Department of English Department of English College of Arts and Sciences
Spring 2011 Course Descriptions
Founding Fictions

After the Revolutionary War the United States faced the task of turning thirteen separate colonies into a unified nation, worked that reached beyond political form to the larger and more amorphous project of creating a national identity.  Writers from the period worked diligently to transform a land that they feared had little in the way of culture and literature into a nation with a recognizable body of art and respected character.  Wielding pens instead of swords, they began hacking out the literature of the new nation from the raw materials of colonial history and the open spaces of America, intent on making a people out of a place.


This class will investigate how the early literature of the United States worked to promote a national self-consciousness through the narration of ‘Americanness.’  The semester is comprised of four units, each of which focuses on a specific movement in American literary history.  We will begin by looking at the creation of the ‘Founding Fathers’ out of the daily lives of historical people, and then turn to the similar process by which the young nation turned to a colonial past to build their present identity.  We will focus next upon on the influence of the frontier on national identity, before turning finally to the nation’s mid-century confrontation with slavery.


Enthusiastic and engaged reading, careful writing, and active participation in our classroom community are vital for your success in the course.   Assignments will include both formal papers and exams.


ISBNs are listed below indicating the specific edition to be used in class; an asterisk (*) marks texts that will be available for download from the course website.


Child, Lydia Maria. Hobomok. ISBN: 9780813511641.


Cooper, James Fenimore. The Last of the Mohicans. ISBN: 9780375757648.


Douglass, Frederick. The Narrative of the Life..., Frederick Douglass. ISBN: 978-0451529947.



*  Douglass, Frederick.  “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”.



* Filson, John. The Adventures of Col. Daniel Boone.


Franklin, Benjamin. The Autobiography, Benjamin Franklin. ISBN: 9780142437605.



*  Hawthorne, Nathaniel.  “Young Goodman Brown,” “The Minister’s Black Veil,” “The May-Pole of Merrymount,” and “Alice Doane’s Appeal”.




*  Irving, Washington.  “Rip Van Winkle,” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”.



Jacobs, Harriet.  Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.  ISBN: 978-0674002715.



*  Lincoln, Abraham.  Gettysburg Address, Second Inaugural Address, and Emancipation Proclamation.



Melville, Herman.  Benito Cereno.  ISBN: 978-0312452421.



Rowson, Susanna.  Charlotte Temple. ISBN: 0195042387.




Seaver, James. A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison.  ISBN: 978-0806127170.



*  Weems, Parson.  A History of the Life and Death, Virtues and Exploits of General George Washington.



2:40 - 4:05 pm

John D. Miles

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