American Literary Traditions

Class Notes for Discussion and Reading Fall 2013

The first section at the top will include links to assignments as I create them. Beneath that, you'll see notes for lectures and discussions, with the latest ones appearing at the top.


Course Assignments/Materials here:

First Paper Assignment (due October 3rd) is here.

Second Paper Assignment (due December 3rd) is here.

Selected comments from the online assignment (Kerouac, O'Connor, Anzaldua)


Dorothy Allison

Here's a link to Dorothy Allison's website with more info.

Billy Collins

Hear Collins read his poem, "Forgetfulness" along with a brief introduction.

Curious about Art Blakey's version of "Three Blind Mice" referenced in "I Chop Some Parsley While Listening to..."? There's a link to a video featuring the song here. (more for listening than watching).

Li-Young Lee

Norton has provided an audio recording of "Persimmons" (I *think* this is Lee reading it).


Gwendolyn Brooks

Here is Brooks reading "We Real Cool" (and explaining it a bit).


Willa Cather

The Willa Cather Archive has some interesting scholarship, including an online project to map her life's travels.

The Willa Cather Foundation maintains Cather's literary legacy, and provides a guide to Cather's Nebraska for folks interested in visiting her home.


Robert Frost

Here's a link to a video of Frost reading his famous "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening."

Listen to Frost reading one of our assigned poems, "Pasture."

On the topic of "Out Out," I was intrigued by this blogger's details on the issue of the "buzz saw" that features in the poem.


Susan Glaspell

There's a nice web site featuring a group of student projects on Trifles.

The true story behind the situation portrayed in the play -- the Hossack Case -- is detailed in Midnight Assassin: A Murder in America's Heartland. That site includes information on the case, including some original documents.


Kate Chopin

The Kate Chopin Society maintains an excellent resource on Chopin's life and work.


Abraham Cahan

You might want to take a look at NYC's Tenament Museum, where you can take a virtual tour.


Rebecca Harding Davis

Take a look at my notes and powerpoint on "Life in the Iron Mills," which you'll find here.


Emily Dickinson

Next time you're out in Western Massachusetts, you should check out the Emily Dickinson museum, located in the very house where Dickinson lived and wrote (and did other things, according to that article we read!).

You can see a few original manuscripts of her poems here.

There was a big brouhaha in September of 2013 regarding a new daguerotype believed to be of Emily Dickinson. More info on it and the historical sleuthing behind it available here. There is also an interesting video showing a comparison of the 1847 and 1859 daguerotypes.

There are more manuscripts and lots of other information at the Emily Dickinson Electronic Archives. I'm rather fond of thei "Emily Dickinson, Cartoonist," series, and I'm also interested in the ways that she manipulated her manuscripts, as detailed in "Mutilations: What was erased, inked over, and cutaway," another great article with online examples.


Harriet Beecher Stowe

There's a tremendous site with resources for explore the pop culture impact of Uncle Tom's Cabin here: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and American Culture: A Multimedia Archive. If you click on “browse” mode, you’ll see some options that make it easy to explore. You might want to just start here:

Here's a link to notes for our class discussion of Stowe.


Edgar Allan Poe

You might be interested in the Poe Museum.

There's a great Kickstarter on now from the Poe Museum; they're trying to raise funds to restore and publish James Carling's 1880 illustrations for "The Raven."

Also, Poe visited Lowell; we know that he was here at least three times. The first visit was in 1848, where he met Mrs. Annie Richmond. Despite the fact that she was married, it seems the two of them had a relationship of some sort; Poe wrote her several passionate letters. It is likely that she is the one who paid for the daguerreotype taken only months before his death. So yes, it's actually possible (even likely?) that Poe visited The Worthen House, a bar still operating in downtown Lowell.


Washington Irving

Images for discussion of Romanticism.

Yes, there is a Wishbone episode about Rip Van Winkle.

Irving designed the grounds of Sunnyside, his estate in the Hudson River Valley.


Phillis Wheatley:

The Massachusetts Historical Society has some artifacts related to Wheatley that you can see here.

Olaudah Equiano:

There is a controversy about whether Equiano was born in Africa or South Carolina. Read more here.

There's a nice image of the frontispiece of his narrative here.

For more about the details of the Middle Passage, you may be interested in this extensive archive of images related to the Atlantic Slave Trade here. The full collection of images and their categories can be accessed here (University of Virginia).

See Frederick Jackson Turner's 1840 painting, "Slave Ship (Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying)" at the MFA in Boston.

The New York Public Library's Schomburg Center has an incredible site providing history of the Slave Trade and Abolition, including a timeline, lots of maps, essays, and images of the US Slave Trade (and other fascinating items of interest!).


J. Hector St.John de Crevecoeur

Take a look at the opening Prefatory Note or advertisement(this is a digital version of it) from Letters from an American Farmer.

An exhibit at the library of Congress has a manuscript page from the first volume.

Ben Franklin

Additional Reading Assignment for Benjamin Franklin (handout from class in PDF form).

The Library of Congress had an online exhibition of some Franklin documents.

The Huntington Library has the original manuscript of Franklin's Autobiography.

2006 was the Ben Franklin Tercentenary, and there's a great online exhibit with lots of artifacts.



Mary Rowlandson

Images and links for Mary Rowlandson here.

Anne Bradstreet

You can see photos of an Anne Bradstreet manuscript here


You might like a bit more information about Martin Espada, who wrote the poem, "The River Will Not Testify" that we read on the first day of class. You can also read more about the history of Turner's Falls here and more about the massacre specifically here. Also, yes, Horse-Thief-Detecting-Societies were (are?) a real thing.


"Beginnings" (first readings, first writings)

Notes for discussion of Native American Oral Tradition here.

Our version of the "Iroquois Creation Story" is from David Cusick. If you're interested in reading more of Cusick's Sketches of the Ancient History of the Six Nations, you can download the whole volume (just 28 pages) for free here. Cusick published the text along with four of his own engravings. You can see them at the version stored at the Library of Congress, here.

There are some interesting sites about Cabeza de Vaca (a scholarly project about the text), and Learning from Cabeza de Vaca (which examines foodways).

There's some interesting primary source work on the Columbus Letter here:

For some disturbing images that help us interpret Columbus, Cabeza de Vaca, (and also Bartholome de las Casas, who we didn't read), take a look here at engravings by deBry.