Prof. Michael Warner
Rutgers University

Colonial American Literature

Text: Myra Jehlen and Michael Warner, eds., The English Literatures of America, 1500-1800 (Routledge, 1997)

Requirements: three writing assignments on topics announced in class (500-750 words each); three in-class reading quizzes.

This course surveys the emergence of English-language American culture in the first, dramatic period of the European empires. It begins with the first colonization of the Americas, and stretches beyond the Revolution to the early national period. The full range of early American writing will be covered; students will receive an introduction to Puritanism, for example, as well as the literatures of exploration and the Enlightenment. Texts will range from popular ballads to well-known American works such as Franklin's Autobiography, as well as writing on the New World by such English authors as Milton, Defoe, Swift, and Pope. Placing the literary culture of the settlements in the context of other colonies as well as the growing cosmopolitan culture of the British empire itself, this course will follow numerous dialogues across the English Atlantic world. We will consider such topics as: rival models of colonialism, contradictions in the ideal of civilization, controversies over race in early modern culture, the development of nationalism. The English Literatures of America includes women writers on both sides of the ocean; early English-language texts of Native Americans; and writings of Africans both slave and free, in London as well as in the American colonies.


September 3: Introduction

September 8: Europe and the New World. Read introduction and chapter 1.

September 10: no class; read chapter 2.

September 15: English ideas of America. Discussion of chapter 2; concentrate on Thomas Hariot (selection #11).

September 17: discussion of Hariot, continued; also concentrate on Walter Ralegh (#13)and Montaigne (#14, #15).

September 22: English settlers in Virginia. Read chapter 3; concentrate on John Smith (#2, #3) and Edward Waterhouse (#5).

September 24: English settlers in New England. Read chapter 3, continued; concentrate on Thomas Morton (#13) and William Bradford (#14, #15).

September 29: Englishmen in Virginia and the West Indies, and Indians on stage in London. Read chapter 4; concentrate on Richard Ligon (#3), but begin reading Aphra Behn (#7).

October 1: --Reading Quiz (in class) Aphra Behn, continued.

October 6: Europeans and Indians in New England, and the captivity narrative. Read chapter 5; concentrate on Pierre-Esprit Radisson (#7) and Mary Rowlandson (#8).

October 8: Radisson and Rowlandson, continued; also read Sarah Knight (#14).

*October 13: --First Assignment Due--
Puritanism: read chapter 6; concentrate on Samuel Danforth (#8) and John Winthrop from chapter 3 (#9).

October 15: Puritanism, continued; concentrate on the Antinomian Controversy in chapter 6(#1) and Nicholas Noyes from chapter 5 (#13).

October 20: Religion, magic, science, and the supernatural: read chapter 7, especially Increase Mather (#4), John Josselyn (#3), and John Winthrop and Richard Chamberlain from chapter 5 (#1, #10).

October 22: Nature and the supernatural, continued: read Deodat Lawson and Robert Calef from chapter 6 (#9, #10).

October 27: Poetry: read chapter 8; concentrate on Andrew Marvell (#9), George Alsop (#10) and Anne Bradstreet (#11).

October 29: Poetry, continued: concentrate on Edward Taylor (#14).

November 3: --Reading Quiz (in class)--
The Great Awakening: read chapter 9; concentrate on Jonathan Edwards (#2, #3).

November 5: official Friday (no class)

*November 10: --Second Assignment Due--
Autobiographies: read chapter 10; concentrate on Benjamin Franklin (#11), and compare with Daniel Defoe (#2).

November 12: Autobiographies, continued: Franklin, William Byrd (#5), Elizabeth Ashbridge (chapter 9, #8), Ukawsaw Gronniosaw (chapter 10, #10), Olaudah Equiano (#16), Daniel Boon [John Filson] (#15), and Stephen Burroughs (#19).

November 17: The Enlightenment and Political Culture: read chapter 11; concentrate on Thomas Jefferson (#12, #13) and Thomas Paine (#14, and chapter 9, #11).

November 19: The Enlightenment, Feminism, and Anti-Slavery: concentrate on Thomas Paine (#15), Judith Sargent Murray (#16), Ottobah Cugoano (#17), Benjamin Franklin (#20), and William Manning (#21).

November 24: Satires. Read chapter 13; concentrate on Benjamin Franklin (#4, #5, #6, #9) and Franklin in chapter 9 (#9) and chapter 11 (#7).

November 26: Debates over women, the novel, and reading. Concentrate on chapter 13, #10-#16.

*December 1: --Third Assignment Due--
Poetry. Read chapter 14; concentrate on Ebenezer Cooke (#1) and Richard Lewis (#6).

December 3: Poetry, continued. Concentrate on Benjamin Tompson (#2), Benjamin Franklin (#4), Joseph Green (#9), Anonymous (#7, #8, #10), the Rector of St. Johns (#25), and Phillis Wheatley (#19).

December 8: Poetry, continued. Concentrate on Annis Boudinot Stockton (#28), Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson (#29), Joel Barlow (#27), and Philip Freneau (#31).

December 10: --Reading Quiz (in class)--
last class, review.