English R1A

Reading and Composition: Rebellion, Revolution, Revision

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
7 Spring 2015 McWilliams, Ryan
TTh 3:30-5 222 Wheeler

Book List

Crevecoeur, J. Hector St. John de: Letters From an American Farmer; Melville, Herman: Great Short Works of Herman Melville; Melville, Herman: Israel Potter; Paine, Thomas: The Thomas Paine Reader; Poe, Edgar Allan: Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, of Nantucket, and Related Tales; Sansay, Leonora: Secret History; or, The Horrors of St. Domingo; Turner, Nat: The Confessions of Nat Turner and Related Documents

Other Readings and Media

A required course reader will contain brief excerpts from authors such as Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Philip Freneau, Edmund Burke, Washington Irving, William Apess, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Frederick Douglass, Henry David Thoreau, and Rebecca Harding Davis.


From the British perspective the American colonial uprising was a rebellion, an anarchical break with order. But writers such as Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine called it a revolution, using a term that signified an extension of natural order (akin to the “revolution of the heavenly spheres”). That natural order, they claimed, was the wellspring of equal rights for all (white, male, propertied) citizens. In this course, we will examine how the meaning of the terms rebellion and revolution were subject to debate, censure, and revision not only during the struggle itself, but also until the Civil War. We'll consider texts by authors who feared that the revolution unleashed wild energies on society and yet simultaneously worried that the democratic potential of the revolution might be subject to decay. Additionally, we'll read works by antebellum women, African Americans, and Native Americans who used the rhetoric of rebellion in order to call attention to political actualities, arguing that in some ways, the project of the American revolution was ongoing.

Revision will also be a major element of the writing component of the course. Over the course of the semester, you will refine a series of short essays, producing a total of 32 pages of work. We will also spend a substantial amount of time honing composition practices through short exercises, peer review, and individual meetings. We will focus on both local issues, such as grammar, organization, and structure, and broader questions of academic norms and audience expectations. 


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