James Kirschke
Villanova University

The American Literary Tradition

Course Description:

In this Survey the student will read, discuss and write about some of the major American authors from the Puritans to the end of the Civil War. Especial emphasis shall be placed on understanding the literature within its historical context. Such a process should also greatly aid the student to understand the culture of the United States.

In addition, the course plans to examine carefully the literary techniques used by the major American authors from 1607 through 1865. Where relevant, comparisons shall be made between the writings of the major American authors and those of the leading literary contemporaries from the United Kingdom.

The course furthermore devotes lecture and discussion time to such subjects as the research process, the writing of term papers, and the preparation for the writing of examination essays. Where relevant, broad comparisons shall be made between the pre-1865 and 1865 and beyond literary periods in American cultural history. During the pre-1865 period, the student shall be alert to notice the unchallenged and unsuspected presuppositions of the cultural milieu.


Gottesman, Ronald, et.al. The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Vol. 1 4th edition. Norton, 1993.

Course Requirements:

Class participation

M.T.Q.(M.T.Q. prep)

Final Examination (date assigned by Registrar); F.E. prep.

Term Paper: Required length, 7 - 10 double-spaced, t.s. pages.*

NB: Topics must be "cleared" in conference with Dr. Kirschke--before 3 page double- spaced outline due

Policy on Late Term Papers: if not submitted, receipt acknowledged, due date, then minus one full letter grade, unless valid excuse submitted.

Grading Policy: M.T.Q.; C.P.; T.P.; and F.E: each equal weight.

Academic Policy: Hard work ("Prusicking"); Honesty; and Consideration.

Lecture Schedule (in general sequence) through mid-term:

Syllabus Review (no class W, Aug. 27 and F, Sept. 19)
Course Introduction
The Importance of the Course
Generalizations concerning the Nation and Its Culture during the Period
The Puritans: Introduction
Introductory Lectures on Revolutionary and Federal Periods and the American Founders
The Four Forms of Discourse in Prose
The Genres of Imaginative Literature
AIDS Performance (post mid-term)
Bibliography Lecture (date to be set)
T.P. outline (3 ts double-spaced pp.)

Suggested: Writing Center: in-person visit.

Suggested field visit:

Explore Philadelphia's main historical area, especially:
Independence National Historical Park, Visitor Center, etc.
Franklin Court
Second Bank of the US (US Portrait Gallery)

*For all written work you must retain a useable back-up (disk, hard copy ts, hand-script).