What makes a 'classic' of American literature? Why do a handful of texts endure while others have fallen by the wayside? By reading a variety of well-known texts from early American literature, we pose-and attempt to answer-these questions. Supplemental readings illuminate pivotal political debates, social movements, gender struggles, and ethnic clashes from 1820 to 1860. Texts include Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, and Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, as well as works by Dickinson, Melville, Douglass, and Poe. Films will include Sleepy Hollow (1999) and 12 Years a Slave (2013).