Jeffrey H. Richards
Old Dominion University

American Literature to 1810


2 five-page papers [1250 words] @15% 30%
1 ten-page research essay [2500 words]  30%
1 oral presentation                                     5%
1 final examination [2000-2500 words]    30%
class discussion                                          5%


W&MC     Brown, Charles Brockden. Wieland and Memoirs of Carwin the Biloquist. Ed. Jay
                  Fliegelman. Penguin.

POS&TC  Brown, William Hill. The Power of Sympathy and Hannah Webster Foster, The
                 Coquette. Ed. Carla Mulford. Penguin.

LAF&S     Crevecoeur, J. Hector St. John de. Letters from an American Farmer and Sketches of
                  Eighteenth-Century America. Ed. Albert Stone. Penguin.

INOE        Equiano, Olaudah. The Interesting Narrative. Ed. Vincent Carreta. Penguin.

ABF          Franklin, Benjamin. Autobiography. Ed. J. A. Leo Lemay. Norton.

PEAW      Kritzer, Amelia Howe, ed. Plays by Early American Women. U of Michigan P

CATN      Martin, Wendy, ed. Colonial American Travel Narratives. Penguin.

EAD         Richards, Jeffrey H., ed. Early American Drama. Penguin.

FQ           Tenney, Tabitha. Female Quixotism. Oxford UP.


Two of the papers are relatively short (1250 words). For each, focus on one aspect of a single text, or on a limited theme or idea for two or more poems or short prose pieces by a single author. The crucial requirement is defining the project narrowly and clearly; historical introductions are unnecessary and in fact are undesirable unless the material is absolutely essential for a historicist criticism. There is, however, much flexibility in terms of critical approach (mythic, psychoanalytic, feminist, new historicist, Marxist, or other type) and choice of topic. If you wish to do research for the short papers, you may (as long as you follow documentation rules), but it is not a requirement. In professional terms, the short paper is the equivalent of the note, a briefly argued insight into something new about a text.

For the long paper (2500-3000 words), you may do a variety of things: compare two (or at the most, three) authors on a well-defined subject; look at reception (or performance) or a text as a critical tool; place an author in a larger context--social, historical, literary, for examples; or do a longer version of a short paper--narrow topic, defined critical method, close reading. For the long paper, research is required. That means a minimum of six sources beyond the base text. To save time, you may use your presentation research as a springboard to the research for this paper. At any rate, you should familiarize yourself with periodical literature on the subject; the MLA Bibliography on CD-ROM is a good place to start. The library also has handouts on research tools for
various fields of inquiry in literature. For literary scholars, the long paper is the equivalent of the article (in our situation, a short article), a more detailed argument that presents a new thesis about a work.

Topics: For the first short paper, choose an author or text from the first half of the course. For the second short paper, select a text from the latter half. For the long paper, you may pick any text or author from the course that you do not otherwise plan to write about. You also must write on at least two different genres over the term: travel/captivity narrative, autobiography, play, novel.

Format: All papers should be typed or word-processed, double-spaced throughout (including indented quotations), have one-inch margins, and be fastened with paper clip or staple. Likewise, all essays must have an original title (e.g., "Fashioning Powhatan: Smith and the Rhetorical Transformation of the Other"), use parenthetical documentation, have each page after the first numbered in the upper right corner, and otherwise conform to MLA style. This includes the use of a Works Cited page for all sources actually drawn from (ideas or quotations) in the writing of the paper. If you do not know MLA format, get a handbook that explains it; students planning to go on
for a Ph.D. would do well to purchase The MLA Style Manual. Of course, you can always ask the instructor.

Preliminary to your writing the researched essay, it is advisable to generate a preliminary bibliography. Once you have chosen an author, text, or topic, prepare a comprehensive bibliography (seek a minimum of ten sources), with special attention to material since 1970. You may have to use a variety of bibliographic aids: MLA, history bibliographies, literary reference books (e.g., Dictionary of Literary Biography and other sources, both in print and on-line. I strongly advise that you give a brief annotation or statement of the content and importance of each source. Put all entries into MLA style for Works Cited. If you have more sources than ten, be selective and make a conscious decision as to what limiting criteria you have used. Although this suggested project is designed to help you with the research essay, you could combine this with research for a presentation.


During one class, you will give a presentation on an author to be discussed that day. Possibilities include introduction to a writer or work with a focus on critical issues; the isolation of a critical problem that the author or a text or a theoretical reading suggests; or the placement of a writer or text in a larger framework--for instance, a Native American narrative in conjunction with narratives of a similar type. Research for this presentation may coincide with work for another paper or the bibliographical project. The point is to share information or insights and to stimulate discussion. Try to have something prepared, however, beyond, "Well, what do you think?"


Whether size of class dictates a seminar or lecture-discussion, I hope to hear from as many of you as possible during class period. I try to be flexible with critical approaches and can appreciate points of view that differ from my own; as a result, I like to see people taking risks with interpretation. Often, a risky speculation--based on reading, thinking, and inspiration--can be a springboard to exciting discussion. We can all challenge each other--and provide support at the same time.


On the last class day, I will give you a set of questions that will serve as the basis of two essays roughly equivalent in total length to the research paper. These you will answer in typed form and return to me on the day of the scheduled exam. The questions will cover material over the entire course and may ask for specific works to be discussed, but the test will allow some freedom of choice.  Because this is the only exam, I do look for thoughtful comparative approaches in the responses.


I will be glad to meet with you to discuss your progress. If the scheduled hours are not convenient, you are welcome to arrange another time. If you do not understand or cannot read a comment on an essay, please ask me for an interpretation or elaboration.


1/14 Introduction to Early American Literature
        History of Narrative as form

21 Literature of Captivity and Travel in the North
     Rowlandson, Narrative of the Captivity [CATN]
     Knight, Journal [CATN]

28 Literature of Travel in the South
     [William Byrd, History of the Dividing Line] [CATN]
     Hamilton, Itinerarium [CATN]

2/4 Agrarian Idealism
      Crevecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer

11 Agrarian Despair
     Crevecoeur, Sketches of Eighteenth-Century America

18 PAPER 1 (5-page) due
     Anglo-African Autobiography
     Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life

25 American Self-Fashioning : The "Model" Citizen?
     Franklin, Autobiography

3/4 Revolution and Performance: Early Republican Drama I
      Warren, The Group [PEAW]
      Tyler, The Contrast [EAD]

11 Spring Break

18 Revolution and Performance: Early Republican Drama II
     Murray, The Traveller Returned [PEAW]
     Dunlap, Andre [EAD]

25 Exoticism and Drama
     Rowson, Slaves in Algiers [PEAW]
     Barker, The Indian Princess [EAD]

4/1 PAPER 2 (10-page) DUE.
      Early Novel I: The Novel of Sensibility
      Brown, W. H., The Power of Sympathy [POS&TC]

8 Early Novel II: The Novel of Seduction
   Foster, The Coquette [POS&TC]

15 Early Novel III: The Sensational
     Brown, Wieland and Carwin the Biloquist

22 PAPER 3 (5-page) DUE.
     Early Novel IV: The Satirical
     Tenney, Female Quixotism