Classics of American Literature, 1820-1860


Instructor: Karen Little


In this course, we will take a long historical approach to literature, looking to Black American texts of the colonial through antebellum periods to understand the deep roots of social protest in the Black American cultural tradition. Despite barriers to free movement, to property-ownership, to education, and to the press, the earliest Black Americans produced poetry, songs, oration, fiction, and journalism. We will sample each of these genres and consider how texts harness the power and conventions of literature to advance vital arguments. Issues of note will include the institution of slavery, property rights, rights to worship, rights to literacy, rights to political participation, legal recognition, and more. Via structured research activities, students will produce original arguments about the treatment of social issues in Black American literature with options to make comparative arguments across colonial/antebellum texts and between these texts and those from later eras.

Course Requirements: Participation in class discussion and workshops; regular “blog” entries; two brief research presentations (one based on an archival object; one based on a newspaper article); one 10-minute work in progress presentation; and one 10-12 page research paper.

Prose and poetry by such authors as Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Poe, Melville, and Whitman. Satisfies the Area II requirement for English majors.
Curriculum Codes
  • ALP
Typically Offered
Fall and/or Spring