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This course will survey the literatures of early America, from the tracts that envisioned British colonization to the novels written in the after-shocks of the American Revolution. Although our focus is on Anglophone texts, we will consider colonial America as a place of encounter—a place where diversity was a given, negotiation was a necessity, and transformation was inescapable. Our topics will include contact and settlement, “translations” of native culture, religious and social formations, captivity narratives, natural history, print culture, cosmopolitanism, the Atlantic slave trade, the writing of revolution, and the contested ideals of the new republic. We will also explore the exceptional richness of form and genre in early American literature: promotional tracts, histories, lyric poetry, phrasebooks and dictionaries, sermons, autobiographies, science writing, protest literature, and the novel. Throughout, we will pay special attention to how writing operated to forge new models of the self that could withstand and absorb the tumult of colonial life. Authors will include Bradford, Bradstreet, Rowlandson, Franklin, Equiano, Jefferson, and the early American novelists Charles Brockden Brown and Hannah Webster Foster.
This course satisfies the pre-1800 requirement for the English major.