Dr. Lucia Knoles
"He is an American, who, leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the new government he obeys, the new rank he holds. He becomes an American by being received in the broad lap of our great Alma Mater. Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labors and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world."—St. John de Crevecoeur
Introduction to the course
Log Due: Discussion of characteristic American traits, behaviors, and beliefs. Also, an analysis of what individual could best serve as the image of the "representative American."
Readings Due: Selected passages on "Who is this American?" Texts available at: http://www.assumption.edu/ahc/Intros/whoistheamerican.html
In Class: We will discuss some of the complexities and tensions inherent in the American identity; we will also consider the significance of our national symbols. Together we will identify a few core questions that arise repeatedly in the course of the national history and literature so that we can use these as a basis for our collaborative inquiry.
Tuesday, January 23
"Oh the doleful sight that now was to behold at this house! 'Come behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he has made in the earth.' Of thirty-seven persons who were in this house, none escaped either present death, or a bitter captivity, save only one, who might say as he, 'and I only have escaped alone to tell the News' (Job 1.15.)" Mary Rowlandson, A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration.
"Having emerged from the Poverty and Obscurity in which I was born and bred, to a state of Affluence and some Degree of Reputation in the World, and having gone so far thro' Life with so considerable share of Felicity, the conducting means I made use of, which, with the Blessing of God, so well succeeded, my Posterity may like to know, as they may find some of them suitable to their own Situations." Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography
Log Due: Post a brief log on the Message Board at our Blackboard forum. Be sure to identify at least two quotations from each text that seem particularly helpful to your understanding or perplexing, or that seem to provoke your sympathy and admiration or a negative reaction. Comment briefly on your response to these quotations. What do you find puzzling, illuminating, attractive, or repugnant? All required logs should be posted by noon the day before class.
Readings Due: Sample freely from two important texts to develop some hypotheses about the authors and their work. Read selected passages from A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mary Rowlandson , 147. Also, selected passages from Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, 224. You can also find A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mary Rowlandson online from Gutenburg.)
In Class: Planning Workshop. We will discuss how modern readers react to these texts and how we might account for those reactions. (What does this tell us about the difference between "then" and "now"?) We will also develop some hypotheses about why these texts were so popular with readers in their own times, and with scholars today.
Thursday, January 25
"For we must consider that we shall be as a citie upon a hill." John Winthrop, "A Model of Christian Charitie"
"But in process of time, my convictions and affections wore off; and I…returned like a dog to his vomit, and went on in ways of sin." Jonathon Edwards, "Personal Narrative"
Readings Due: John Winthrop, "A Model of Christian Charity," 107-112 (bottom); and 116-118. Also read Anne Bradstreet, "To My Children,"144; and Jonathan Edwards, "Personal Narrative, 176-180 (bottom), 183-186.
In Class: Discussion of "Who is this Puritan?" Come to class prepared with a list of quotations that identify points that illuminate, perplex, evoke empathy or admiration, or provoke dislike.
Tuesday, January 30
We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to abolish it…" Thomas Jefferson, "The Declaration of Independence"
Log Due: Identify three or four quotations that would be useful to us as we develop our analysis of the rhetoric and ideals of Americans in the period before, during, and just after the revolution. Comment on the ways in which these people sound like, or unlike, the Puritans of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.
Reading Due: De Crevecoeur's "Letter III. What is an American?" from Letters from an American Farmer, 293-302; and the excerpt from Jefferson's Autobiography of Thomas Jefferson, 3424. Also, sample Thomas Paine's "Common Sense," 309; Paine's "Thoughts on the Present State of American Affairs," 310; or any speech by Patrick Henry. (To find a speech by Patrick Henry, consult the "Archive of Speeches" http://www.assumption.edu/ahc/rhetoric/oratoryarchive.html ) at the E Pluribus Unum Project: http://www.assumption.edu/ahc/intros/defaultepluribus.html
In-Class: Discussion of the "Enlightened" Founders: their beliefs, national vision, and rhetoric.
Thursday, February 1
Read all of the printed excerpts of either Rowlandson's Narrative or Franklin's Autobiography.
In Class: Research workshop in the computer lab on Project One. You will work individually and in small groups to develop a report that explains why earlier readers responded so strongly to Rowlandson's or Franklin's text, and whether that text has any lasting value for readers today. In order to develop this analysis, you will need to construct a "context" in which you place the work. We will discuss both the nature of "context" and methods of constructing contexts in this class period. Editor's reports should be posted to the Blackboard Forum by noon on Wednesday, February 7. These reports will serve as the basis for class discussion on February 8.
Tuesday, February 6:
"Savages we call them, because their manners differ from ours, which we think the perfection of civility; they think the same of theirs." Benjamin Franklin, "Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America"
"I remember, in the vessel in which I was brought over, in the men's apartment, there were several brothers, who, in the sale, were sold in different lots: and it was very moving on this occasion, to see and hear their cries at parting. O, ye nominal Christians! Might not an African ask you-Learned you this from your God, who says unto you, Do unto all men as you would men should do unto you?" Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by Himself
Log Due: Write a brief analysis of the types of arguments these writers use to persuade us to think differently about the "other" in America. Use quotations to illustrate your points.
Reading Due: Franklin's "Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America, " 219; Phyllis Wheatley's "On Being Brought from Africa to North America," 360; and the printed selection from Olaudah Equiano's Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by Himself, 343. "I remember, in the vessel in which I was brought over, in the men's apartment, there were several brothers, who, in the sale, were sold in different lots: and it was very moving on this occasion, to see and hear their cries at parting. O, ye nominal Christians! Might not an African ask you-Learned you this from your God, who says unto you, Do unto all men as you would men should do unto you?"
Draft of Editor's Report Due: Before class begins, put a draft of your individual or group "white paper" on Rowlandson or Franklin in your group "drop box." Include selected quotations from the primary text and from the texts you are citing as contexts.
In Class: Draft workshop in computer lab.
Editor's Report Due: Drop your completed individual or group white paper in the "drop box" to the teacher on the Blackboard site, or post it directly to the Rowlandson or Franklin folder on the Assignments Page by noon on Monday, Feb. 12. Before coming to class on Tuesday, be sure to review the other reports that have been posted.
In-Class: Symposium on Franklin, Rowlandson, and the "representative" American of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
UPDATE! This class will now be devoted to a revision workshop. Please post your project plans to the Discussion Board at Blackboard before Tuesday's Class. (See discussion on Collaborating as a Community of Colleagues). Be sure to bring a copy of your most recent draft on a disk when we meet this week in Fuller 120.
First, the good news: please submit Project One by e-mail by noon on Friday, Feb. 16.
Second, instead of doing the work outlined below for the 15th, please read and reflect on the materials on exhibit on Public Speaking in an Outspoken Age: Oratory in 19th Century America. You need not follow all of the links that allow you to explore the subject in depth, although I would encourage you to do some browsing. However, be sure to review all of the pages that are part of the exhibit: you will find a navigation bar at the bottom of each page.
I originally developed that exhibit as a way of helping people recognize both the important role played by rhetoric in 19th century America, and how rhetoric (the art of persuading an audience) functioned in that period. Since we are studying literature as rhetoric this semester, it should be useful to think about how 19th century lecturers and debaters worked to gain control of their listeners, particularly when it came to controversial issues.
For Tuesday you will be reading texts by Ralph Waldo Emerson. In fact, Emerson himself was a highly popular speaker on the lecture circuit. As you do your reading for Tuesday, think about who Emerson seems to be addressing, what kind of relationship he seems to be trying to establish with his audience, what kinds of ideas he seems to be trying to get across, and how he seems to be working to persuade his audience. Rowlandson established herself as a suffering but redeemed Christian and used an appeal to her audience's religious beliefs as well as a bid for their sympathy to convey her message about the way to salvattion in The Narrative of the Captivity of Mary Rowlandson. Jefferson appealed to our sense of reason, and stirred our emotions regarding fairness and a desire for the good and noble life in order to frame a compelling argument about the need to establish a republic. In his Autobiography, Franklin seems to have addressed us as a successful man speaking to those who wish to be successful; he based his arguments on common sense, reason, experience, and appealed to what he believed was a common desire to get ahead. As you read Emerson, see what analysis you can offer of his rhetoric.
Don't be surprised if you find Emerson challenging. Even those who praised him most highly often found him puzzing. That may, in fact, have been part of his appeal. When Emerson delivered a lecture here in Worcester in the mid-19th century, one schoolboy wrote in his journal: "Capital lecture! I could hardly understand a thing he said!" Let's adopt the attitude of Emerson's contemporaries and assume he has something worth hearing, even if he seems to be elusive.
After reading these materials, post a log at the Blackboard by Monday at 5:00. Your question will be available by Saturday morning.
Third, no class on Thursday!
"We will walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; we will speak our own minds." Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The American Scholar"
Reading Due: Emerson's "The American Scholar," p 525-533 (up to "I have now spoken of the education of the scholar by nature, by books, and by action. It remains to say something of his duites.") Then read from the middle of 535 ("But I have dwelt perhaps tediously upon this abstraction of the Scholar. I ought not to delay longer to add what I have to say, of nearer reference to the time and to this country") to the conclusion on 538. You need not read "Self-Reliance." However, you do need to respond to the question on Emerson posted on our Blackboard Discussion Board.
We will be talking in class about the relationship between Emerson's way of thinking, the Puritan reliance on revelation, and the founders' emphasis on reason. If Emerson was engaged in an intellectual argument with Jonathan Edwards or with Thomas Jefferson, would his style of thought and evidence persuade either man? We will also be discussing the significance of these "new ideas" for 19th century American life. If you read Public Speaking in an Outspoken Age, you may already realize the volatile nature of the debates that were taking place in the antebellum period. Do you think Emerson would have been an "Ultraist" or a "Nothingarian"?
Recommended on-line resources include:
Ralph Waldo Emerson Writings; be
sure to take at least a brief look at the section on Emerson's
Influence on the people and ideas of 19th century America. See also: A
Brief Biography of Emerson from Books and Writers; The
Ralph Waldo Emerson Society; The
Ralph Waldo Emerson Page at PAL; and American
Transcendentalism. You can also find some of Emerson's writing at The
Online Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
"He was like the best of those who stood at Concord Bridge once, on Lexington Common, and on Bunker Hill, only he was firmer and higher principled than any that I have chanced to hear of as there…. He did not go to the college called Harvard, good old Alma Mater as she is. He was not fed on the pap that is there furnished. As he phrased it, 'I know no more of grammar than one of your calves.' But he went to the great university of the West, where he sedulously pursued the study of Liberty…" Henry David Thoreau, "A Plea for Captain John Brown"
Reading Due: Thoreau's "A Plea for Captain John Brown," http://www.walden.org/thoreau/writings/essays/reform/Plea.htm. Also read the following selections from Walden: "Economy," 868-873 (up to "Let us consider for a moment…."); bottom of 888 (beginning "Near the end of March, 1845….") to 900 (up to "Bread I at first made…."); "Where I Lived and What I Lived For," 915 (from first whole paragraph, beginning "We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake…." to the top of 920; and "Conclusion," 961 (Beginning with "I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there…" to end on 967.
In our discussion of Thoreau, we
may find it useful to consider some of the following questions. What strategies
does Thoreau employ to gain his audience's support for John Brown in his speech
on Brown? Does Thoreau fit his friend Emerson's description of "The
Transcendentalist"? Are Transcendentalists Ultraists
or Nothingarians? To aid us in our investigations,
In our discussion of Thoreau, we may find it useful to consider some of the following questions. What strategies does Thoreau employ to gain his audience's support for John Brown in his speech on Brown? Does Thoreau fit his friend Emerson's description of "The Transcendentalist"? Are Transcendentalists Ultraists or Nothingarians? To aid us in our investigations,we will also be taking advantage of such on-line resources as: The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, The Thoreau Reader, CyberSaunter - Henry David Thoreau; and Thoreau at the Lyceum (note: some links on this page need to be updated).
In-Class Research Project: Focused
1) Investigate the facts and issues surrounding John Brown's raid on Harper Ferry and his subsequent trail and execution. Why was this such a controversial topic? What kinds of arguments did people make for or against John Brown? As a starting point for your investigations, you may wish to consult Speeches and Other Commentaries Prompted by John Brown's Actions, Prosecution, and Death, which is part of the E Pluribus Unum Project.
What were the circumstances surrounding Thoreau's lectures on John Brown? How
did he end up speaking on this subject? What kind of reception did his lectures
earn? Did Thoreau deliver many lectures in his life? One of the best places
to begin looking for material on this subject is the report on Thoreau's
Lecturing Activities at the Thoreau
Home Page. What you'll find there is a calendar of lectures; each date and
title is linked to a text of the speech, and a commentary on the circumstances
of its production, delivery, and reception.
3) What can you find out about the circumstances of Thoreau's life at Walden Pond and his writing of the book, Walden? You can visit CyberSaunter - Henry David Thoreau, The Life and Times of Henry David Thoreau, the Thoreau Home Page, the Thoreau Reader or the Thoreau Links Page of the Thoreau Reader, or any of the other Thoreau sites (including those mentioned above) as a means of collecting information. You may also want to think about whether there was any connection between Thoreau's lecturing activities and his publication of Walden. To investigate this subject, see Thoreau's Lecturing Activities.
4) What was Thoreau like as a human being, and what did his contemporaries think of him? In "The Transcendentalist," Emerson seems to define the ideal transcendentalist in terms that almost exactly match our conception of Thoreau; did Emerson regard Thoreau himself in heroic terms? To explore these questions, you may consult any Thoreau site, particularly including those mentioned above. However, one particularly good place to start would be the Thoreau Home Page which includes a large category on comments about Thoreau by his contemporaries. You can also read Emerson's essay on Thoreau, published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1862. The other resources that you may find it useful to consult is the Making of America Project, available at Cornell and the University of Michigan.
NOTE: We will also update our plans for next week.
Tuesday, March 13
Reading Due: Excerpts from The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself, Norton.
In Class: Post log in response to question on the Blackboard Discussion Board
Thursday, March 15
Reading Due: "What
the Black Man Wants," a speech Frederick Douglass delivered at the
Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in Boston, 1865, just
a few days before Lincoln's assassination and the close of the Civil War .
As you read the speech think about the people to whom Douglass is speaking,, what arguments he offers, and what methods he uses to appeal to and persuade his listeners. Pay special attention to the kind of relationship he tries to establish with his audience (for example, in the opening), and the way he works to make the audience see HIM in a particular way. Also, what do you still need to research in order to understand the contents and methods of this oration?
It will help you to understand this speech--and other speeches on this topic--if you take some time to consider the kinds of arguments made against the abolition of slavery. You should also think about the way Douglass tries to contradict those arguments in his autobiography. You can find information on both these points on our course site at Frederick Douglass at the Lyceum. No, you don't have to do the projects outlined on that page, but do look at the links so you can think about how Douglass fits into the larger cultural picture of the mid-nineteenth century.
Remember to find at least three or four quotations from the speech that will serve as the focus of your project. The quotations should provide a way for you to analyze the speaker's sense of audience, goals, arguments, and appeals.
Tuesday, March 20: In-Class Revision Workshop on Project Two
Log Due: Read Guideslines on Revising Project Two, and then post a draft of Project Two at the Blackboard Discussion Board.
Thursday, March 22: The Role of Public Speaking in 19th Century American Life
Reading: Excerpts from The Bobbin Boy, Responses to Orators and Orations, Ultraists vs. Nothingarians: The 19th Century Debate over the Rhetoric of Social Reform, and comments on The Columbian Orator.
Tuesday, March 27: Post-War Literature--Sorting
Out New American Identities
Tuesday, March 27: Post-War Literature--Sorting Out New American Identities
"Suppose that he was young,
and she was much older than he; that he was light, and she was black; that their
marriage was a slave marriage; and legally binding only if they chose to make
it so after the war. Suppose, too, that he had made his way to the North, as
some of us have done, an there, where he had larger opportunities, had improved
them, and had in the course of all these years grown to be as different from
the ignorant boy who ran away from fear of slavery as the day is from the night...What
would the man do?" Charles W. Chesnutt, "The Wife of His Youth"
"Suppose that he was young, and she was much older than he; that he was light, and she was black; that their marriage was a slave marriage; and legally binding only if they chose to make it so after the war. Suppose, too, that he had made his way to the North, as some of us have done, an there, where he had larger opportunities, had improved them, and had in the course of all these years grown to be as different from the ignorant boy who ran away from fear of slavery as the day is from the night...What would the man do?" Charles W. Chesnutt, "The Wife of His Youth"
"'Mother, who is this bad paleface?' I asked.
'My little daughter, he is a sham, - a sickly sham! The bronzed Dakota is the only real man.'" Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, Impressions of an Indian Childhood.
(Brief) Log Due at the Blackboard.
Readings: Charles Chesnutt's "The Wife of His Youth," 1647; and excerpts from Gertrude Simmons Bonnin's Impressions of an Indian Childhood, 1776-1787.
Additional Resources on Chesnutt:: Charles Chesnutt Site with Contemporary Reviews and Contextual Information; Charles Chesnutt at Donna Campbell's American Literature site; Charles W. Chesnutt on Race and on Publishing The Conjure Woman; Charles Chesnutt, University of Virginia.
In order to understand Chesnutt's story, it is useful to know something abut the legal status of African-Americans living in the south during Rconstruction; it also is important to understand why so many people thought it was important at that time to distinguish between "Blacks," "Mulattoes," and "Quadroons." Reading the Mississippi Black Code (1865): The Civil Rights of Freedmen in Mississippi should give you some insight into these issues.
If you view the digitized version of "The Wife of His Youth" available at the University of South Carolina's Documenting the American South, you can view the original cover and illustrations from the 1901 edition of the anthology of short stories published under the same title. Think about whether those illustrations can make any contribution to your interpretation of the text.
Additional Resources on Zitkala-Sa: Indians of North America--Biography; The School Days of an Indian Girl; An Indian Teacher Among Indians; Voices From the Gaps Gertrude Simmons Bonnin; Zitkala-Sa (Gertrude Simmons Bonnin); The American Experience America 1900 People & Events; Zitkala-Sa (short author bio); WestWeb Western Women's History--includes links to Bonnin's texts
Resources on the Education of Native Americans: The "Auobiography" of Angel DeCora originally published in 1911 in a journal called The Red Man. Also available at the EmoryWomen Writers Resource Project are a number of texts regarding Native Americans, including Susette La Fleshe's "An Indian Woman's Letter," (originally from the letter written by an Indian teacher to the Omahas). You can see projects done by Duke University Students on Native American Education: Documents from the 19th Century and Education of Native Americans: Hampton Institute 1878-1923.
"He was industrious, and so were his boys; but they were rather free and easy, weren't pushers, and they didn't always show good judgment. They were comfortable, they were out of debt, but they didn't get much ahead. Maybe, Doctor Burleigh reflected, people as generous and warm-hearted and affectionate as the Rosickys never got ahead much; maybe you couldn't enjoy your life and put it in a bank too." Willa Cather, "Neighbor Rosicky"
"'I heard that you lost a lot in the crash.'
'I did,' and he added grimly, 'but I lost everything I wanted in the boom.'" F. Scott Fitzgerald, "Babylon Revisited," p. 2141.
Reading Due: Cather's "Neighbor Rosicky," 1830; Fitzgerald's "Winter Dreams," 2125, and "Babylon Revisited," 214.
"Like men we'll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!" Claude McKay
"Slavery is the price I paid for civilization, and the choice was not with me. It is a bully adventure and worth all that I have paid through my ancestors for it." Zora Neale Hurston, "How It Feels to Be Colored Me"
"I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong." Langston Hughes
Reading Due: Claude McKay's poems, 2069-2073; Hughes's poems, 2224 ff; Hurston's "How It Feels to Be Colored Me," 2084. In preparation for writing your log and participating in our discussion, please consult the texts I've put together on The American Conversation on Race: The 1850's to the 1930's. Although you don't need to look at all of the linked resources, I think you will find most of the material very interesting and a great preparation for class.
Log Due: See message posted at our Blackboard Discussion Board.
Additional Resources: See Harlem Renaissance Poetry as Rhetoric? and Representations of African-Americans in Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century America.
In Class: Research Workshop for
Final Project Preparation. Meet
at computer lab.
Log Due: Read An Introduction to the Final Project and then post a brief message at Blackboard.com in which you offer your thoughts about what element(s) of the American identity you might want to discuss in your final project, what literary texts you may wish to use as the basis of your analysis, and/or which critics you tentatively plan to draw upon to develop your argument about why these particular texts should (or should not) be part of the American literary canon. Remember, you only need to offer some preliminary thoughts in your log. We will use your comments as a starting-point for a more in-depth discussion of texts, topics, and resources.
Reading Due: Before coming to class, you should review the materials available on the web pages linked from the E Pluribus Unum Project: page on "Who is This American?": The Question of Identity in a Nation of Many. In class, we will be collaborating to identify some of the recurring themes, tensions, and questions in discussions of : the American identity, American literature, and the American canon.
In-Class Workshop: We
will discuss the methods and goals of scholarly projects by revisiting the guidelins
for Project One, and then we will collaborate to develop a list of the themes,
tensions, and questions that we should consider when planning projects. Although
we have talked throughout the semester about the tensions inherent in the American
identity, we have never had the opportunity to engage in a discussion of the
questions that come up in debates about the American literary canon. To develop
a preliminary understanding of the kinds of problems that can arise when defining
"one" canon in a nation of many, we will begin by visiting Negotiating
the Amerian Identity at the National Portrait Gallery.
In-Class Workshop: We will discuss the methods and goals of scholarly projects by revisiting the guidelins for Project One, and then we will collaborate to develop a list of the themes, tensions, and questions that we should consider when planning projects. Although we have talked throughout the semester about the tensions inherent in the American identity, we have never had the opportunity to engage in a discussion of the questions that come up in debates about the American literary canon. To develop a preliminary understanding of the kinds of problems that can arise when defining "one" canon in a nation of many, we will begin by visiting Negotiating the Amerian Identity at the National Portrait Gallery.
Thursday, April 12: Easter Break
Tuesday, April 17:
"Silus is what he is – we wouldn't mind him –
But just the kind that kinsfolk can't abide.
He never did a thing so very bad.
He don't know why he isn't quite as good
As anybody. Worthless though he is…" Robert Frost, "The Death of the Hired Man."
"'Dream' makes a giddy sound, not strong
Like "rent," "feeding a wife," "satisfying a man." Gwendolyn Brooks
"There is a sister
across the ocean …
And women can stride along with men.
But in another wilderness,
Can strangulate like jungle vines." Cathy Song
Log Due Before Clas! A FIRST!: However,
be sure to come to class prepared to write and talk about what each of these
poets have to say about the Amerian identityt and the American dream. Think,
too, about how you would describe the "voice" of each poem and the
connection between that voice and the meaning. "
Reading Due: "Mending Wall," 1859; "The Death of the Hired Man," 1860; Birches," 1867; "Out, Out –," 1868; and "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening," 1870 (Thoreau's Walden.") Also read poems by Gwendolyn Brooks's, 266 ff.; and Cathy Song's "Lost Sister," 2810; "Heaven," 2811.
In-Class Workshop : How is the "voice" of each of the three poets we read for today's class distinct? Do they have any characteristics in common? Would nineteenth century American literary critics have recognized these as the works of distinctively American literature for which they were waiting?
Melville once used the publication of a work by Hawthorne to proclaim that it was time for critics to begin championing the works of American writers instead of always praising the English--or Americans who wrote in the manner of Englishmen. He wrote: "no American writer should write like an Englishman, or a Frenchman; let him write like a man, for then he will be sure to write like an American. Let us away with this leaven of literary flunkyism towards England. If either we must play the flunky in this thing, let England do it, not us." Melville identified several specific characteristics that he believed identified Hawthorne's greatness..
First, Hawthorne's writing had a satisfying "blackness" that balances the brighter side of his work: "You may be witched by his sunlight,--transported by the bright gildings in the skies he builds over you;--but there is the blackness of darkness beyond; and even his bright gildings but fringe, and play upon the edges of thunder-clouds."
Second, Whitman described Hawthorne as a person who told distinctively American stories in a distinctively American way, saying "He is one of the new, and far better generation of your writers. The smell of your beeches and hemlocks is upon him; your own broad prairies are in his soul; and if you travel away inland into his deep and noble nature, you will hear the far roar of his Niagara."
Do you think that the poems of Frost, Brooks, and Song offer not just brightness but also "blackness," and distinctively American stories told in distinctively American voices? How can we use a discussion of their careers and work as a way of developing a deeper understanding of the kinds of characteristics that people see as distinctively American?
It is interesting to note that Brooks published "We Real Cool" at Broadside Press (see below), Frost was invited to write and deliver a poem for the innauguration of John F. Kennedy, and Cathy Song has been chosen to become part of the Poetry In Motion program. How does this help you think about how they are represented--and are attempting to represent themselves--as part of American culture? Do you think any of the three will become a part of the American canon?
On the Work of Gwendolyn Brooks:
Some years after publishing "We Real Cool" in a normal text format, Brooks agreed to have her poem published as a broadside. For more information on the role of broadsides in American culture, see the Introduction to the Printed Ephemera Collection at the Library of Congress's American Memory Site. (Particularly useful is the explanation on The Popularity of Broadsides; it is also useful to notice the types of subjects treated in broadside form.) You can also read about the organization that published the Brooks broadside, Broadside Press Publications Detroit, Michigan. Why do you think Brooks agreed to this particular form of republication? For information on which to base your reflections, you might wish to read: An Appreciation: Dudley F. Randall,1914-2000 With Broadside Press, he helped black literature in America flourish, James D. Sullivan's commentaries on Modern American Poetry's We Real Cool Page; Gwendolyn Brooks at Africana.Com. Visit the Academy of Americans site if you would like to hear Brooks read "We Real Cool."
On the Work of Robert Frost:
The quotes below will give you a "taste" of some of the ways Frost has been described--and defined as a distinctively American writer--by literary critics. (He was also regarded in this light by the general public. Consider the fact that his face was put on a stamp.) Read the quotes and then explore resources provided in the links below as a way of developing a hypothesis about what elements in Frost seem to have identified him as American. (Do you agree?)
" Frost spoke to a generation that had long left the farm to a people who clustered increasingly around large cities, who more and more in homes and at their work accepted the mechanization of existence. But they kept brighter vision of rural life; they hankered for what they believed were the simplicities and virtues of country living. It is a vision that has one of the strongest holds on the imaginations and fancy of the urban American. It goes back to some Adamic dream -- to a Garden of Eden before the fall .... He fascinated Americans because he was in their eyes what they, in so many moments, wanted to be: one who lived in the 20th century but was not of it." -- Thomas Lask, "A Poet of Rural Spirit, The New York Times, January 30, 1963
"Beneath, and not very far beneath, Frost's posture of religious and political orthodoxy there is a hard skepticism. It is a skepticism about all structured theories of human existence that claim to discover ultimate meanings or offer large comforts. Indeed, an all but ruthless withdrawal of solace is one of the fundamental strategies in the apparently solicitous lyrics that made Frost so popular. Wicked in a way that reminds one of Jane Austen, Frost had a gift for bruising at the very moment he seemed to be caressing." --Irving Howe, "The Poet of Home," The New York Times, October 30, 1977
"Robert Frost stands free and serene and magnificent, for all the world as if he were the George Washington of modern American verse." --Robert Poole, "Books of the Times," The New York Times, 1949
Do a search for "Robert Frost" at The New York Times On the Web.
Do a search for "Robert Frost" at the American Memory site. (Be sure to search for "exact phrase" instead of "match any of these words.")
Robert Frost and The Atlantic Monthly: The First Three Poems and One That Got Away
Robert Frost at Bartleby.Com
Robert Frost and The Atlantic Monthly: The First Three Poems and One That Got Away
Robert Frost at Bartleby.Com
The Robert Frost Web Page
Robert Frost Exhibit at the Academy of American Poets
A Frost Bouquet: Robert Frost, His Family, and the Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature
On the Work of Cathy Song:
Cathy Song Poem
"Spaces We Leave Empty," from The Picture Bride by Cathy Song
Poetry in Motion
Issues of Tradition and Modernity in Korean-American Literature (See also the page on Korean American Art; both pages are part of the Korean American Museum site.)
Glencoe American Literature Resources for Cathy Song
Resources for Picture Bride, the Movie (not related to Song's book of the same title).
In our discussion, we will focus particularly on the following: Frost's "Birches," 1867; Brooks's "kitchenette building," 2661, "We Real Cool," 2661, "The Bean Eaters," 2663, "The Coora Flower," 2665; and Song's "Lost Sister," 2810.
Thursday, April 19 : No Class. Use this time to
develop a serious plan for the texts, resources, and hypotheses that will form
the basis of your final project.
: No Class. Use this time to develop a serious plan for the texts, resources, and hypotheses that will form the basis of your final project.
Tuesday, April 24:
"Richard bent to kiss an averted face but his son, sinewy, turned and with wet cheeks embraced him and gave him a kiss, on the lips, passionate as a woman's. In his father's ear he moaned one word, the crucial, intelligent word: 'Why?'" John Updike, "Separating"
"Whenever she had to warn us about life, my mother told stories like this one, a story to grow up on. She tested our strength to establish realities. Those in the emigrant generations who could not reassert brute survival died young and far from home. Those of us in the first American generations have had to figure out how the invisible world of the emigrants build around our childhoods fits in solid America." Maxine Hong Kingston, No Name Woman.
can't appreciate these quilts!' She said. 'She's probably be backward enough to put them
to everyday use.'
'I reckon she would,' I said. 'God knows I been saving 'em for long enough with nobody using 'em. I hope she will!' I didn't want to bringup how I had offered Dee (Wangero) a quilt when she went away to college. Then she had told me they were old-fashioned, out of style.
''But they're priceless!" she was saying now…" Alice Walker, "Everyday Use"
Reading Due: Updike's "Separating," 2434; Kingston's "No Name Woman," 2513; and Walker's "Everyday Use," 2523.
Log Due: Are the questions
raised by twentieth century American literature similar or different from those
raised by earlier writers? Are the answers the same?
Are the questions raised by twentieth century American literature similar or different from those raised by earlier writers? Are the answers the same?To read an explanation of this question and post your answer, visit Blackboard.com.
Proposals Due: No later than noon on Wednesday, April 25, submit a plan for your final project to the Discussion Board at Blackboard.com.. If you wish, you may also include a draft but if you send a draft a plan also needs to be submitted. Here are the main questions you should answer in your plan:
1. What element of the American identity or what theme in American literature in life will form the basis for your investigation?
2. What three texts (from three different periods of literature) will you analyse in your essay?
3. How would you explain the way each of these works contributes to our understanding of the theme or question that is your focus?
4. Do these texts seem to offer similar answers or different ones, and how would you account for those similarities or differences? Do changes reflect the different situations of the authors, the different periods in which they were writing, or something else? Do similarities tell us anything about the nature of American literature and culture?
5. Do you think these texts contribute anything important to our understanding of what it means to be--and live as--Americans? Do they contribute anything to our understanding of the role literature plays in our culture?
To write a top-level analysis, you should be prepared to write a clear analysis of each work and also to bring together your interpretations of those three works in order to make a coherent argument about the nature of American literature and culture. Be sure to go beyond thinking about the ways texts are similar "because" they were written by people of the same gender, or race, or ethnic group.
Ask a real question and don't assume that you know the answer in advance. Is it easy to explain the American identity? Do we simply love money, or search for success? Is it easy to answer the question of how the many become one? If so, there are a couple million Americans who would appreciate hearing the secret. If you treat these questions as REAL questions that don't necessarily have easy answers, you will learn more from this project and have something more worthwhile to pass on to your reader.
The purpose of scholarship is to go beyond the known and easily understood, but that is difficult. So here are several tactics you could employ to be sure that you stretch in this project.
Always be suspicious of "simple" answers. If you find yourself saying that a particular author "just tells us to follow our dreams," then you may be missing something. Remember that Melville admired Hawthorne because". You may be witched by his sunlight,--transported by the bright gildings in the skies he builds over you;--but there is the blackness of darkness beyond." (See The Search for an American Voice: What is this American Literature? Similarly, even though William Dean Howells became (in)famous for urging American writers "to concern themselves with the more smiling aspects of life, which are the more American," almost all of Howells' own works focus on the problems of his day. Why not let yourself be guided by the advice of Lionel Trilling, a well-known and sometimes now disregarded literary critic who once described literature as "the human activity that takes the fullest and most precise account of variousness, possibility, complexity, and difficulty." (For a discussion of Trilling's theories, see "The Last Great Critic," The Atlantic Online, July 2000.)
You can force yourself to stretch by choosing to include a writer we have not already discussed at length in this courses. For example, you could choose to include Walt Whitman, Willa Cather, Edith Wharton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, or James Baldwin. (If you are planning to include an unfamiliar writer, be sure to consult with me so that I can offer you some additional resources for your work.)
You could add an additional dimension to your essay by writing it as a response to a statement on what it means to be an American (for example, by agreeing or disagreeing with a writer such as Crevecoeur or Tocqueveille), although you need not do so.
If you wanted to take on an even thornier topic, you could write your essay as a response to the argument of one nineteenth, twentieth, or twenty-first century critic on what should be included in the American canon. YOU NEED NOT TAKE THIS APPROACH TO YOUR PAPER. It is simply offered as an option for those who would like to take part in the debate over the canon.
Reading Due: Preview the Final Project Plans posted at the Blackboard Forum.
In Class: Workshop on Final Project
Project Planning and Revision Workshop
Discussion: How do you picture America and Americans?
A Collection of Images Representing the American Identity;
What does the American literary tradition contribute to our understanding of America and how to live as Americans? A Case Study: "Under the Lion's Paw," by Hamlin Garland.
Remember: final projects should be put in the box marked "Professor Knoles" in the Department of English Office, Founders, by noon on Tuesday, May 8. Be sure to include the following: 1) your name; 2) a list of the grades you received on your previous projects; 3) all drafts and note you used in preparing this project.