Faculty Course Description
ENG220: American Literature to 1865
Dr. Christopher Diller
Office: Evans 214
Office phone: 238-5877
Survey of major American writers to 1865. Emphasis on major writers, contexts, and
approaches to literature. PR or CR: RHW 102.
The primary purpose of the course is to introduce you to the significant writers, issues, genres, and works that comprise American literature from its beginnings to about 1865 or so. This literature survey course is somewhat unique, perhaps, in that for most of this period many American writers themselves did not believe that the nation had produced a body of viable literary works. Thus, a related purpose of the course will be to examine—not just through poetry, fiction, and drama, but also through travel narratives, sermons, political treatises, autobiographies, and journals—the transformation of writing into a distinctive and power body of American literature. To do this, we will have to pay attention to the related “invention” of America as a political, social, and cultural entity.
~To enrich your knowledge of (American) literature and to help you to appreciate literature in its historical, political, social, and aesthetic contexts;
~To inform you of the wide variety of writing forms and genres that comprise American literature to 1865 and to some of the different uses (introspective, ceremonial, communicative, and persuasive) to which it has been put;
~To introduce you to several basic literary concepts that will help you to become a more critical and sensitive reader;
~To develop your ability to communicate—both orally and in writing—your views about literature given its historical and/or contemporary significance.
Required Texts and Materials
Brown, William Wells. Clotel; or the President’s Daughter. 1852. Ed. Robert S.
Levine. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2001.
The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 5th edition. Vol. I. Ed. Nina Baym.
New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1998.
I will ask you to acquire some additional readings from the Internet and/or the reserve-reading list for this course located at the Memorial Library.