look at texts that have no other audience but the author and (perhaps) God.

We’ll go more or less chronologically, though with some emphasis on noting discursive and generic relationships.  The reading may seem very ambitious, though I’ve cut and cut.  Perhaps it will function heuristically.  Students will also have opportunities to familiarize themselves with influential examples of recent criticism.  This is designed both to understand the texts and period better and, equally important, to learn how to read texts that often do not seem to be “literature” as conventionally understood until recently.


Write 4 short (1-2 pp.) responses to any text you read before Week 12 (10%).  You must do at least one in each three week period.

Write and distribute to classmates a book review (list of texts to be distributed) (20%).  Each should be 3-4 pp. long (750-1000 words).

Choose a research topic and present report in written form to class (10%).

Write a seminar paper (12 to 18 pp.) that develops out of the research report (60%)

Join EARAM-L, the listserv of the Society of Early American Studies.  Send an email to with the one line message:  sub earam-l Firstname Lastname (substituting your own first and last name.)

Join the listserv established for class (Eng7400F00) and post all written work to it.  Hard copies should be provided to the instructor and to any students who request it.


Jehlen and Warner, The English Literatures of America, 1500-1800.  Routledge.

Las Casas.  A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies.  Penguin.

Cabeza de Vaca.  Adventurers in Unknown Interior of America.   New Mexico.

Sayre, American Captivity Narratives.  Riverside.

Derounian-Stodola.  Women’s Indian Captivity Narratives.  Penguin.

Carretta.  The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano.  Penguin.

Foster.  The Coquette.  Oxford

Brown, Wieland.  Oxford

Sedgwick. Hope Leslie.  Rutgers


Week 1--September 7
Introduction to Course and Requirements
    Themes and General Questions
    America and the Crisis of Representation

Week 2--September 14
     Forum--William & Mary Quarterly--handout
     Columbus, (ELOA)
          Jefferson, Notes, Query 4, (ELOA)
          Bartram, Travels, (ELOA)
          Barlow, The Vision of Columbus
     Las Casas, A Short Account

Week 3--September 21
     Staden, The True History, (ACN)
          Best, A True Discourse, (ELOA)
     de Vaca, Adventures
          Hariot, A Briefe and True Report, (ELOA)
     Montaigne, “Of the Cannibals,” “Of Coaches,” (ELOA)
          Strachey, A True Reportory, (ELOA)
     Smith, A Map of Virginia, A Description of New England, A General History,    (ELOA)
          de la Vega, La Florida (ACN)
          Ligon, “Loving Invitation,” (ELOA)

Week 4--September 28
     Morton, New England’s Canaan, (ELOA)
          Waterhouse, A Declaration, (ELOA)
          Wood, New England’s Prospect, (ELOA)
     Herbert, “The Church Militant” (ELOA)
     Winthrop, “A Modell,” (ELOA)
          Cotton, Gods Promise, (ELOA)
     Bradford, another version; Of Plymouth Plantation, (ELOA)
          Jefferson, Notes, Query 19 (ELOA )

Week 5--October 5
     Danforth, “A Brief Recognition,” (ELOA)
     Bradstreet, “To My Dear Children,” (ELOA)
     Bradstreet, “Prologue,” “The Author,” “Upon the Burning,” “Before the Birth,”    “To My Dear and
        Loving Husband,” “A Letter,” (ELOA)
       Wigglesworth, “God’s Controversy,” (ELOA)

Week 6--October 12
     Rowlandson, True History, (WICN)
          Hanson, God’s Mercy (WICN)
          Mather, “A Notable Exploit,” (ELOA or ACN)
          Thoreau, A Week (ACN)
     Jogues, Novum Belgium, (ACN)

Week 7--October 19
     Marrant, A Narrative, (ACN)
     Edwards, “Personal Narrative,” (ELOA)
          Edwards, “Of Being,” (ELOA)
     Edwards, “Sinners,” (ELOA)
          Brainerd, Journal (ELOA)
          Wigglesworth, “God’s Controversy,” (ELOA)
          Paine, The Age of Reason (ELOA)

Week 8--October 26
     Ashbridge, Some Account, (ELOA)
     Burroughs, Memoirs, (ELOA)
          Franklin, “Speech of Miss Polly Baker,” (ELOA)
     Hamilton, Itinerarium, (ELOA)

Week 9--November 2
     Cooke, “The Sot-Weed Factor,” (ELOA)
     Knight, Journal, (ELOA)
     Brown, “Remarks on Reading,” (ELOA)
           Brown and Jefferson, Two Views, (ELOA)
           Rowson, Charlotte Temple, (ELOA)
     Ames, “American Literature,” (ELOA)

Week 10--November 9
     Franklin, Autobiography, (ELOA)
     Wheatley, “On Being Brought,” “To the University,” “On Recollection,” (ELOA)
     Carretta, ed., The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano

Week 11--November 16
     Carretta, ed., The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano
          John Dyer, “The Fleece,” (ELOA)
          Gronniosaw, Narrative, (ELOA)
          Cugoano, Thoughts and Sentiments, (ELOA)
     Foster, The Coquette

Week 12--November 21 (TUESDAY)
     Brown, Wieland
          Crevecoeur, Letters, (ELOA)
          Kinnan, A True Narrative (WICN)
          “Panther Captivity,” (WICN)
          Jefferson, Notes, Query 6, (ELOA)

Week 13--November 30
     Brown, Wieland
     Jemison, A Narrative, (WICN)
          Radisson, The Relation (ELOA)

Week 14--December 7
      Sedgwick, Hope Leslie
          Murray, “On the Equality of the Sexes,” (ELOA)

Week 15--December 14 (Official Study Day, But We’ll Meet)
     Sedgwick, Hope Leslie
          Wakefield, Six Weeks, (WICN)