History of American Literature I, section 201

Writing Lives of Men and Women

Fall 2006


Dr. Bridget M. Marshall:  bridget_marshall@uml.edu

Web site: http://faculty.uml.edu/bmarshall/


Our survey will explore texts from the beginnings of American literary history to the Civil War, focusing throughout on comparisons between the experiences and writings of women and men.  For most units, we will try to make direct comparisons between texts by (and about) men to those by (and about) women, hopefully drawing connections, continuities, and comparisons in the lives, experiences, and writing by these two groups.  Our goal is not to prove (or disprove) that “men are from Mars, women are from Venus,” but to consider the differences in the daily experiences and literary choices of authors.  A central thread running through our survey will be the evolution of gender expectations and relations from early contact narratives through pre-Civil War texts.  I believe tracing gender themes through our reading will attune us to changes in genre and literary expectations, and also to developing social movements and the ongoing changes in American culture.  No one-semester survey of this literature could be complete; however, I have attempted to give you a breadth of authors, including both canonical works and voices from the margins that are equally interesting and informative.  By the end of the semester, you should have a firm grasp of the history of major themes and currents in Early American literature.  And hopefully along the way, you’ll discover a few new writers that you will enjoy.


Class Meetings: Tuesdays and Thursdays 12:30 to 1:45

Office Hours & Location: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 to 3 pm and by appointment most other days in O’Leary Library 414

Office Phone: 978-934-4179


Required Text: The Norton Anthology of American Literature Volumes A & B (Sixth Edition) available at the South Campus Bookstore

Course Requirements: 

Attendance is required.  You must be here to join class discussion, make presentations, and participate in group work.  You have two “freebies,” no questions asked.  For every class beyond those two that you miss, your final grade for the class will be lowered one level (A to A-, A- to B+, and so on).


Good classroom citizenship is required.  Good classroom citizenship goes beyond just “participation” in the sense of raising your hand a lot.  It includes sharing your thoughts and ACTIVELY LISTENING to the thoughts and comments of your peers.  Please be considerate of your classmates and make the classroom a space where everyone can speak their mind.  We will have both full-class discussions and small group work.  If you are not particularly comfortable speaking in the full-class discussion, be sure you are making up for it in the smaller group discussions.  Also, as a courtesy to everyone in the room, please turn off your cell phone before class begins.


You should come to class with the day’s reading assignment complete and prepared to write about or discuss the reading.  You’re responsible for all the readings listed on the syllabus. 


If you miss class, you should send your assignment to class with a peer or leave it in my mailbox.  When you return to class, you are responsible for having the assignment due on that day, as well as any work you missed on previous days.  If you know in advance that you are going to miss class, I highly recommend that you let me know this so that you can keep up with the work.


To make sure that everyone keeps up with the required readings, and to encourage class participation in discussions, during every class session a group of students (approximately 1/4th of the class most days) will be responsible for writing up one page of thoughts and questions about the reading.  I’ll provide more details on the specifics on this assignment.  The “one pagers” are due at the beginning of class. You will be responsible for writing five one-pagers.


There is one midterm paper due during the semester.  This is a focused essay of about 4 to 5 pages, illustrating your knowledge of and interest in a particular text that we have read in the class so far.  I will provide more details on the paper requirements in a separate handout.  You must have a paper in class on the day it is due in order to participate in the day’s classroom activities.


There is one in-class essay exam, roughly two-thirds of the way through the semester.  You will have choices about which questions to answer, and we will have some practice in class on how to write these kinds of essays.  The essay exam will be open book, so that you can quote original sources.  You may mark up passages in your book, but you will not have notes (or texts other than the course text book) available during the exam.


There is one small group project.  Groups of 3 to 4 students will prepare one 15 to 20 minute presentation related to a particular day’s reading assignment, and will be asked to provide some “discussion framing” for the day.  You will need to create a handout about your topic for your presentation.  We will sign up for presentations in the second week of class.  I will provide more details on the presentation in a separate handout.


There is a two-part Digital Document Assignment.  It includes a brief oral presentation at an assigned point in the semester and a final paper of about 5 pages in length.  The paper is due during the exam period; there is no final exam.


I do not accept papers over e-mail or on disk.  If a paper is due, that means it is due in printed, hard-copy form, not electronically.  Do not attach documents to e-mails that you send to me unless you check with me first. 

Evaluation and Grading:

Grading is my least favorite aspect of the course; however, grades are necessary, not only to the University, but also in many cases in order to motivate students.  I note each day’s attendance with a “check” in my grade book.  You will get credit for all quizzes and short writing that you complete and turn in to me.  Particularly active class participation or strong short writing assignments will earn a “check plus.”  Following is a breakdown of final grades:



If you have a concern about a grade or a question about your standing in the class, I am happy to talk with you.  This type of conversation is best suited to an individual conference.  You can see me during my office hours, or schedule an appointment at another time.


A final note on grades: If you are determined to do only the minimal amount of work and get the minimum passing grade, you might want to know what the bottom line is.  This much is nonnegotiable: you are not eligible for a passing grade of D unless you have attended at least 11 of 14 weeks worth of classes, and completed 90% of the assignments. 


In accordance with University policy and the ADA, I will provide accommodation for students with documented disabilities.  If you have a disability, please contact the Office of Disability Services: McGauvran 363; phone: (978) 934-4338 as soon as possible.  They will contact me regarding effective accommodations.  In order to speed up this process, you can also let me know in person or via e-mail.  This documentation is confidential.


Semester Schedule:

Tuesday 5 September

First day Introductions; hand-outs

Thursday 7 September

Read Handouts

Write one-page response; get the textbook for class!

Tuesday 12 September

“Introduction: Literature to 1700” 3 – 18

Stories of the Beginning of the World: 19 - 33

Thursday 14 September

Christopher Columbus: 34 – 37

Alvar Nunes Cabeza de Vaca: 58 - 70


Tuesday 19 September

Mary Rowlandson: 308 - 340


Thursday 21 September

Anne Bradstreet: 238 “The Author to her Book” 262; “Before the Birth of One of Her Children” 263; “To My Dear and Loving Husband” 263 – 264

Edward Taylor: 341; “Huswifery” 360; “Upon Wedlock, & Death of Children” 356 - 357

Michael Wigglesworth: 292 – 293; excerpts from “Day of Doom” 293; read handout from Wigglesworth’s diary


Tuesday 26 September 

Samuel Sewall:  371 - 372; from the Diary 372 – 386; “The Selling of Joseph: A Memorial” 387 - 390

Cotton Mather:  390 - 392; from Wonders of the Invisible World 392 – 397; from Pillars of Salt 417 - 424


Thursday 28 September

Jonathan Edwards: 464 - 466; “Sinners at the Hands of an Angry God” 498 - 509

Sarah Kemble Knight: 436; from “The Journal of Madam Knight” 436 – 446

William Byrd: 447; from The Secret Diary of William Byrd of Westover 448 -453


Tuesday 3 October

Benjamin Franklin: 515 - 516; “The Way to Wealth” 516 - 522; “A Witch Trial at Mount Holly” (Handout); “Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America” 534 - 537

J Hector St. John de Crevecoeur: 657; from Letters excerpts, 657 – 667 and 671 - 677


Thursday 5 October

John Adams and Abigail Adams: 682 – 683; excerpts from the letters 683 - 698


Tuesday 10 October

No class (University Monday) [start reading Rowson!!!]

Thursday 12 October

Susan Rowson: 879 - 880; Charlotte Temple 880 – 945


Tuesday 17 October

Phillis Wheatley: 808 - 810; “On Being Brought from Africa to America” 810; “To S.M., a Young African Painter” 818 - 819; “To the University of Cambridge, in New England” 813

Samson Occom: 645 – 646; A Short Narrative of My Life” 647 - 652

[Last reading from Volume A]


Thursday 19 October

Mid-Semester Paper Due

Tuesday 24 October

[First reading from Volume B]

“Introduction: American Literature 1820 – 1865” 957 - 977

William Cullen Bryant: 1071 - 1072; “Thanatopsis” 1072 - 1074; “To a Waterfowl” 1074 - 1075


Thursday 26 October

Nathaniel Hawthorne: 1247 - 1250; “The Minister’s Black Veil” 1280 – 1289; “The Birth-Mark” 1289 – 1300; “Rappaccini’s Daughter” 1313 - 1333


Tuesday 31 October

Washington Irving: 976 - 980; “Rip Van Winkle” 980 - 992; “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” 992 -1013


Thursday 2 November

Edgar Allan Poe: 1507 -1510; “The Tell-Tale Heart” 1572 -1575; “William Wilson. A Tale” 1547 - 1561; “The Raven” 1518 -1521; “The Sleeper” 1514 - 1515


Tuesday 7 November

Individual Presentations on Digital Documents

Thursday 9 November

Fanny Fern: 1746 – 1747; all excerpts from Fanny Fern 1748 – 1756

Harriet Prescott Spofford: 2587 – 2588; “Circumstance” 2588 – 2597

Turn in Digital Document Assessment Survey


Tuesday 14 November

Catharine Maria Sedgwick: 1039 – 1040; “Cacoetes Scribendi” 1040 - 1050


Thursday 16 November

2/3 Exam In-Class today

open text, closed notes

Tuesday 21 November

No Class meeting: Group/partner work on Digital Document assignment on your own

Thursday 23 November

No Class meeting: Thanksgiving Holiday


Tuesday 28 November

Emily Dickinson: Selected poems as assigned


Thursday 30 November

Rebecca Harding Davis: 2545 - 2547; “Life in the Iron Mills” 2547 - 2573


Tuesday 5 December

Lydia Maria Child: 1094 - 1095; “Mrs. Child’s Reply” 1095 - 1103

John Greenleaf Whittier: 1486 -1487; “Ichabod!” 1488

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: 1476 – 1477; “The Slave’s Dream” 1480 – 1481; “The Fire of Drift-wood” 1481 - 1482

Henry David Thoreau: 1788 - 1792 “Slavery in Massachusetts”1982 - 1992


Thursday 7 December

Harriet Beecher Stowe: 1670 -1672; selections from Uncle Tom’s Cabin 1673 - 1746


Tuesday 12 December

Harriet Ann Jacobs: 1757 - 1758; from Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl 1759 – 1779


Thursday 14 December

Herman Melville: 2287 - 2292; “The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids” 2355 - 2371

Date TBA by registrar

Final paper – Digital Document Assignment



Policy on Academic Dishonesty:

I will not tolerate academic dishonesty.  All University policies on plagiarism apply to all work for this course.  Read the University’s Policy on Academic Honesty, Cheating and Plagiarism (in your handbook and online).  If you plagiarize or cheat on any assignment in this course, you will receive an “F” for the course.  Please, for your sake and for mine, do not test this rule; you will find the results unpleasant.  Note that those who plagiarize or cheat are also subject to other discipline (including expulsion from the University) at the discretion of the instructor and the University.  Do not try to buy, beg, borrow, barter, or otherwise acquire a paper from any of the “sources” out there (such as fraternity files, web sites, paper mills, or roommates).  The quality of such material is generally suspect, and you are doing yourself a grave disservice.  There is a very good chance that you will be caught, and the consequences are very serious.  Any “accidental” or “unintentional” plagiarism is still plagiarism and subject to the same penalties.  “A little plagiarism” is still plagiarism; all work in your paper should be your own, or be properly cited.  Be careful in your note-taking and use of all sources.  “Using” a source includes DIRECTLY QUOTING, PARAPHRASING, AND USING IDEAS from any source.  There is nothing wrong with “getting help” from other writers, just be sure to acknowledge it by using quotation marks and an author/page citation.  Please take the time to give proper credit to the work of other authors.  It is a matter of respect – for yourself, for other authors, for your classmates, and for me.