Alan Silva
Hamline University

American Literature Survey  1500 - 1860

Course Description

All survey courses in the English department offer students a taste of the breadth and diversity of literature spanning several generations.  Surveys focus on the continuities and discontinuities in canon formation and emphasize the historical and cultural contexts of literature.  They introduce students to literary periods and nationalities and provide a basis for further independent exploration of the literatures of any period or nationality.

In this particular survey, you will read a variety of pre-Civil War texts beginning with the 16th-century Spanish discovery narrative and concluding with the flowering of American prose and poetry in the mid-19th century.  You will encounter many of the multiethnic voices of early America (European, Latin, African, and Native American), a number of religious groups (Puritan, Quaker, Catholic), and a wide variety of genres (sermons, spiritual autobiographies, slave and captivity narratives, poems, short stories).

Hamline Plan Designation

English 123 has been designated as Disciplinary Breadth and will earn you an "H" (Humanities) upon successful completion of the course.  At Hamline, the Humanities Division is comprised of four departments: English, Modern Languages, Philosophy, and Religion.  All disciplinary breadth courses provide you with a body of knowledge in a specific discipline as well as skills and strategies for acquiring that knowledge and applying it to the world.  Humanities disciplinary breadth courses increase your understanding of language, history, and culture and strengthen your ability to read and analyze texts within specific genres, cultures, and historical periods.  In our particular Humanities course, you will be exposed to some of the major issues in early American history and culture and learn a variety of skills for reading and analyzing texts within early America.


Paul Lauter, ed., et al., The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Vol. 1, 3rd ed. (Houghton  Mifflin)


All of the reading assignments are located on the calendar below; please read each assignment before coming to class. You also have fifteen writing assignments indicated in bold on the calendar.  Some of these assignments take the form of brief in-class exercises or short out-of-class reflections; others will be more time-consuming writing projects and essay exams.  Some will require additional reading, collaboration with your peers, or oral presentation; all will require your thoughtful reflection and engagement with the assigned reading.  Each assignment is designated a point value and contributes to your overall course grade.  Please see the separate handout for further details on these writing assignments.

Late Assignments

All in-class assignments must be completed on the day designated on the calendar.  If you are absent on that day, you can only make up the assignment if you have a verified excuse for illness, death in the family, or other similar emergency.  No exceptions.  All out-of-class assignments must be turned in by the deadline indicated on the calendar. All late out-of-class assignments will be penalized a full percentage grade for each class day they are late.

Attendance and Participation

The attendance policy for this class is strict.  You simply will not be successful in this intricately designed course if you do not come to class regularly and participate in all classroom activities.  You will also will not find this class very enjoyable if you do not come every time, on-time, and stay for the entire period.  I strongly recommend you not take this course if you think you will have difficulty coming to class.

 Number of Classes You Missed   The Highest Possible Grade in the Course

0 to 3         A
4 to 5         B
6 to 7         C
8 to 9         D
10 +           F

Absences will only be excused if you provide verification of illness, death in the family, or other similar emergency.  Note that you are not automatically entitled to the grade in the right hand column.  If your evaluated course work falls below your attendance grade, you will receive the grade for your course work.

Academic Honesty

For some of your assignments, you may need to refer to scholarly books, articles, or websites.  When you refer (by quotation or paraphrase) to the work of others, you must provide proper attribution and citation.  Failure to do so is considered academically dishonest.  The consequences of such behavior ranges from failure on the assignment to dismissal from the university.  Please ask if you are in doubt about when you need to cite a source and/or how to make that citation.


You must complete at least two-thirds of the course work, be in satisfactory standing (a C average or above) and have an unforeseen emergency arise at the end of the semester (serious illness, death in the family) in order to receive an incomplete.  All incomplete grades must be given prior approval by the instructor.


Your course grade is determined by calculating the percentage of points you have earned during the semester.  Points from each individual writing assignment are added and then that point tally  is divided by the total number of points available.  The resulting percentage is then placed into the table below and that yields your course grade.

% of Total Points  Course Grade   % of Total Points Course Grade

100  -   94    A             76   -   73   C
 93   -   90    A-            72   -   70   C-
 89   -   87    B+            69   -   67   D+
 86   -   83    B              66   -   63   D
 82   -   80    B-             62   -   60   D-
 79   -   77    C+            59   -    0    F


W  9/8 Introduction: What is American Literature?
Introductory Lecture and Discussion of Course Design and Delivery

Cultures in Contact: Voices from the Colonized New World

F  9/10 Cabeza de Vaca, from La Relación (128-40)
Lecture on La Relación

M  9/13 [Yuchi], "A Creation of the Whites" (115-16)
A Gentleman of Elvas, from The Discovery and Conquest of Terra Florida (140-44)
Fray Marcos de Niza, from A Relation (156-59)
Continued Lecture on La Relación with Selected Film Clips from Cabeza de Vaca and Discussion of an Annotated Close Reading of La Relación

W  9/15 Smith, from The Generall Historie of Virginia (184-91)
Brief Presentation on John Smith with Selected Film Clips from Pocahontas and a Close Reading Exercise on John Smith's Captivity and Rescue

God's Plot:  The Construction of the Puritan Self

F  9/17 Bradford, from Of Plymouth Plantation (245-50)
Lecture on Reformation History, Covenant Theology, and William Bradford

M  9/20 Bradford, continued (250-66)
Continued Lecture on Bradford

W  9/22 Morton, from New English Canaan (211-23)
Brief Presentation on Thomas Morton and a Comparative Close Reading Exercise on the Merrymount Story

F  9/24 Winthrop, from A Modell of Christian Charity (223-34), Christian Experience
Lecture on John Winthrop

M  9/27 Rowlandson, from A Narrative of the Captivity and Restauration (340-66)
Close Reading Essay Exam on Mary Rowlandson: Cultural Contact, Covenant Theology, and Puritan Selfhood

God's Altar Needs Not Our Polishings:  The Art of Puritan Poetry

W  9/29 Cotton, from "Preface" to The Bay Psalm Book (329-30)
Psalm 23 (334-35)
Wigglesworth, selections from The Day of Doom (315-26)
Bradstreet, "In Memory of My Dear Grandchild Elizabeth Bradstreet" (309-10),
"On My Dear Grandchild Simon Bradstreet" (310)
Lecture on Puritan Poetry and Anne Bradstreet

F  10/1 Bradstreet, "The Author to Her Book" (293), "Upon the Burning of Our House"  (311-12)
Anthropomorphism and Apostrophe, Comparison and Conceit: Analysis of "The Author to Her Book" <>
Small Group Discussions of Student Essay and Collaborative Reading Exercise on"Upon the Burning of Our House"

M  10/4  Bradstreet, "To My Dear Children" (312-15)
Brief Review of Bradstreet and Puritan Selfhood, and Continued Collaborative Reading Exercise on "Upon the Burning of Our House"

 Entertaining Satan:  Witchcraft in Salem

W  10/6 Mather, from The Wonders of the Invisible World (419-25)
Sewall, from The Diary (408-11)
Lecture on Cotton Mather and Samuel Sewall

F  10/8 Small Group Discussions of Witchcraft Website Exercise and Exchange of Research Question

M  10/11 Film Viewing of The Crucible

W  10/13 Continued Film Viewing of The Crucible

Small Group Preparations for Witchcraft Presentations (outside of class)

M  10/18 Small Group Witchcraft Presentations

W  10/20 Continued Small Group Witchcraft Presentations

A Rising People:  The Formation of the American Self

F  10/22 Edwards, from A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God (577-81),
"Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" (592-603)
Lecture on Jonathan Edwards

M  10/25 Franklin, The Autobiography, Part One (762-809)
Lecture on Benjamin Franklin

W  10/27 Edwards, "Personal Narrative" (581-92)
Ashbridge, from Some Account (604-18)
Franklin, The Autobiography, Part Two (810-19)
Occom, A Short Narrative of My Life (979-86)
Equiano, from The Interesting Narrative (1018-36)
Breakout Group Discussions of Personal Narratives


M  11/1 Mixed Group Discussions of Personal Narratives and Handout of Take-Home Personal Narrative Exercise

Revolutionary Visions:  The Literature of American Independence

W  11/3 Crèvecoeur, selections from Letters from an American Farmer, "Letter III: What is an
American?" (854-59)
Lecture on Crèvecoeur, Discussion of Close Reading Essay Exam on American Identity, and Take-Home Personal Narrative Exercise Due

Pick up Take-Home Essay Exam on American Identity

M  11/8 Paine, from Common Sense (884-90)
John and Abigail Adams, selections from Letters (902-10)
Jefferson, "A Declaration by the Representatives" (919-23)
Lecture on Paine, J. and A. Adams, and Jefferson, and Take-Home Essay Exam on American Identity Due

W  11/10 General Discussion of 18th-Century Historical and Cultural Context Web Search Exercise

Trust Thyself:  Selfhood in the American Renaissance

F  11/12 Emerson, "Self-Reliance" (1622-38)
Lecture on Ralph Waldo Emerson

M  11/15 Copway, from The Life of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh (1564-77)
Fuller, from Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1714-35)
Douglass, selections from Narrative of the Life of an American Slave (1762-65, 1784-1818)
Jacobs, from Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1839-63)
Thoreau, "Resistance to Civil Government" (2093-2107)
Breakout Group Discussions of Self-Reliance Narratives

W  11/17 Mixed Group Discussions of Self-Reliance Narratives, Handout of Take-Home Self-Reliance Narrative Exercise, and Major Project Proposal Due

Liberating Gods:  The Rise of a National Literature

F  11/19 Emerson, "The American Scholar" (1609-21), "The Poet" (1646-61)
Lecture on Emerson and Take-Home Self-Reliance Narrative Exercise Due

M  11/22 Brown, "Somnambulism" (1228-40)
Tales from the Hispanic Southwest: "Dona Sebastiana" (1320-22), "La Llorona" (1330-31), "The Devil Woman" (1331-32)
Cary, "Uncle Christopher's" (2607-23)
Irving, "Rip Van Winkle" (1342-54)
Breakout Group Discussions of Emerson and American Literature

W  11/24 Letter to Emerson: American Literature in the Early 19th Century


M  11/29 Poe, "The Purloined Letter" (1489-1501)
Lecture on Edgar Allan Poe

W  12/1 Hawthorne, "The Minister's Black Veil" (2216-24)
Lecture on Nathaniel Hawthorne

F  12/3 Melville, "Bartleby, the Scrivener" (2402-27)
Lecture on Herman Melville

M  12/6 Student Questions for Group Discussion of Poe, Hawthorne, and Melville,
and Major Project Due

W  12/8 Whitman, "Preface" to Leaves of Grass (2729-43), selections from "Song of Myself" (2743-48, 2758-60, 2762-64, 2786-94)
Lecture on Walt Whitman

F  12/10 Conclusion: American Literature Revisited
Discussion of Whitman and the Final Exam

FINAL EXAM: WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 15 10:00 a.m.  -  12:00 p.m.