Nicholas Rombes
University of Detroit Mercy


"I believe in the forest, and in the meadow, and in the night in which the corn grows."
Henry David Thoreau

Required Texts
Lauter, et al., eds. The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Vol. 1. Second edition.  D.C.
    Heath and Company.
Brown, Charles Brockden. Edgar Huntly. [ 1799]. Ed. Sydney J. Krause and S. W. Reid. Kent
    State University Press, 1988.
Child, Lydia Maria. Hobomok. [ 1824]. Ed. Carolyn Karcher. Rutgers University Press.
Jacobs, Harriet Ann. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. [1861]. Ed. Jean Fagan Yellin. Harvard
    University Press, 1987.

Course Objectives
This course aims to 1) provide you with an understanding and appreciation of the chief American literary trends from the earliest periods through 1865, as well as to help you learn about the relationship between our nation's political, cultural, and literary heritage, 2) help you become more critical and active readers, 3) help you become stronger writers, 4) encourage you to think about the potential meaning and significance of literature in our nation's cultural life.

In this class we will be examining works written during our republic's formative years, those years which saw early struggles to answer the question, "What is an American?" During the semester we will read works that test, challenge, and redefine what it means to be an American. The writings in this course range from Puritan expressions of religious devotion to piercing slave narratives to bizarre, nightmarish Gothic novels to the seemingly liberating prose of Transcendentalism. Such literature exposes the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of early America's literary, cultural, political, and social life.

I like to think of this class a community, of sorts, where we gather as readers and writers to think about, discuss, and even debate issues raised by the works we'll be reading. I'd also like us to be able to draw on and prosper from each other's insights in a combined effort to analyze and form opinions about what we are reading. In order for this to happen, however, you must keep up with all the readings for every class and be prepared to ask questions and comment on what you have read.


Shorter Paper #1                   200 points
Longer Paper #2                   300 points
Midterm                                100 points
Reading Questions                 200 points
Article Presentation                  50 points
Group In-class Presentation      50 points
Final Exam                             100 points

1000 points

I expect you to attend each class session and to come to class on time. While one or two
absences over the course of the semester is understandable, for each absence beyond two I
will deduct seven points from your final point total at the end of the semester.

(* means on reserve at Library; all other readings are from course books or handouts)

W 9-4     - Course intro.


F 9-6      - Christopher Columbus, "Journals" (Heath 116-28)
               - Cabeza de Vaca, "Relation" (Heath 128-44)

M 9-9     - Greenblat, Marvelous Possessions (ch. 3, "Marvelous Possessions")
               - Todorov handout, The Conquest of America (ch. 1, "Discovery")

W 9-11   - John Smith, Generall Historie and Advertisements (Heath186-98)
               - Jehlen, "Literature of Colonization" from Cambridge History of American Literature (pp.

F 9-13     - Roger Williams, A Key into the Language of America (Heath 267-89)
                - Jehlen, "Literature of Colonization" from Cambridge History of American Literature (pp


M 9-16    - John Winthrop, A Modell of Christian Charity and John Winthrop's Christian
                   Experience (Heath 223-38)
W 9-18    - Anne Bradstreet, "The Prologue," "The Author to Her Book," "Contemplations," "The
                   Flesh and the Spirit" (Heath 289-305)

F 9-20      - Mary Rowlandson, The Narrative of the Captivity and Restauration of Mrs.
                   Mary  Rowlandson (Heath 340-66)

M 9-23      - Edward Taylor, "The Preface," "The Souls Groan to Christ for Succour," "Christs
                     Reply," "Meditation 43. Rom, 9.5 God blessed forever" (Heath 366-96)
                  * William Scheick, The Will and the Word: The Poetry of Edward Taylor
                      (ch. 5, "Tending the Lord in All Admiring Style")

W 9-25      - Samuel Sewell, The Selling of Joseph (Heath 408-18)

F 9-27       - Cotton Mather, from The Wonders of the Invisible World (Heath 419-25)
                  - Elliott, "The Language of Salem Witchcraft," from Cambridge History of American

M 9-30      - John Woolman, from Some Considerations on the Keeping of Negroes(Heath


W 10-2     - Benjamin Franklin, Information to Those Who Would Remove to America
                 - from The Autobiography, Part Two (Heath708-810)
                 * Max Weber, from The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

F 10-4      - Oliver Goldsmith, "The Deserted Village" (handout)
                 - Timothy Dwight, "The Flourishing Village" from Greenfield Hill (Heath 1039-45)
                 * Elliott, "Timothy Dwight: Pastor, Poet, and Politics" from Revolutionary Writers

M 10-7     - Philip Freneau, "To Sir Toby," "The Wild Honey Suckle," "On the Universality and
                   Other Attributes of the God of Nature," "The Hurricane" (Heath 1021-39)
                  - "The Slavery of Whites to Many Wants" (handout)

Paper #1 Due

W 10-9      - Phillis Wheatley, "On Being Brought from Africa to America," "To the University of
                    Cambridge, in New England," "Liberty and Peace" (Heath 1048-65)

F 10-11      - Judith Sargent Murray, "On the Equality of the Sexes" (Heath 1011-18)
                  * Kerber, from Women of the Republic (ch. 9, "The Republican Mother")

M 10-14    - J Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, from Letters from an American Farmer (Heath

W 10- 16   - Thomas Jefferson, from Notes on the State of Virginia , Query VI and Query XI
                     (Heath 894-901)
                  * Sheehan, from Seeds of Extinction: Jeffersonian Philanthropy and the American Indian
                     (ch. 4, "The Noble Savage")



M 10-21     - Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Huntly (vii-94)
                   * Davidson, Revolution and the Word: The Rise of the Novel in America (ch.3,
                      "Ideology and Genre")

W 10-23     - Brown, Edgar Huntly (95-183)
                   * Bill Christophersen, The Apparition in the Glass: Charles Brockden Brown's
                      American Gothic (ch. 6, "'Edgar Huntly': Somnambulism vs. Self-Knowledge")

F 10-25      -Brown, Edgar Huntly (184-85)

M 10-28    - Nathaniel Hawthorne, "Young Goodman Brown" (Heath 2112-2138)
                  - Letter to Sophia Peabody (Heath 2322-24)
                  * Keil, "Hawthorne's'Young Goodman Brown': Early Nineteeth-Century and Puritan
                     Constructions of Gender"
W 10-30     - Lydia Maria Child, Hobomok (ix-50)
                   * Karcher, The First Woman in the Republic: A Cultural Biography of Lydia Maria

F 11-1         - Child, Hobomok (51-83)

M 11-4        - Child, Hobomok, (84-150)

W 11-6       - Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance" (Heath 1498-58)

F 11-8        - Henry David Thoreau, "Slavery in Massachussetts" (handout)

M 11-11    - Thoreau, "Walking" (Heath 2079-2100)
                  * Garber, from Thoreau's Redemptive Imagination

W 11-13     - Washington Irving, "Rip Van Winkle" (Heath 1294-1306)
                   - "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (Heath 1306-25)
                   * Ruben-Dorsky, "The Crisis Resolved(?): 'Rip Van Winkle and'The Legend of Sleepy

F 11-15       - Douglass, What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? (Heath 1666-1750)

M 11-18     - Harriet Ann Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (xiii-58)
                   * Sanchez-Eppler, Touching Liberty: Abolition, Feminism, and the Politics of the Body
                      (ch. 3, "Righting Slavery and Writing Sex")

11-20          - Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (59-136)

F 11-22       - Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (137-201)

M 11-25     - Herman Melville, "Bartleby, the Scrivener" (Heath 2445-2470)

W 11-27     - Edgar Allan Poe, "The Tell-Tale Heart" (Heath 1406-10)
                   - "M. S. Found in a Bottle" (Heath 13 64-7 1)
                   * Robinson, "Poe's'The Tell-Tale Heart"'


M 12-2       - Alice Cary, "Uncle Christopher's" (Heath 2640-2657)

W 12-4      - Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself" (Heath 2758-2809)

F 12 -6       - Emily Dickinson, "I heard a Fly buzz--when I died--"
                     "Publication--is the Auction/Of the Mind of Man-"
                     Letter to Susan Gilbert (Dickinson) 27 June 1852 (Heath 2869-2938)

W 12-11 from 8:00-9:50 a.m. Final Exam

"Wait for dawn, the dawn shall come." --R.E.M.

"I hold that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing."
--Thomas Jefferson


I will give you guidelines for each of the two papers well in advance. While you will be
free to formulate your own topic and thesis if you want to, I will also provide you with a
list of possible topics for each of the papers.

Reading Notes
The reading notes are designed to help you become active and critical readers as well as to
help you begin to explore some possible topics for your papers. For most of our readings
I will ask you to complete the "Reading Notes" form (I will provide you with these
sheets), recording specific quotes that you found odd/interesting/worth returning to as
well as any questions you had about the text.

The mid-term and final exams will be cumulative and will be a mixture of objective
questions (such as true/false, etc.) as well as short questions, We will review for these
exams together before the exam periods.

Article Presentation
I will ask you to choose an article from the syllabus to present to the class on an assigned day. The article that you choose, which will relate to one of the authors we are reading, will be available for you to consult in the McNichols Library, where it will be held on reserve. Although I will provide more detailed information on this assignment later, I will basically ask you to present a two-page summary of the article to the class. I will "go first" with an article early on to give you a sense of what I am looking for.

In-class Group Presentation
For this assignment I'll ask you to join up with one or two other classmates (I'll let you
choose your partners). Your job will be to track down information on a topic or an author
we're covering in class (Harriet Ann Jacobs, the rise of the novel in America, Gothic
novels, constrictions on women writers, the Salem Witchcraft Trials, the first literary
protests against slavery, etc.). Then you and your partners will collect information (from
the library, Internet, etc.) on this topic and prepare to present your findings to the class on
an assigned day, most likely during the second half of the semester. While I'll give you
more details on this later, here's what your presentation should include:

1. A brief statement (no longer than one page) explaining what "x" is to your

2. A list of key terms that you kept running across when researching your topic.

3. An annotated bibliography of between 5 and 10 books or articles on your topic.

4. An other materials you think might be helpful to the class.