ENGL 1600-880: Masterpieces of American Literature

slave ship

ENGL 1600-880 is an honors section; 3.3 GPA required. See Honors Program, LIBR M400M.

You may not associate the term “masterpiece” with seduction, incest, banditry, abandonment, cross-dressing, immolation, ventriloquism, and… bear costumes. But you should! We will read best-selling, literarily, and culturally significant works from the early US, questioning each of the central terms from the class’s title: what makes a text “literature”? what makes it “American”? and how does one define a “masterpiece”? Our semester will focus on the ways in which early US novels envision the nation. Authors may include Charles Brockden Brown, Hannah Webster Foster, James Fenimore Cooper, John Rollin Ridge, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Frederick Douglass, María Amparo Ruiz de Burton, and Henry James. We will close the semester by examining Toni Morrison’s A Mercy, a recent novel set in the colonial era that precedes the works we’ve been studying throughout the semester. Approved for arts and sciences core curriculum: literature and the arts.

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