Sargent Bush
University of Wisconsin

Colonial & Early Romantic American Literature

This course traces the first two centuries of American literature from its beginnings in the literature of discovery and exploration to the Romantic interpretation of America in the early nineteenth century. Special emphasis will be given to the early and mid-seventeenth century, the late eighteenth century, and the early nineteenth century. The progression is from the practical or applied use of the written word by the early writers to legitimate achievements in the modes and genres of belles lettres in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries--specifically, from the exploration literature of John Smith to the mythologizing of American experience in the tales of Washington Irving and the Leatherstocking novels of James Fenimore Cooper.  The period covered in roughly 1608-1830. The readings include works from all major modes and genres, including the short story, essay, novel, satire, autobiography, biography, sermon, diary, drama, and narrative and lyric poetry.  Topics of discussion include the authors' shift from an Old World to a New World perspective, the clash of cultures between Europeans and indigenous North American people, developing notions of the self in America, the adaptation of traditional literary forms to American materials, the effects of the frontier on the literature, and the discovery of American "voices."  The readings also include examples of religious or spiritually based literature, works representing the rational or empirical emphasis of the Age of Enlightenment, the adaptation of that mind-set to the cause of the American Revolution, the search for an independent American culture, and the growing Romantic sensibility, especially as used to read the American landscape. The course has a distinctly historical emphasis.  The class will involve both lecture and discussion.

Required Texts:

+Early American Poetry, Jane Donahue Eberwein, ed. Univ. of Wisconsin Press.

+Journeys in New Worlds: Early American Women's Narratives, ed. William L. Andrews, et al.
   Univ. of Wisconsin Press.

Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography and Other Writings, ed. Ormond Seavey. Oxford Univ.

+Charles Brockden Brown.  Edgar Huntly.  Kent State Univ. Press.

+Lydia Maria Child, Hobomok and Other Writings. Rutgers Univ. Press.

Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Selections, ed. A. M. Fox. Pocket

James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans. Penguin.

A packet of xeroxed readings from the Copy Center in the Social Science Bldg.

+ On reserve, Helen C. White Library Reserve Room.


Regular attendance.

Graded writing assignments will include a combination of papers and exams, at least two of each.  There will be a final examination at the time listed in the Timetable (see date and time below).


The readings marked with an asterisk (*) are in the booklet of xeroxed readings.

Sept. 3  W Introduction to Early American Literature

Exploration & Settlement

5 F  Literature of Exploration/ Promotion Literature: John Smith selections*

The Puritans

8 M  Departure Literature*: Thomas Hooker, "The Danger of Desertion"; John Cotton, "God's
         Promise to His Plantations" and Letters from Cotton to Hooker (1633) and Cotton to a
         minister in England. 10 W Arrival Literature*: William Bradford, from Of Plymouth Plantation;
         John Winthrop, "A Model of Christian Charity"

12 F  Millennialism and American "Exceptionalism"*

Puritan Poetry

15 M  The Bay Psalm Book (1640)*; Anne Bradstreet poems (in Early American Poetry [hereafter
          EAP], pp. 14-15, 29-46

17 W  Bradstreet, pp. 46-61

19 F  Edward Taylor, EAP, pp. 72-74, 85-94.

22 M  Taylor, in EAP, Preparatory Meditations, Series 1, nos. 6, 8, 10, 23, 29, 39.

24 W  Taylor, Preparatory Meditations, series 2, no. 4, 7, 142; Michael Wigglesworth, "God's
          Controversy with New England," EAP, pp. 321-38.

26 F  Paper #1 due

Culture Clashes: The Eastern Frontier

29 M  Indian Captivity Narrative: "A True History of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary
          Rowlandson" (in Journeys in New Worlds [hereafter Journeys])

Oct. 1 W  Rowlandson, "A True History . . ."

3 F  Lydia Maria Child, Hobomok

6 M  Child, Hobomok

8 W  Child, Hobomok

Secular Personal Narratives, North and South

10 F  Sarah Kemble Knight, "The Journal of Madam Knight" in Journeys

13 M  Knight, "Journal" (finish) and Samuel Sewall, sels. from Diary*

15 W  Ebenezer Cook, "The Sot-Weed Factor,: EAP, 339-61.

17 F  Mid-term Exam

Slaves, Slavery, and Independence

20 M  Sewall, "The Selling of Joseph"*; John Woolman, Journal*; Benjamin Franklin,
           Miscellaneous writings on slavery*

22 W  Phillis Wheatley poetry selections*

24 F  Thomas Jefferson, "Declaration of Independence"*; sels. from Notes on the State of
           Virginia*;  sel. from Hector St. Jean de Crèvecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer*

"What is an American?"

27 M  Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography

29 W  Franklin, Autobiography

31 F  Franklin, Autobiography

Nov. 3 M  Royall Tyler, The Contrast*

5 W  The Contrast

7 F  Joel Barlow, "The Hasty Pudding" in EAL, pp. 362-73

Beyond Empiricism: Romantic Consciousness

10 M  Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Huntly

12 W  Edgar Huntly

14 F  Edgar Huntly

17 M  Freneau's pre-Romantic writings: EAP, pp. 201-21, 231- 33, 236-37.

19 W  William Cullen Bryant, EAP, 266-69, 271-77, 283-90.

21 F  Bryant, "To Cole, The Painter, Departing for Europe" and "The Prairies"; Washington Irving,
          sel. from A Tour on the Prairies.

24 M  Washington Irving's sportive gothic: "Legend of Sleepy Hollow," "The Spectre Bridegroom,"
           "Adventure of the German Student"

26 W  Irving, "Rip Van Winkle"

Thanksgiving Holidays, Nov. 27-30

Dec. 1 M  James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans

3 W  The Last of the Mohicans

5 F  The Last of the Mohicans

8 M  The Last of the Mohicans

10 W  The Last of the Mohicans

12 F  The Myth(s) of America: James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking, Lydia Maria Childs's
          Hobomok, Capt. John Smith's Pocahontas and John Smith, and other vanishing heroes.