Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Abraham Lincoln, Speeches

--Both of these speeches are famous examples of American political oratory. Coming as they do at the end of the term, it's hard not to look at them through the lens of earlier material we've studied, so why not do it?

--Compare Lincoln's speeches and their vision of the collective bond or identity of the American nation with those of Winthrop's "A Modell of Christian Charity," Danforth's "Errand in the Wilderness," Jefferson's "Declaration" or Madison's "Federalist Letter #10."

--We have studied a range of romantic political rhetoric, including abolitionist and women's rights discourse. How do Lincoln's speeches fit (or not) with the spirit or forms of romantic reformist discourse?

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Civil War Poetry

--In the previous poetry, Whitman asserted and struggled with his vision of himself as the bard, the poet who unified the nation. The civil war clearly signaled a crisis for Whitman as a person and a poet. He moved south and worked as a hospital aide and then worked in Washington. How do you see him changing as a poet, both in his subject matter and his presentation of his role as a poet in "Drum-Taps"?

--Melville turned to poetry after he became frustrated with the reception of his fiction and despite receiving even less attention for his poetry, stuck with writing poetry the rest of his life. What do these poems have to say about the coming of the war ("The Portent"), the waging of the war ("Utilitarian...), and what reactions to the war reflected about American culture ("The House-Top")?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dickinson, Fascicle 16

--Here's a sample of a Dickinson poem in manuscript.

--Compare reading Dickinson poetry in the groupings she imagined herself and the poetry grouped by theme or in context with other poetry written by women of the time. How is this a different way of seeing her work?

--What does the grouping of the poems in this fascicle do to the individual poems? How do you think the poems relate to each other? What does the document itself say?

--The version available online offers examples of the variant lines that Dickinson included in the fascicles. What does including variants do to the meaning of the poem or your reading of the poetry more generally?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dickinson, Themed Poetry

Considering Dickinson's poetry as structured by a series of general concerns (in this case, death, publication and marriage) is a common approach to her work. Look at the poems in one of these thematic groups and argue for what you think Dickinson is saying about it.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Emily Dickinson, Published Poems & Nineteenth-century Women's Poetry

--Emily Dickinson is paired with Whitman as the most important poets of nineteenth-century America and typically seen as radically different from her peers. There were many successful women poets of the period, Sigourney and Cary being relatively exemplary. Compare the Dickinson poems assigned for Monday with those of Sigourney and Cary. To what extent are Dickinson's poems significantly different in terms of form or content?

--Dickinson published very few poems during her lifetime and the ones selected for today represent a majority of those. If you were to study just these poems, what do you think they would tell us about Dickinson as poet or person?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Whiman, "Live Oak with Mosses" & "Children of Adam"

--This is an image of a live oak tree, after which Whitman named these poems. The live oak is notable not only for its size, but for its very extensive root system, which stops other trees from growing nearby. For that reason, it is an ambivalent symbol of individualism in these poems of "manly love."

--How do these poems offer a different vision of Whitman's sense of his poetic self from that of "Song of Myself"?

--These poems exist as a cycle, presumably narrating an experience of manly love. How would you describe the narrative here? Where is Whitman at the end of this cycle?

--The editor suggests that Whitman didn't publish this sequence as it was drafted because it was "too direct" about homosexuality, but he did publish all of these poems, plus others about manly love in the "Calamus" section of the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass, so it doesn't seem that Whitman was shy about publishing a defense of homosexuality. The editor implicitly argues for the superiority of the "Live Oak, with Mosses" sequence as the original vision for the poems over those published. Which do you think should be privileged? The original vision or the published version?

--Compare how Whitman imagines heterosexual love in "Children of Adam" to homosexual love in "Live Oak, with Mosses." How are relations between men and women figured differently than male-male love relations?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Whitman, "Out of the Cradle..." & "As I Ebb'd..."

--This is the frontispiece of the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass from which the poems for next class come; bushy-bearded and greying, Whitman is less the "working-man poet" of 1855.

--"Out of the Cradle..." tells a story of the poet's childhood, an experience of nature that seemingly initiates him into poetry, but it is not a triumphant or happy story, but a sad one of death and loss. How does death initiate Whitman into poetry in this poem? How does this present a different vision of nature's lesson for the romantics than what we've seen before?

--In "As I Ebb'd..." Whitman presents himself in a moment of doubt and despair and finds a corollary to himself in the beach he walks upon, a notable counterpart to the grass of "Song of Myself." What does the beach say as a symbolic commentary about Whitman the poet?

--In general, the 1860 poems mark a different view of Whitman: no longer heroically self-assertive, but doubting, grieving, self-questioning. Do you like this persona more or less than the earlier vision of the confident national bard embodying all?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Whitman, "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" & Emerson's Letter

--This is an image of NYC from Brooklyn Heights during late 1830s. Brooklyn was, at this time, a city unto itself (later incorporated in NYC) and one of the nation's largest but its population largely worked in NYC; in other words, it was a commuter city.

--Think about commuting and how this poem imagines the relationship of the individual to the city, to the periodicity of commuting (going back and forth the same way every day) and time more generally (present and future).


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Whitman, "Song of Myself," Day #2

--Last class, we talked about Whitman's attempt to bridge the divides, particularly between self and other through his poetry and we focused on "embodiment," the notion that the poet physically embodies the nation. Some of the other ways of imagining a way to bridge this divide is through observation, participation and even merging into the identity of others. Find a couple of examples of any of these in the poem (first half or later) and consider what you think of/how you respond to Whitman's engagement with other people.

--One of the main divides that Whitman sought to break down is the conventional divide between body and soul, especially the privileging of soul over body and the vision of sex as demeaning or sinful. Select an example or two of images of sex here and consider what he is specifically saying about it.

--At the end of the 1855 preface (which would not be included in subsequent editions of LoG), Whitman asserts that the "proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it" (2209). Do you think he is confident, anxious or discouraged about his prospects for this by the end of the poem?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Whitman and 19th century American Poetry

--This is the title page of the first edition of Whitman's "Leaves of Grass." Instead of an author's name, it had this image of Whitman in working-class garb and none of the poems were titled. It was clearly intended as something different from conventional poetry of the period.

--Compare any of the comments on poetry offered in the section of Whitman's preface you read to examples from Longfellow, the most popular poet of the period. How does Whitman's vision of poetry differ from Longfellow's practice? Are there any similarities?

--In the preface, Whitman offers an idealized model of the American nation and its people as "the greatest poem." How does his poem "Song of Myself" embody this principle in form or content?

--Whitman presents himself as the American "bard," the poet as representative or speaker for the nation. How does he enact this principle in the poem?

--"Song of Myself" is a long poem (when first published, it didn't have section numbers as it does now). Do you perceive any structuring principle or order, or does it feel like just a bunch of 'stuff'? If there is order, what do you perceive as the principle or logic of that order? If not, why write it this way?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Herman Melville, "Benito Cereno"

--An image of Melville, who had a brief career as a sailor previous to becoming an author.

--This story takes off from a real historical event, but spins it in a slightly different direction. Told from the perspective of the American captain Amasa Delano, it is a story about slavery and racial violence, but the story's point about these subjects is not necessarily those put forward by Delano himself (as he proves to be not the most observant man). What do you take to be the lesson or point of this story?

--"Follow Your Leader" is the motto that carries multiple meanings here, invoking Aranda, Babo, and maybe even the Spanish who first "discovered" the Americas (and brought African slavery to the continent as well). What do you think is its meaning?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hawthorne, "House of Seven Gables," Day #3

--The story has been, from the preface onward, about breaking a cycle of injustice begun with the Puritans. While the Pyncheons may have misused their temporal authority to steak the Maules land and have the first Maule killed, the Maules have also apparently misused their supernatural powers, killing Alice Pyncheon. How does the end resolve this? To what degree do you find this a satisfactory resolution?

--In the end, the politics of the two 'artist' characters seem to reverse: Clifford becomes a radical and Holgrave more conservative. What do you think Hawthorne is saying about the possibilities of radical transformation of American society here?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hawthorne, "House of Seven Gables," Day #2

--This is an image of a mesmerist, doing his "stuff," realigning the magnetic currents within his patient. Holgrave is described as being a mesmerist and his telling of his story is supposed to affected Phoebe.

--Discuss Clifford, the lover of beauty. What does Hawthorne seem to think of Clifford's aestheticism, his drive to only experience that which is beautiful? What do you make of his experience at the arched window and why does Hawthorne seem to endorse Clifford's attempt to jump out and join the crowd below?

--Like Clifford, Holgrave is a figure of the artist (the narrator repeats calls him "artist"). What are his political views and what is the narrator's attitude toward them? How would we compare him and his attitude toward others to Clifford?

--The story "Alice Pyncheon" tells part of the history of the Pyncheon-Maule conflict: what is its lesson? In the telling of the story, we seem to have a recapitulation or re-enacting of the dynamic of the story--Holgrave has the opportunity to put Phoebe under his spell. Why does he not do so? What does this story, with its parallel between mesmerism and storytelling/writing, have to say about the artist and writing?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hawthorne, House of Seven Gables, Day #1

--In his preface, Hawthorne sets out famous, but rather confusing terms for his narrative as a "romance," which is differentiated from a novel by its divergence from the "probable" and "ordinary," instead focusing on something less conventional or realistic--more like a legend. Yet, Hawthorne claims that the romance can't be too different or it fails. In what ways do you see the narrative fitting Hawthorne's own strictures for the romance so far?

--Compare the way the narrator describes Hepzibah, the somewhat absurd old New England spinster maid, and Jaffrey, the impressive New England judge. What does this comparison suggest about Hawthorne's vision ofcharacter and personality?

--Clifford Pyncheon has been seen by some critics as a model of the failed artist, reflecting Hawthorne's vision of what the artist must be like (that is, something other than Clifford). What is it that Clifford lacks that makes him a great appreciator of beauty, but not an artist himself?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Stoddard, "Lemorne vs. Huell"

--This is an image of the coastline in Newport, RI, where much of this story is set. Newport was a resort of the ultra-rich in the period of the story.

--The story is titled after a lawsuit that involves several of the main characters, but it is ostensibly a love story that ends in marriage. How is the love story not just entangled in, but actually parallel or metaphoric of the lawsuit (i.e., how is romance like a lawsuit?)?

--How is love and/or desire represented here? Compare its vision of romance to that depicted in The Coquette? What does it tell us about differences between Enlightenment and Romantic notions of love?

--The story ends strangely, from out of a dream. How does it comment on the love story and/or relations between the sexes?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Women's Rights Writings: Grimke, Stanton, Fern

--This is an example of the way Fern's work would have appeared: in a newspaper column. By the 1850s, she was receiving the contemporary equivalent of $5000 per column!

--In her letter to Catharine Beecher (Harriet Beecher Stowe's sister, an important advocate for women's education, but also someone who argued against women's equality), Grimke demonstrates the linkage between abolition and women's rights. Consider the means by which she constructs her argument for women's equality to men and whether or not such an argument would still be an effective tool of persuasion.

--Stanton's "Declaration of Sentiments" is a direct appropriation of Jefferson's "Declaration of Independence": how effective is it to shift the focus (without changing much of the language, at least in the beginning part)? What is your reaction to the list of injustices, this time directed not to the King of England but to a universal manhood ("he")?

--Fern's various pieces are intended for a wider popular audience and are meant to be funny, but also reflect an interest in women's rights as well. What are the underlying issues for gender inequality for Fern and how does she recommend that her readers address them?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Frederick Douglass, Narrative, Day #2

--Douglass' comments about religion throughout the text were negative enough that he feels obliged to write an appendix qualifying and explaining his views. But does the appendix in your view minimize or, to the contrary, make his critique more general? Some scholars have argued that the appendix functions as a jeremiad: do you agree or disagree with this?

--Douglass describes his experience with the 'slave-breaker' Mr. Covey as central to his later escape, restoring his sense of manhood. Earlier, he described his witnessing of Aunt Hester being whipped as his entry into slavery. To what extent does Douglass present being enslaved as being feminized and being free as masculinized?

--Even before he escapes slavery, Douglass discusses the meaning of labor and the significance of being paid for work. How does his vision of labor function as a critique of the slave economy and the morality of slavery?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Frederick Douglass, Narrative, Day #1

--Like Rowlandson's captivity narrative, Douglass' slave narrative came to readers with authenticating prefaces by culturally sanctioned authorities who contextualize his work. How do these prefaces work to explain, justify or even belittle (however inadvertently) Douglass' writing?

--Douglass' slave narrative is also an autobiography, an account of his life, and thus can be compared to other such narratives; for this class, we can compare it easily to Franklin's autobiography. Compare the first chapters of both narratives and explore how the condition of slavery affects Douglass' ability to write his life.

--How does Douglass try to capture the reality of the experience of slavery in his writing? What are some of his literary techniques? Compare his arguments against slavery to those we read last class (Walker, Garrison, & Grimke): who does he most resemble?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Abolitionist Readings: Walker, Garrison, Grimke & Whittier

--This day's reading is a selection of a range of abolitionist voices, reflecting the different identities and different strategies that went into antebellum abolition.

--Written at least in part in response to the work of Jefferson, David Walker's Appeal can be compared to Enlightenment protest texts, especially Paine's Common Sense. How does Walker use both reason and emotional calls to his readers to inspire abolition? Also, you could compare Walker to Equiano's abolitionism.

--Garrison makes an impassioned argument for abolition, invoking Jefferson's "Declaration." What are similarities and differences here between Garrison and Jefferson's text?

--Grimke offers a distinctively feminine reaction to the issue of slavery. How does she respond to the tradition of republican motherhood that we saw earlier in the term?

--Whittier uses poetry for his abolitionist critique. How does poetry work differently than the prose models read alongside this to forward abolitionism?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Thoreau, Walden, Day #2

--In "The Pond in Winter," Thoreau seems to express contradictory views about the supposed 'bottomlessness' of Walden pond that reflects upon whether or not we think nature is knowable. Why is it good that people believe Walden to be bottomless? Is it a contradiction that Thoreau can measure its depth relatively easily?

--In "Spring," Thoreau focuses on the lessons derived from examining sand flowing on a melting railway embankment. What are the lessons of this experience and what do they say not only about nature, but also about man?

--In "Conclusion," Thoreau summarizes his experiences, offering lessons. What are the lessons of his experience? Also, critics have discussed whether T offers his experience to the widest possible audience or to a specialized few. Which do you see evidence for in the conclusion?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thoreau, Walden, Day #1

--This is a restored version of the interior of Thoreau's Cabin at Walden pond.

--In what ways are Thoreau's comments on deciding to live at Walden a reflection of Emerson's ideas about individualism in "Self-Reliance"?

--In "Reading," Thoreau develops a theory of reading and education. Compare it with your own vision of the purpose of reading and/or getting an education.

--"Sounds" discusses the railroad that travels quite near his cabin (suggesting first that this is no retreat into the wilderness); it is commonly read as emblematic or symbolic of technology more generally for Thoreau. What is his attitude toward the railroad? What are its positive and negative qualities? What does this suggest more generally about Transcendentalist attitudes toward technology?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Emerson, "Self-Reliance" (& Crawford)

--Emerson's "Self-Reliance" is a classic statement of American romantic individualism. As such, it is an interesting comparison to Franklin's Enlightenment version. How would you compare the two in terms of attitudes toward religion? What about attitudes toward 'virtue' (a term they share) or social responsibility?

--Crawford's comments on self-reliance come from a work about the loss of technical training in our educational system and, with it, a loss of independence and autonomy in our lives (in short, we are too used to having everything done for us). How does Crawford's view on self-reliance differ from Emerson's? Do you agree or disagree with Crawford? If you disagree, what do you think self-reliance should mean in our current day?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Bryant & Cole--Poetry & Painting

This painting is Cole's famous "Oxbow"--it depicts the Connecticut River Valley area. Landscape paintings don't necessarily have much in the way of narrative, but many scholars have highlighted the way the river takes the form of a question mark and, with it, seems to ask a question about American development on our attitude toward the landscape. What do you think Cole is saying here?
--Bryant's poem "The Prairies" is very much about the history of the native peoples who lived in Illinois previously. How does Bryant envision their history and how does his vision of the future settlement of the land by whites fit into that history?
--The poem is framed by Bryant's solitary experience of the empty prairie landscape. What is his perspective on the landscape? What does being alone out there mean to him? What do you think is the over-arching tone (happy, sad, or something else) to the poem?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Irving, "Rip Van Winkle"

--This is a famous story which even people who haven't read it know in general outline, but many people find the details of the story surprising or unusual. If this was your first reading, what did you find surprising or notable here?

--This story is, in part, a commentary on the transition from colony to nationhood in America. What is the attitude toward that transition?

--Compare the fondly nostalgic tone here to the spirit of the Enlightenment that we saw in our previous section's readings.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Foster, The Coquette, Day #3

--There are a number of different morals offered up for Eliza's end by different characters in the novel. But is this really the moral that Foster wants us to derive from Eliza's story?

--In Letter LII, Lucy Sumner complains of seeing "Romeo & Juliet," suggesting that "Are there not real woes...sufficient to to exercise our sympathy and pity, without introducing fictitious ones into our very diversions?" (870). How do we consider Foster's own introduction of tragedy, even fact-based, to her audience? Is Foster critiquing the kind of narrative she herself has written, or endorsing it?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Foster, The Coquette, Day #2

--When we left off, Eliza wished simply for freedom. Obviously, freedom was an important issue in post-revolutionary America. In what ways is Eliza's desire for freedom parallel or not parallel to the national impulse to freedom in the revolution? How does this novel engage with women's place in politics, either explicitly or implicitly?

--At the end of this reading assignment, Eliza is alone, abandoned by both of her suitors. What do you make of their behavior and hers? What is Foster saying about love, marriage and what I called the "sexual contract" (in which women exchange their virtue for marriage)?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Foster, The Coquette, Day #1

--This is an epistolary novel, a novel in letters, which was a popular form for the early novel. How does it present the 'reality' of its characters' experiences? What does it emphasize and what is left out? How does this affect the way you experience the novel and your attitude toward the characters?

--Look up the word "coquette" and consider to what extent Eliza's behavior does or does not fit it. What is your attitude toward her more generally?

--Eliza corresponds extensively with her friend Lucy Freeman, who seems to embody more conventional and acceptable social attitudes; what do you make of Lucy and her friendship with Eliza?

--At the end of last class, I mentioned the doubleness of the term virtue--meaning both an idealized republican civic behavior and female chastity. Look for where virtue is used in the novel. How is it used by different characters and what does it mean to them?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Debating the Constitution: Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers

--Clearly, the two authors are writing against each others' views about the benefits of the form of national government proposed by the Constitution. Select one point among the many shared topics they discuss (size of government, form of political representation, et al.) and compare their arguments.

--Both authors published under pseudonyms, each signaling their own vision of their role in writing: "Publius" as a representative of the public interest and "Centinel" as a guardian. Publishing this way, they reflected a common belief in the period that entering the public realm of print anonymously was superior, reflecting one's lack of "interest" (what we would now call "self-interest" or personal motives). Compare this vision of print and publication to the new "public" realm of the internet and our current attitudes toward anonymous posting.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Paine & Jefferson, Reason & Revolution

--Both Paine and Jefferson attempt to offer 'reasoned' and 'natural' justifications for revolution. What are their justifications, how are they similar or different?

--The "Declaration of Independence" is a familiar document, taught to most grade school children in the US. What is different in your experience of reading it now?

--This version of the "Declaration" we are reading for class includes Jefferson's original version, with revisions and amendments shown. Is there anything surprising or particularly notable about the difference between Jefferson's first version and the one we are familiar with?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Thomas Paine, from "The Age of Reason"

--Paine wrote "The Age of Reason" to offer a public version of his religious views. Compare his "profession of faith" with Franklin's comments in his private autobiography. Do you think that they differ greatly or are they similar? Where are they similar or different?

--Paine offers a critique of the central place of revelation in the dominant organized religions and links the Christian Church to "heathen mythology." If you are a believer, how do you respond or refute his argument? (This could be a rather personal question and I ask this with reservations--I personally intend no attack upon anyone's beliefs here and if you feel uncomfortable answering it, you can avoid it).

--This was a very controversial text when it was published in 1794; would it still be controversial? Could an American public figure (i.e., a politician) today publish this without consequences?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Equiano & Wheatley

--Since we didn't get to Equiano as "autoethnography" last class, you could discuss his depiction of African culture from the previous day's reading. How does his representation of Africa fit with the definition of autoethnography? In what ways does it offer an implicit or explicit critique of Euro-American culture?

--How does Equiano's discussion of slavery and his own desire for freedom reflect Enlightenment values or concern?

--Both Equiano and Wheatley express Christian beliefs in their texts. How does Christianity help to critique slavery here?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Franklin, Autobiography Part 2 & Equiano

--Since no one took up this question last time, we can continue it this time: many scholars and critics have highlighted Franklin's use of the term "errata" to discuss his personal failings and errors. Such a notion, invoking a printer's error, seems to present problematic behavior as a relatively minor thing that could easily be corrected by reprinting. What do you make of this way of thinking about one's life?

--In my introduction to the Eighteenth Century, I talked about the Enlightenment's investment in education and method. Part II is very much about Franklin's plan for himself and what he calls "The Art of Virtue." How does this fit with those Enlightenment values? To what extent do you agree with Franklin that virtue can be taught?

--Equiano's text represents an alternative version of the Enlightenment autobiography. Written by (supposed) African former slave, The Interesting Narrative comes from a very different set of experiences than Franklin's. What do you notice as points of similarity or difference between the two texts?

--Equiano's text is an avowedly anti-slavery document. How does it use the tools or attitudes of the Enlightenment to critique slavery?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Franklin, Autobiography Part 1

--Like the Puritan minister Shepard, Benjamin Franklin wrote his Autobiography for private circulation to his son, but otherwise it is very different. What are the differences in terms of lessons to be drawn from life, understanding of self and larger community here?

--In the opening of Part I, Franklin casts himself as the "author" of his life, proposing the merits of being able to correct errors, as in a "second Edition." In what other ways in writing or editing an important figure for Franklin's vision of his life? What does it mean to you to be the 'author' of your life?

--What do you see as Franklin's religious beliefs? Is he in any way religious? If not religion, what are the values that most shape his beliefs and behaviors?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bradstreet & Taylor, Puritan Poetry

--Anne Bradstreet's poetry is the best known of the Puritan era, but reflects her rather unrepresentative status as a woman. In "The Prologue," she seems to address the inferior status of woman in Puritan life. Does she uphold the Puritan gender hierarchy or question it?

--How does Bradstreet's poem "Verses upon the Burning of Our House" dramatize the conflict of the Puritan's belief in providence?

--Edward Taylor's "Huswifery" is based upon an elaborate poetic figure or conceit which likens the preparation of wool for weaving clothing (work conventionally done by women in the Puritan home) to spiritual life. How does this fit or not fit with the Puritan emphasis on "plain style," the rigid rejection of any kind of figurative language?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Rowlandson, Captivity Day #2

Please answer one of the following questions, or post any other comments or questions you might have. You may answer this for Wednesday (despite the class being cancelled) or for Friday.

--We discussed Rowlandson's deeply ambivalent attitude toward Native Americans last class. Do you find that she has changed or improved her attitude be the end of her narrative?

--We also discussed how Rowlandson's narrative seemed to contain two somewhat competing impulses: the personal narrative of her own spiritual life and the testing of the community's faith in King Philip's War. Which do you find dominates the end of the narrative and what does she have to say about either herself or the community?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Rowlandson, Captivity Narrative

Please answer one of the following questions:

--We can see Mary Rowlandson's narrative of her captivity as a "contact zone" text, akin to Cabeza de Vaca's Relation. Compare the two texts, with their descriptions of and their attitudes toward the Native Americans.

--Like Thomas Shepard's autobiography, Rowlandson presents a narrative of her spiritual experience as well as her temporal/physical one. What similarities or differences to Shepard do you find here?

--In Danforth's sermon, he cites from the Bible and takes up the role of Jeremiah to remind Puritans of their covenant with God and their present-day failings. What sorts of Bible figures does Rowlandson cite and identify herself with here? What does this suggest about how she envisions herself?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Shepard & Danforth

-The excerpts from Shepard's autobiography, written for his son, reflect classic dynamics of Puritan spiritual autobiography, tracing God's providence through life's events, trying to see each event in light of the God's plan for the individual. So, they have a personal purpose of making sense of life, but they also had a public purpose of instructing others and proving one's own salvation. If you look at contemporary best seller lists, you will see that memoirs and autobiographies are still very important and popular forms in American life: what differences do you in the purpose in writing and interest in reading autobiographies between Puritan times and present?

--Danforth's sermon, given 40 years after Winthrop's, seems to be a response to the promise offered in Winthrop's vision of the Puritan community as "a city upon a hill." How is Danforth's message similar or different? What are the stylistic differences? Is there a difference in the kind of biblical evidence called upon here (not all scripture passages have the same intent or purpose).

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Winthrop, "A Modell of Christian Charity"

--Winthrop takes as his starting point a fairly major topic, the notion that God has "disposed" to make social inequality among mankind. What is his explanation of this and to what extent does this fit or not fit with your own social values (or your general sense of the social values and attitudes toward inequality in our times)?

--This text takes the form of a sermon, with frequent citations of scripture and elaborate rhetorical structures (naming of points, interpolated questions and answers, etc.). How effective is this as a persuasive document to you?

--The second part of the sermon applies the ideas of the first to the notion of a Puritan community and likens the Puritans to the Old Testament Jews, as the chosen people of God. This is both a promise and a threat: New England can become a "city upon a hill," but it can also become a "shipwreck" which all the world will witness. Do you think this self-consciousness, the awareness that others are watching your community, would have a positive or negative effect upon the workings of the community?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cabeza de Vaca & Poma de Ayala

Please answer one of the following questions:

--Cabeza de Vaca is, like Columbus, writing about places that have never been seen by Europeans. But instead of a conqueror or discoverer, he is sometimes a slave, sometimes a member of a Native community and, by the end, a leader of a troupe of Natives. How does this difference affect the way he represents the land and people he encounters in the excerpt from his text we read?

--Poma de Ayala's text is a cultural oddity, an 800 page letter to the King of Spain written by Incan aristocrat. In this imagined q & a session, Poma de Ayala writes of the problems of Spanish rule and offers solutions. How does his text reflect the author's ambivalent position between Native (oppressed) and Spanish (Christian and dominant)? Compare his depiction of the divide between Native and Christian/Spanish with de las Casas?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Columbus & de las Casas, Exploration & Exploitation

Please do not respond to all of these questions. It is preferable that you respond to one more substantially.

--Columbus writes in the form of letters, personal expressions from one person to another. In what ways do these letters reflect the conventions of what you expect to find in a letter? How do they differ from what you think letters do?

--What do you notice about the way Columbus describes the new world in his letter to Santangel? In what ways is it defined in relationship to the old world or on its own terms?

--Both Columbus (in his letter to Spanish royalty) and de las Casas in his "Relation" describe conditions of Spanish colonies after the initial discovery. What is their complaint or critique of behavior of the Spanish colonists and the colonial project more generally?


Hello, this is the blog page for John Evelev's Spring 2011 English 3300: Survey of American Literature, beginnings to 1865. In addition to a reading discussion forum, it is a place for the professor and students to post ideas or images that connect to the course materials in whatever fashion they find compelling.