American Literature to 1900: Cultures in Contact

Professor Laura Arnold

Library 41; MWF 12-12:50

Spring 1996

Office: CC307
Office Hours: M 10-11, W 1-2, F 2-3, and by appointment
Phone #s: Work x7329; Home 231-7858

Reader (available in bookstore)
Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, Castaways
James Fenimore Cooper, Last of the Mohicans
Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Hope Leslie
James Rhonda, ed., Lewis & Clark Among the Indians
Black Hawk, Life of Ma-Ka-Tai-Me-She-Kia-Kiak or Black Hawk
Herman Melville, Typee
Owen Wister, The Virginian

Greg Sarris, Keeping Slug Woman Alive: A Holistic Approach to American Indian Texts.


Native American Resources


In this course we will investigate the ways early American texts use cultural encounters to formulate notions of America and Americans. In this sense, the class is an "update" of literary histories which postulate the frontier as the distinguishing feature of American culture; however, the texts we will be reading also critique the frontier model as a viable way of understanding cultural contacts. We will be reading a variety of cultural texts, including maps, novels, letters, paintings, autobiographies, and promotional tracts. Because for many this class is an introduction to American Studies as well as early American literature, we will be reading critical works from a variety of disciplines including folklore, English, history, American studies, and American Indian studies.

All of the writing assignments for this class are designed to help you investigate and analyze the ways people use writing (and criticism) to domesticate or colonize their subjects. You will be asked to write a natural history (3-4 pages), an as-told-to life story of a classmate (3-4 pages), and one research paper with a methodological introduction (5-7 pages). The first and third papers will be exchanged with members of your 3-4 person discussion groups; the second paper will be exchanged with your life story partner. For the first two papers, members of each group/partnership will read each other's papers and write a one page response to the experience of reading "defamiliarizing" accounts of familiar topics. For the final paper, group members will submit a group portfolio which will include a 1-2 page introduction of the group's papers. Group members should meet to discuss drafts & research. You will also be asked to instigate discussion one day: this means being responsible for the critical readings & (briefly) relating them to the day's primary texts. The day before you lead discussion you must place a one page (informal) response to the readings in the class folder on the Griffin Exchange. Attendance and participation are always mandatory. (Note: although readings may look heavy, they are rarely over 50 pages a day unless we are reading a novel.)

M 1/22 Introduction: American Literature as Cultural Studies

W 1/24 Why the Frontier?

Elizabeth Bishop, "Questions of Travel" (Course Reader)

Richard Slotkin, "Myth and the Production of History" (Ideology & Classic American Literature, ed. Bercovitch, 70-90; On Reserve)

Turner, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History" (The Frontier in American History; On Reserve)

I. Spanish and American Indian Visions of America & the Other

F 1/26 Precontact Traditions: Narrative & Culture

Boone, "Aztec Pictorial Histories: Records Without Words" (Writing Without Words, 50-76; On Reserve)

Sahagun, The War of Conquest (1-32; On Reserve)

(Optional: Hertha Wong's Sending My Heart Back Across the Years Chapter 2; On Reserve)

Slides (in-class): American Indian Writing Systems

M 1/29 Community, Identity & Self

Sahagun, The War of Conquest (33-94; On Reserve)

Lockhart, "Extract from the Codex Aubin" (Course Reader)

Lockhart, "Initial Nahua Reactions to Spanish Culture" (On Reserve)

W 1/31 Reading the Oral Tradition: Myths of the Europeans

Karl Kroeber, "Poem, Dream, and the Consuming of Culture" (Smoothing the Ground, ed. Swann 323-33; On Reserve)

Miguel Leon Portilla, Broken Spears (selected poems T.B.A.)

Nabokov, Native American Testimony (3-31)

F 2/2 Myths of America

Columbus, "Literal translation of the first edition..." (Course Reader)

Vespucci, from Mundus Novus (Course Reader)

Todorov, The Conquest of America (Chapter 1; On Reserve)

Slides (in-class): Renaissance Artwork of the "Discovery" of America, Maps of the World

M 2/5 Gender & the Work of Discovery

Hernan Cortes, Letters from Mexico (Course Reader)

Bernal Diaz del Castillo, The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico (Course Reader)

Diego Munoz Camargo, Lienzo de Tlaxcala (Course Reader)

Louis Montrose, "Gender and the Work of Discovery" (On Reserve)

Slides (in-class): Gender & Discovery

W 2/7 Travels in the Southwest: Mestizo Consciousness

Cabeza de Vaca, Castaways (3-67)

F 2/9

Cabeza de Vaca, Castaways, (68-127)

Todorov, The Conquest of America (185-202; On Reserve)

II. British, American Indian, & African Negotiations

M 2/12 Appropriating the Spanish Experience

Thomas More, Utopia (Introduction, Book 1; On Reserve)

Said, Orientalism (Introduction; On Reserve)

W 2/14 American Heroes & the Taming of America

John Smith, Generall Historie ("Outline," "Dedication & Preface," "Second Book," "Maps & Illustrations"; Course Reader)

F 2/16 Pocahontas

John Smith, Generall Historie ("Recension," "Book Three Chapter II"; Course Reader)

Hulme, Colonial Encounters (Chapter 4; On Reserve)

In-class: Bring Cultural Artifacts, Cartoons, etc.; Slides of Pocahontas

S 2/17

Paper #1 Natural History/Promotional Tract due; Post in Group Folder.

1 copy to Laura's Eliot Hall Mailbox.

M 2/19 Puritanism: America as Religious Text

Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation (Bk. 1 chps. I, VII, IX, X; Bk. 2 chps. XI-XIII, XXIII, XXIX, XXXII; On Reserve)

Winthrop, "Reasons Considered..." (Course Reader)

W 2/21 Questions on Travel--Linear Progression & the Anglo American Self

Shepard, Autobiography (Course Reader)

Krupat, "Indian Autobiography" (Smoothing the Ground, ed. Swann 261- 82; On Reserve)

(Optional: Bible, Exodus)

F 2/23 Captivity as a Religious Text

Rowlandson, Captivity & Restoration (Course Reader)

(Optional: Margaret Davis, "Mary Rowlandson's Self-Fashioning as Puritan Goodwife"; On Reserve)

S 2/24

1 page response to Group Members' Promotional Tracts/Natural Histories

Due in Group Folder

M 2/26 Captivity as a Wampanoag Text

Rowlandson, Captivity & Restoration (Course Reader)

In-class: slides

W 2/28 Indian Converts

Samson Occom, "A Short Autobiography" (Course Reader)

Letters from Wheelock's Indians (Course Reader)

Samson Occom, "Account of the Montauk Indians" (Course Reader)

Simmons, The Spirit of New England Tribes: Indian History and Folklore (73-91; On Reserve)

F 3/1 American Indian-African American Dialogues: Community & Race

Occom, "Sermon at the Execution of Moses Paul" (Course Reader)

Phillis Wheatley, Letters to Samson Occom (Course Reader)

(Optional: Bible, St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans)

S 3/2

Paper #2: As-Told-To Life Stories Due (3-4 pp.); Exchange with Life

Story Partner, 1 copy to Laura's Eliot Hall mailbox

M 3/4 African American & Algonquian Captivity Narratives

Briton Hammon, A Narrative of Uncommon Suffering (Handout)

Apess, "A Son of the Forest" (On Our Own Ground 3-52; On Reserve)

III. Nationalism & the American Frontier

W 3/6 Noble Selves, Noble Savages

Crevecoeur, "Distresses of a Frontier Man," "The Frontier Woman" (On Reserve)

Hayden White, "The Noble Savage Theme as Fetish," (Tropics of Discourse 183-96; On Reserve)

F 3/8 Declaring Difference

Irving, "English Writers of America," "Rip Van Winkle," (Course Reader)

1 page Response to Paper #2 Due in Laura's mailbox Eliot Hall by 4 pm


M 3/18 Refiguring Early Contacts: American Heroes & Masculinity

Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self Reliance" (On Reserve)

Cooper, Last of the Mohicans (1-149)

W 3/20

Cooper, Last of the Mohicans, (150-256)

(Optional: April Selly, Journal of Popular Culture 20(1): 89-104; On Reserve)

F 3/22

Cooper, Last of the Mohicans, (257-end)

In-class: silent film version of Last of the Mohicans

M 3/25 A "Feminine" Vision of Early Contacts?

Sedgwick, Hope Leslie (Introduction, 1-156)

W 3/27

Sedgwick, Hope Leslie (157-263)

F 3/29

Sedgwick, Hope Leslie (264-end)

Apess, "Indian's Looking Glass for the White Man" (On Our Own Ground 155-61; On Reserve)

S 3/30

Proposal for Final Paper Due, Laura's Eliot Hall mailbox

WEEK 10 Westward Ho!
M 4/1

Lewis & Clark Among the Indians , Chapters 1 & 5

Journal Excerpts Packet #1 (On Reserve)

W 4/3

Lewis & Clark Among the Indians, Chapters 6 & 7

Journal Excerpts Packet #2 (On Reserve)

Zoa Swayne, Do Them No Harm (Pages T.B.A.)

F 4/5

Lewis & Clark Among the Indians, Chapters 8 & 9

Journal Excerpts Packet #3 (On Reserve)

Jarold Ramsey, Coyote Was Going There (125-28, 174-75, 161-70; On Reserve)

M 4/8

Black Hawk, Life of Ma-Ka-Tai-Me-She-Kia-Kiak or Black Hawk

W 4/10

Black Hawk, Life of Ma-Ka-Tai-Me-She-Kia-Kiak or Black Hawk

Sarris, "Reading Narrated American Indian Lives," Keeping Slug Woman Alive (On Reserve)

F 4/12 America's Pacific Frontier

Melville, Typee (Chapters I-X)

M 4/15

Melville, Typee (Chapters XI-XXIV)

Katharyn Zabelle Derounian-Stodola, "The Captivity Narrative as Usable Past," (Chapter 6) The Indian Captivity Narrative 1550- 1900 (On Reserve)

W 4/17

Melville, Typee (XXV-end)

F 4/19

Pacific Northwest American Studies Association Meeting (Bend, OR)

M 4/22 The Cult of the Cowboy at the End of an Era

Wister, The Virginian (Chapters 1-16)

Baxter Black, "The Oyster" (Course Reader)

In-class: cowboy songs & cattle calls

W 4/24 Cowboys & Race

Wister, The Virginian (Chapters 17-28)

Nat Love, "The Autobiography of Deadwood Dick" (Course Reader)

F 4/26 The Cowboy and Masculinity in Contemporary Culture

Wister, The Virginian (Chapters 28-end)

In-class: bring cowboy items from popular culture

M 5/6 Final Papers Due

Maintained by: Last modified 9 April 1996