Michael W. Vella
Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Reading and Teaching the "New" Early American Literature

This is an experimental class during which we'll study the debates about multiculturalism, canon reformation, and ideology as these affect the general politics of reading and teaching early American literature. Each week will consist of readings in journal articles, variously polemical, theoretical, and pedagogical (none is text-interpretive) as well as one or more readings of texts of early American literature. The seminar sessions will be divided approximately 1/3 for discussion of the issues presented in the articles and 2/3 for scrutiny of the literary text assigned for that week. Students will be asked to do a mini-lesson about a text of their choice from among those assigned. These mini-lessons must demonstrate the student's use of pedagogical techniques under study, and, more importantly, the student's own positioning vis-a-vis the debates we are studying. Each mini-lesson must be accompanied by a written teaching report explaining the goals, heuristics, contextualization, and textual strategies the student used to teach that text. Details about these mini-lessons will be forthcoming, but for now suffice it to say that the class is literally what its title says-a course in reading and teaching the new early American literature.

While this class is experimental, my grading procedures for it are not. We'll use a point system and weighted grades for each of the assignments. I expect everyone to do well; there is no curve and the class isn't competitive, but I do want to grade various aspects of the course so as to delineate its manifold responsibilities and to give you some sense of how I perceive their relative importance. Thus this old fashioned method. Breakdown of assignments is as follows:

Mini Lesson: 25% of total grade based on the following elements: (100 points=use of heuristics, and development of contextualization 25 pts; student activation 25 pts; textual and discursive strategies 25 pts; demonstrable evidence of theoretical and pedagogical "positioning" 25 pts). [Approximately two students will "instruct" each evening marked with an *. See below.]

Teaching Report: 20% of total grade based on the following elements: (100 points=quality of written expression and presentation 15 pts; articulation of teaching goals 25 pts; sense of pedagogical and theoretical positioning 15 pts; analysis pedagogical strategies demonstrated in the mini-lesson 25 pts; discussion and analysis of textual choices 20 pts). Reports will be about ten to fifteen typewritten pages.

Backgrounding Report: 15% of the total grade, with no breakdown as this report will be graded holistically based on the investigation of the text's context and the reading of its formal and discursive attributes. The only research requisite for this course involves the preparation for the mini-lesson. For teaching the text that the student chooses he or she is expected to develop sufficient background knowledge of the author, the text, and their contexts so as to present the work meaningfully. This contextualization may involve locating [and duplicating in some fashion for use in the mini-lesson] other relevant primary sources and historical documents, it may involve biographical or edition history work, etc. A short description or narrative should suffice to delineate methods, research steps, and utilities used to prepare a context for teaching the text.  Approximately six to ten typewritten pages.  NB: There should be some "bridging" between the teaching report, the mini-lesson, and the backgrounding report, but they should not merely repeat each other. Eg., the backgrounding report may cover more discursive aspects of the text than can be covered in a mini-lesson but how the student selects what to concentrate on in that mini-lesson is what is discussed in the teaching report where it may appear as a teaching goal.

Final Exam: The final exam (40% of total grade) will be in two parts each worth 20% of the total grade. The first part will consist of a synthesis essay about the articles and the debates about reconstituting American literature. The second part will be about the literary texts themselves. In this exam we will come back to the notion of "teaching" (the first part of the exam) and "reading" (the second part of the exam) and try to get some tentative sense of closure for the semester. Students will no doubt be asked to submit written exam questions, but we will probably generate these collaboratively toward the end of the semester. The exam while performing closure (and I hope celebration) ought also to be thought of by all of us as a bridge from Before to After.

Required Texts:

Cabeza de Vaca, Relacion, trans. Martin Favata and Jose B. Fernandez (Houston: Arte Publico Press,1993).

Bartolome de las Casas,The Devastation of the Indies, trans. Herma Briffaut (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992).

Tzvetan Todorov, The Conquest of America (New York. Harper Perennial, 1984).

Giles Gunn, ed. Early American Writing (New York: Penguin, 1994).

William Cronon, Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England (New York: Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux, 1983).

Journeys in New Worlds: Early American Women's Narratives, ed. William Andrews et. alia. (Madison: Univ. Wisconsin Press, 1990).

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (any edition)

Equiano's Travels, ed. Paul Edwards (Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Heineman, 1969).

The Falcon:A Narrative of the Captivity and Adventures of John Tanner During Thirty Years-Residence of the Indians Introduction by Louise Erdrich (New York. Penguin, 1994).

A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard. Based on Her Diary 1785-1812. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich(New York: Vintage, 1991).

Charles Brockden Brown, Wieland (preferably New York: Penguin, 1991).

The Coquette, Hannah Foster (any edition)

The Portable Thomas Jefferson, ed. Merrill D. Peterson (New York: Penguin, 1975).

Numerous articles on Reserve in Stapleton Library. The reading list is heavy and costly. Students are encouraged to share texts.


9/12  Introduction

Weekend One: MLA Profession 93: Barbara Lewalski, "Critical Issues in Literary Studies," 41. George Levine, "The Real Trouble," 43-45. Philip Gura, "Turning Our World Upside Down:
Reconceiving Early American Literature."

Discourses, Contacts, Others:

9/19 Cabeza de Vaca Relacion and Bartolome de las Casas The
Devastation of the Indies; Tzvetan Todorov The Conguest of America,

Weekend Two: Philip Gleason, "American Identity and Americanization," from Concepts of Ethnicity:Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups, (Cambridge: Harvard UP,1982). Henry Giroux,"Liberal Arts Education and the Struggle for Public Life: Dreaming about Democracy," South Atlantic Quarterly 89 (1990).

9/26 Selections from Early American Writing

Weekend Three: Gregory Jay, "The End of 'American' Literature: Toward a Multicultural Practice," College English 53.3 (March 1991). Annette Kolodney, "The Integrity of Memory: Creating a New Literary History of the United States," American Literature 7 (May 1985). Fleigelman and Mulford from American Literature "Forum: What Do We Need to Teach?"

10/3 Selections from Early American Writing

Weekend Four: John Higham, "Multiculturalism and Universalism: A History and a Critique," American Quarterly 45.2 (June 1993). Gerald Early, "American Education and the Postmodern Impulse," American Quarterly 45.2 (June 1993).

Puritans, New England, Canons:

10/10 Selections from Early American Writing; Changes in the Land.

Weekend Five: Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, "Between Individualism and Fragmentation: American Culture and the New literary Studies of Race and Gender," American Quarterly 42.1 (March 1990). Werner Sollers, "A Critique of Pure Pluralism," Reconstructing American Literary History ed. Sacvan Bercovitch, ed. (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1986).

10/17 Journeys in New Worlds

Weekend Six: Sacvan Bercovitch, "The Problem of Ideology in American literary History," Critical Inquiry 12 (1986). R. Berkhofer, "A New Context for a New American Studies," American Quarterly (citation later).

*10/24 Journeys in New Worlds

Weekend Seven: Kenneth A. Bruffee, "Collaborative Learning and the 'Conversation of Mankind,'" 46.7 College English (November 1984),and "Social Construction, Language,and the Authority of Knowledge," 48.8 College English (December 1986); Harvey S. Wiener, "Collaborative Learning in the Classroom: A Guide to Evaluation," 48.1 College English (January 1986). Selections from Angelo and Cross, Classroom Assessment Techniques: A HandBook for College Teachers Jossey Bass, 1988).

Representation, Self- Representations, Individualism:

*10/31 The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Weekend Eight:. Henry Louis Gates,"The Master's Pieces: On Canon Formation and the African American Tradition," South Atlantic Ouarterly 89.1 (Winter 1990). Shlomo Sharan, "Cooperative Learning in Small Groups: Recent Methods and Effects on Achievement, Attitudes, and Ethnic Relations," Review of Educational Research 50.2 (Summer, 1980).

*11/7 Equiano's Travels

Gender and Race: Literary/Social Categories

Weekend Nine: Susan Hegeman, "Native American 'Texts' and the

Problem of Authenticity," American Quarterly 41.2 (June 1989); Daniel Littlefield Jr., "American Indians, American Scholars, and the American Literary Canon," American Studies 33.2 (Fall 1992); Arnold Krupat, "Scholarship and Native American Studies: A Response to Daniel Littlefield, Jr." American Studies 34.2 (Fall 1993).

*11/14 John Tanner, The Falcon

Weekend Ten: Marianne Whechel, "Transforming the Canon with Nontraditional by Women," College English 46.6 (October, 1984); Lillian S. Robinson, "Treason Our Text: Feminist Challenges to the Literary Canon," from The New Feminist Criticism. Frances Maher,"Classroom Pedagogy and the New Scholarship on Women," from Gendered Subjects (Routledge 1985).

*11/21 A Midwife's Tale

Weekend Eleven: Nancy Schneidewind, "Teaching Feminist Process," Women's Study Quarterly XV (Fall/Winter 1987). Gerald Graff, "Teach the Conflicts," South Atlantic Quarterly 89 (1990);

*11/28 Wieland and The Coquette

Weekend Twelve: Jane Tomkins "Pedagogy of the Distressed," College English 52 (October 1990). Stephen Brookfield, "On Impostureship, Cultural Suicide, and Lost Innocence, Faculty Development 6.2 (Winter l993). Giles Gunn, "Beyond Transcendence or Ideology: The New Problematics of Cultural Criticism in America," American Literary History 2.1(Spring 1990).

Enlightenment Foundations, Liberalism, Literacy:

*12/5 Selections from Early American Writing

Weekend Thirteen: Hazard Adams, "Canons: literary Criteria/Power Criteria," Critical Inguiry 14 (Summer 1989). Robert Dale Parker, "Material Choices: American Fictions, the Classroom, and the Post-Canon," American Literary History 1. 5 (1993).

*12/12 Selections of Thomas Jefferson

12/14-12/2l  Fina1s