Before, during, and after the American Revolution, the relationship between American and British literary and cultural productions was marked by political fissures and heated exchanges. The crossings between England and early America were described in various discourses, many of which used physiological or embodied metaphors of relocation and dislocation to articulate the complex interactions between these geographical spaces and their varied communities. This class explores the many (dis)figurations of textual, cultural, and political encounters and affiliations of the period in interdisciplinary context. We will read novels, memoirs, political essays, newspapers, travelogues, and religious writings that perform, embody, and describe a variety of eighteenth-century trans-Atlantic interactions. In particular we will focus on shifting representations of national, religious, racial and gender identity both prior to and following the American Revolution. How were writers’ perceptions of America and Britain shaped by historical conditions and personal experiences? How was the rhetoric of religious conversion transformed into narratives of national revolution during the period? In the second half of the course, we will pay particular attention to those writers and reviewers who embraced the notion of a uniquely “American” literary heritage, one defined in its separateness from British origins. The course will encourage interdisciplinary approaches to the materials and original engagements with British and Early American digital archives; and we will explore theoretical texts from a range of disciplines, including Anthropology, History, English, and Religious Studies.
Course Requirements and Proceedings: Students will submit weekly thought experiments (20%), an interpretive paper of 6-8 pages (20%), and a final essay of 12-15 pages (40%) on a topic of their choosing. Students will also participate in seminar discussions/presentations and create digital archives of source materials related to Transatlantic print culture and politics (20%). In preparation for this work, students will be encouraged to use both ECCO (Eighteenth-Century Collections Online) and EAI (Early American Imprints), digital databases that offer direct access to eclectic materials from the period. For those who are interested in pursuing scholarly research in the Humanities (even in History and Political Science), such projects may prove especially generative. The course will be run as a Socratic seminar. Students will be asked to read aloud thought experiments, present on assigned topics, and participate avidly in discussions. Course readings will focus on a variety of primary materials supplemented by theoretical readings.
Possible Primary Texts
Daniel Defoe, The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders
Frances Brooke, The History of Emily Montague
Thomas Paine, Common Sense
Jonathan Edwards, Personal Narrative
Edward Kimber, Itinerant Observations
H.J.C. Crèvecoeur, Letters From an American Farmer
Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative
Susanna Rowson, Charlotte Temple, a Tale of Truth
Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Huntly
James Fenimore Cooper, The Spy: A Tale of the Neutral Ground
Mary Rowlandson, Narrative of Captivity
Stephen Burroughs, Memoir
Washington Irving, Select Stories and Essays
Various newspaper publications
Pre-requisites: Two 200-level courses or consent of instructor.
Course enrollment limited to 15