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ENGL.2820: American Literary Traditions

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river and men in a canoe
The Blue Boat by Winslow Homer,
used under
Artstor Terms and Conditions

ENGL.2820: American Literary Traditions

Welcome to Dr. Mitchell's course: American Literary Traditions.

This course is a survey of American Literary history from early contact between Native American populations and European colonists through contemporary American writing.

By definition, a literature "survey course" such as this one is meant to be inclusive—a daunting task considering the number of books published in the United States since the seventeenth century. This class is designed to be as inclusive as possible, and it will demand that students read a large number of texts. As such, it will seek to encourage students to see and form connections, as well as question connections others have claimed as "obvious." 

In short, though it will be primarily a reading course, it will require a great deal of thought, and each student needs to think of himself or herself as an intellectual. To help us get started in the process of connecting, the course will undertake to define the major periods or styles or literary movements often used to describe American writing from the 17th century to the Present:

  • Colonial Literature
  • Romanticism
  • Realism
  • Naturalism
  • Modernism
  • Postmodernism.

These broad headings will be challenged and redefined as we consider not just the canonical texts that generally define these terms but also texts by ethnic minorities, women, and others sometimes considered as less or even non-literary. By the end of the term, students should have a grasp of these terms as well as be able to question their validity.