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American Literature I

General data

Course ID: 4219-AW103 Erasmus code / ISCED: 09.2 / (0231) Language acquisition
Course title: American Literature I Name in Polish: American Literature I (Literatura amerykańska I)
Organizational unit: American Studies Center
Course groups: All classes - weekday programme - 2nd cycle
obligatory lectures - weekday studies - MA level
ECTS credit allocation (and other scores): (not available)
view allocation of credits
Language: English
Type of course:

obligatory courses

Short description:

The series of 15 lectures covers the Early Republic (1776-1820) and the Antebellum Period (1820-1861) preceding the Civil War. It presents key issues, developments, figures, groups, texts, and contexts characteristic of the first 85 years of US culture and literature, including its British Colonial roots.

Full description:

The present series of lectures covers main trends, authors, texts and contexts of American literature and its cultural background from the mid-17th century through the Civil War. The starting point is the culture of the colonial New England and the British colonies in the southern part of the eastern seabord, including the foundations of the Puritan theology and understanding of history, differences between the North and the South, and the southern colonial model of British culture overseas. In the 18th century, the lectures highlight the Great Awakening in New England and the rise of the Enlightenment in the colonies, with such important figures as J. Edwards and B. Franklin in the foreground. The presentation of the literature of the Early Republic covers the rise of the novel in the US in the context of the Scottish Common Sense philosophy, the poetry of the Hartford Wits and the beginnings of the American epic (J. Barlow), the achievement of P. Whitley, and the early nationalist drama (R. Tyler).

As regards the early decades of the 19th century, the lectures present the gradual secularization of the culture of New England, the cultural life of Philadelphia and New York, and the main developments in the South. The cultural milieu of Boston is analyzed in detail, with emphasis of the contribution of Unitarians and their literary journals: the Monthly and Anthology and Boston Review and the North American Review. New York is described through the activity of the Knickerbockers (W. Irving, J. Kirke Paulding) and J. Fenimore Cooper as the founder of the American historical romance (the novels of W.G. Simms are mentioned as the southern version of Cooper’s rendition of W. Scott’s generic model).

The beginnings of American romanticism are located in the second decade of the 19th century, exemplified by the poetry of W.C. Bryant and W. Allston, and the literary criticism and fiction of R.H. Dana, Sr. E.A. Poe is discussed in detail in the multiple contexts of his aesthetic theory, poetry, gothic fiction, and popular literature. New England Transcendentalism is presented in full, starting with its theological background, foreign inspirations (Coleridge, Swedenborg), and vernacular heritage of the Puritan thought. The list of discussed authors includes R.W. Emerson, H.D. Thoreau, T. Parker, and M. Fuller, as well as J. Marsh and F.H. Hedge. Besides, Transcendentalism is decribed as a social movement supporting the abolition of slavery and the emancipation of women.

A detailed presentation of the fiction of Hawthorne is followed by an overview of American popular literature of the 1840s and 1850s, in particular the fiction of the “scribbling women”: H. Beecher Stowe, M. Cummins, S. Warner, E.D.E.N. Southworth, and Fanny Fern. Other popular writers (T.S. Arthur, G. Lippard) are discussed as well. As regards, the poetry of the period, the main focus in on the Schoolroom Poets (H.W. Longfellow, J. R. Lowell, and O.W. Holmes), J.G. Whittier and L.H. Sigourney). The last writer of the antebellum canon to be discussed is H. Melville.

Finally, the slave narrative is discussed as a specifically American genre, with the examples of F. Douglass and H. Jacobs. Of the early Native American authors, the work of W. Apess received some attention as well.


Cambridge History of American Literature, vols 1-3, ed. Sacvan Bercovitch

Columbia History of American Literature, ed. Emory Elliott

Nina Baym, Woman’s Fiction. A Guide to Novels by and about Women in America

Carl Bode, Antebellum Culture

E. Douglas Branch, The Sentimental Years

Lawrence Buell, Literary Transcendentalism

Lawrence Buell, New England Literary Culture

George Dekker, The American Historical Romance

Perry Miller, The New England Mind, vols 1-2

Frank Luther Mott, Golden Multitudes

Russell B. Nye, The Cultural Life of the New Nation 1776-1830

Russell B. Nye, The Embarrassed Muse: The Popular Arts in America

Roy Harvey Pearce, The Continuity of American Poetry

David S. Reynolds, Beneath the American Renaissance

Anne C. Rose, Transcendentalism as a Social Movement

Eric Sundquist, To Wake the Nations. Race in the Making of American Literature

Learning outcomes:

knowledge of the history of American literature 1630-1860, ability to analyze the process of canon formation

Assessment methods and assessment criteria:

final text including statements to complete and open questions; passing; 60%

This course is not currently offered.
Course descriptions are protected by copyright.
Copyright by University of Warsaw.