Laura Laffrado
Western Washington University

Early American Literature

Texts: The Heath Anthology of American Literature (Vol. 1).
          Vaughan & Clark, Puritans Among the Indians

CONTENT: Using texts from the fifteenth century through the late eighteenth century, this course will draw on a wide range of genres including journals, poems, narratives, sermons, and diaries. We will consider how these various genres challenge our definition(s) of American literature(s) and we will examine the roles of female discourse, race, religion, and class. We will explore the various ways in which America and American identities are defined, wonder about the tensions between sociopolitical position and discourse, and attempt to arrive at a deeper understanding of influences that shaped American literatures.

ASSIGNMENTS: Your assignments will consist of two exams (a mid-term and a final), one 7-10 page essay, frequent participation, diligent reading, and regular attendance.

Both the mid-term and the final will be essay exams. For both you will be given three essay questions and asked to choose one and to write a well-organized and developed response. The dates for these exams are already scheduled (see attached schedule) and no make-up will be possible.

In addition to the grades assigned for the paper, mid-term and the final exam, you will receive a grade for participation. Your participation grade will be determined by your regular and thoughtful participation in class discussion, your attendance (for obvious reasons), and your improvement over the course of the quarter.

READING AND DISCUSSION: As students in a 300-level literature course, you are expected to complete the reading assignments for each class meeting and consider your responses to that reading. We all have our off days and some material will move some people more than others, but in general I look forward to questions, comments, answers, and (once in awhile) sound effects.

ATTENDANCE: Regular mental and physical presence in class is required. (This means that bringing your body here isn't at all enough; you have to be here and be awake and engaged.) I advise a maximum of four absences. If you miss more than four classes, your knowledge, participation, exam/essay content, and final grade will be affected and I may suggest that you drop the course. Students are expected to arrive promptly for class.

GRADING POLICY: Your final grade is based on exam grades, class participation, general improvement, and attendance.

The attached schedule lists our readings and assignments for the term. We will go over the schedule on the first day of class.

Finally, if you find yourself beset by difficult circumstances, if you have trouble with the reading, or if you just want to check in, do come and see me. I'm always willing to help.

Welcome to class.


NOTE: When titles and/or page numbers are not specified for a day's reading, you are to read the entire selection in the Heath.


T 6 Introduction to the course

W 7 Background

T 13 Native American Oral Narrative (all works)

Th 15 Native American Oral Poetry (all works); "Creation of the Whites"; also, Handsome Lake

T 21 Christopher Columbus, from Journal of the First Voyage to America, 1492-1493 and from Narrative of the Third Voyage, 1498-1500; Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, from Relation of . . . all chapters in anthology

Th 23 A Gentleman of Elvas, from The Discovery and Conquest of Terra Florida; Gaspar Pérez de Villagrá, from The History of New Mexico; and Samuel de Champlain, from The Voyages of . . .

T 28 John Smith, from The Generall Historie of Virginia, New- England, and the Summer Isles; from A Description of New England; and from Advertisements for the Unexperienced Planters of New England . . .; mid-term review/discussion

Th 30 Mid-term exam (NO MAKE-UP POSSIBLE)


T 4 Background to Puritanism; read Heath 179-181; William Bradford, from Of Plymouth Plantation

Th 6 Anne Bradstreet, "The Prologue," "The Flesh and the Spirit," "To My Dear Children," and "To My Dear and Loving Husband"

T 11 John Winthrop, from A Modell of Christian Charity; "John Winthrop's Christian Experience"; and from The Journal of John Winthrop

Th 13 Michael Wigglesworth, from The Day of Doom; class discussion

T 18 Introduction to captivity narratives--read around in Vaughan & Clark, "Cups of Common Calamity: Puritan Captivity Narratives as Literature and History," 1-28; Mary Rowlandson, The Sovereignty and Goodness of God, Vaughan & Clark 31-52

Th 20 Rowlandson, cont'd., Vaughan & Clark 52-75

T 25 Quentin Stockwell, Quentin Stockwell's Relation of His Captivity and Redemption, Vaughan & Clark 77-89; Hannah Swarton, "A Narrative of Hannah Swarton Containing Wonderful Passages Relating to Her Captivity and Deliverance," Vaughan & Clark 145-157

Th 27 Swarton, cont'd; Elizabeth Hanson, "God's Mercy Surmounting Man's Cruelty," Vaughan & Clark 227-244


T 4 Sarah Kemble Knight, The Journal of Madam Knight

Th 6 Elizabeth Ashbridge, from Some Account of the Fore Part of the Life of . . .

T 11 Jonathan Edwards, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"; Benjamin Franklin, from The Autobiography (please have entire selection read for today)

Th 13 Franklin, cont'd; concluding discussion.

The final exam for this course will be comprehensive, will take one hour, and will be held during finals week.

This schedule should give you an accurate idea of what we're reading and when we're reading it. We will cover all readings on the syllabus, so be prepared for the lengthier readings and the essay/exams as they come along.