History of American Literature I 42.294.201 Fall 2009

Questioning and Expanding the Canon

Dr. Bridget M. Marshall, University of Massachusetts, Lowell


Our survey will explore texts from the beginnings of American literary history to the Civil War.  Throughout the course, we’ll be thinking about why certain texts make it into the canon of American literature, and into this survey and other survey courses.  We’ll read a variety of kinds of texts, including private diaries, poetry, sermons, oral tales, short stories, letters, and other genres.  Why should we read these texts?  What insights do they provide?  What stories are we missing?  Why and how do editors of anthologies choose which authors and texts to include and exclude?  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 11:00 to 12:15

Office Hours & Location: Tues/Thurs 12:30 – 1:45 and by appointment in O’Leary 415  Phone: 978-934-4179

E-mail: bridget_marshall@uml.edu       Web site: http://faculty.uml.edu/bmarshall/


Required Texts: (available at the South Campus Bookstore)

þ     American Literature Volume I ed. by William E. Cain, published by Penguin Academics (Pearson-Longman) ISBN-10: 0321116232  ISBN-13: 978-0321116239

þ     Journey into Mohawk Country by George O’Connor, published by First Second. ISBN-10: 1596431067 ISBN-13: 978-1596431065

Course Goals:

þ     To gain a working knowledge of major figures, texts, and movements in American Literary History

þ     To gain an understanding of canon formation – how and why works are included (or not) in our history

þ     To develop skills of close and careful reading

þ     To practice writing, both formally and informally, in response to texts

þ     To enhance discussion skills by participating in classroom discussion

þ     To discover and research a primary source document in an online archive


Instructional Resources and Disability Accommodations:

The Centers for Learning and Academic Support Services provide many resources, including tutoring in writing: http://class.uml.edu/.  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. This documentation is confidential.


A note on classroom conduct:

In this class, and in all classes at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, students are expected to exhibit professional and respectful behavior that is conducive to a mutually beneficial learning environment in the classroom.  Examples of inappropriate behavior include: text messaging, listening to music, cell phone use (other than the campus alert system), late arrivals, early departures, use of laptops for other than class purposes, disrespectful comments or behavior, intentional disruptions, failure to follow faculty directives. Students in violation of these standards may be asked to leave class and/or be referred to the Dean of Students for disciplinary action.

Course Requirements: 

You are responsible for all the readings and assignments listed on this syllabus. 


Attendance is required. 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 begins with being prepared for class and goes beyond just “participation” in the sense of raising your hand a lot. It includes sharing your thoughts and actively listening to the comments of your peers.  Please be considerate of your classmates and make the classroom a space where everyone can speak their mind. As a courtesy to everyone in the room, please turn off your cell phone before class begins.

Course Assignments:

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 four 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 towards the end of 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. 


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 6 pages in length.  The paper is due during the exam period; there is no final exam.

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 the value of the major graded assignments for the course:



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.


A final note on grades: If you are determined to do only the minimal amount of work and get the minimum passing grade, 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. 

About Academic Honesty:

All University policies on academic dishonesty apply to all assignments in this course. As explained in the University’s official policy, academic dishonesty includes:


Cheating - use, or attempted use, of trickery, artifice, deception, breach of confidence, fraud, or misrepresentation of one's academic work.

Fabrication - falsification or invention of any information or citation in any academic exercise.

Plagiarism - representing the words or ideas of another as one's own work in any academic exercise.

Facilitating dishonesty - helping or attempting to help another commit an act of academic dishonesty, including substituting for another in an examination, misrepresenting oneself, or allowing others to represent as their own one's papers, reports, or academic works.


If you plagiarize or cheat on an assignment, you will receive an “F” for this course, and you are subject to other discipline (including expulsion from the University) at the discretion of the instructor and the University. Please keep in mind that even if you write some part or even “most” of the paper, if some portion of the paper is copied from another source without proper attribution, (i.e., if you “only plagiarize a little”) you will still get an “F” for the course.  Don’t plagiarize at all.


Unintentional plagiarism is still plagiarism.  You must cite all sources that you use, including online sources.  Also, remember that “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 or author/page citation appropriately.  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.


I know that it is easy to find information and indeed whole papers on the internet.  You should know that it is also easy for me to find these sources.  If I suspect you’ve done this, I will take the time to find the source, and there is every likelihood you will be caught.  Please don’t waste your time or mine by plagiarizing a paper.  If you’re having difficulty with a writing assignment, please talk to me before the day it is due.


Semester Schedule:  If you miss a class, you are still responsible for what was due on the day(s) you missed and on the day you return.  If the University closes, upon return to class, the items for both the missed class and the day of return class are due.  In the case of an exam or paper due on a day the University closes, the exam or paper is due on the day we return to class.  Please e-mail me if you have questions about assignments due for missed classes.

Thursday 3 September

First day Introductions; hand-outs

Tuesday 8 September

Welcome: Suggestions for Students” xii – xiv; “Letter to the Reader – Contexts for Early American Literature”: 3 -33, and handouts

Bring a one-page response (explained in class)

Thursday 10 September

Christopher Columbus: 34 - 40

Bartolome de la Casas:: 41 -43

Iroquois Creation Story: 44 -48

Tuesday 15 September

John Smith: 49 -52

William Bradford: 53 – 66

John Winthrop: 67 - 83


Thursday 17 September

Mary Rowlandson: 92 - 137


Tuesday 22 September

Journey into Mohawk Country

Everyone: bring responses to assigned questions

Thursday 24 September

Anne Bradstreet: “The Author to her Book” 87 -88; “Before the Birth of One of Her Children” 88 -89; “To My Dear and Loving Husband” 89

Edward Taylor:  “Meditation 22” 139 – 140; “Meditation 38” 140 – 142; “Huswifery” 142


Tuesday 29 September

Cotton Mather:  143 – 159 plus handouts

Michael Wigglesworth: see handouts


Thursday 1 October

Jonathan Edwards: 160 -161; “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” 175 - 190


Tuesday 6


Benjamin Franklin: 191 - 205

J Hector St. John de Crevecoeur: 304 - 311


Thursday 8 October

John Adams and Abigail Adams: 312 – 315 & handouts

Thomas Paine 316 - 332


Tuesday 13 October

Phillis Wheatley: 381 - 389

Philip Freneau: 377 – 380

Lydia Huntley Sigourney: 456 - 458

William Cullen Bryant: 459 - 466


Thursday 15 October

Mid-Semester Paper Due

Tuesday 20 October

Nathaniel Hawthorne: 557 -592


Thursday 22 October

Washington Irving: 424 - 442


Tuesday 27 October

Edgar Allan Poe: 786 - 813


Wednesday 28 October

Digital Document Selection – E-mail for approval due today!

(this is not a class meeting!)

Thursday 29 October

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: 779 – 785 plus handouts


Tuesday 3 November

Henry David Thoreau: 953 – 957 AND 977 -990


Thursday 5 November

Ralph Waldo Emerson: 515 - 554 plus handouts


Tuesday 10 November

Emily Dickinson: 1304 – 1305 and selected poems as assigned


Thursday 12 November

Rebecca Harding Davis: 1323 - 1357


Tuesday 17 November

Abraham Lincoln: 858 -862

Margaret Fuller: 863 -869

Thursday 19 November

Exam In-Class today

Tuesday 24 November

Harriet Beecher Stowe: 870 -884


Thursday 27 November


Tuesday 1 December

Harriet Ann Jacobs: 885 -952


Thursday 3 December

Herman Melville: 1103 -1106; 1114 -1147


Tuesday 8 December

Individual Presentations on Digital Documents


Thursday 10 December

Individual Presentations on Digital Documents Continued

Thursday 17 December

Final paper due – Digital Document Assignment




General Advice to Students:

Come to class prepared to work.  This means several things:

1) You should have completed the assigned readings, and any associated writing.  You might even have notes in your book, underlined passages, or page markers for interesting spots in the reading.

2) You should be prepared to listen and talk in discussion.  This means you shouldn’t come to our class and take a nap, or sit sullenly, or complete your calculus homework.

3) You should avoid distractions during class.  Distractions include things like small pets, cell phones and text messaging devices, notes to classmates, i-pods, or any other gadget that will engage your brain in something other than the academic discussion in the classroom.  While you may think I don’t notice, I do, and so do your classmates.  It’s distracting for you, but also for those around you.


When you don’t come to class (for whatever reason) it is your responsibility to find out the work that was missed, including any handouts, in-class activities, or changes to the syllabus.  If you can do this via e-mail before the next class meeting, that’s great.  If you can’t, you should definitely come speak with me before class, after class, or in my office hours.    In any case, don’t try to avoid me, hoping that I didn’t notice you were absent. 


If you need extra time for an assignment, for whatever reason, it is better to ask early.  I do not automatically give extensions; however, I am a reasonable person, and you should ask for help or time if you need it.


Late papers are subject to a grade reduction.  I do not provide comments on late papers.