Ashley Elizabeth Bashaw
Introduces American culture through a careful reading of a variety of representative texts in their historical contexts.
English 250 A: Introduction to American Literature “American Cartography”
This course aims to introduce students to the study of “American Literature,” including some of its major writers, modes, and themes. To work toward this aim, students will approach American literature through the course theme of “American Cartography.”
The production of maps, their physicality, and the acts of referring to or reading maps all play a critical role in the American cultural landscape, both past and present. Consequently, in this course we will understand and utilize cartography as both a practical approach to literature and an example of literature. Beginning with the theories and practice of cartography requires that we question what is meant by “literature” and asks students to expand their close-reading practices to include maps from a variety of disciplines (the medical sciences, geography, literature, etc.). With this approach, we will question what “American” means in regards to national borders, as it describes literature, as well as what “American” means as it is attached to bodies, communities, and identities. Some key questions we will use to guide our thinking include: who creates maps and why? What spaces, bodies, objects, and communities are objects of cartographical practice, how and why? Who or what eludes mapping, and what is at stake in these elusions? How are maps read, and what exactly is involved in reading a map? What is at stake in a reading of American literature for its linkages to the theories and practices of American cartography?
Throughout this course we will use literature to hone our close reading skills, practice our composition, and improve upon our argumentation. Students will be evaluated based on reading quizzes, a midterm exam, and a final project that applies our course work with American cartography to a contemporary space, piece of literature, community, etc. In addition, I will assign discussion questions and reflective in-class writing whenever necessary to support critical reading, thinking, and writing.
Required Course Texts: Harriet Jacobs: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861) ISBN: 0140437959 Rebecca Harding Davis: Life in the Iron Mills (1861) ISBN: 0935312390 Ralph Ellison: Invisible Man (1952) ISBN: 0141184426 Jack Kerouac: On the Road (1957) ISBN: 0142437255 Course Pack (see below)
Course Pack: In addition to the required course texts listed above, we will utilize a course pack* that will include a variety of maps with different aims and modes, a selection of essays from the history of cartography, Thoreau’s “Walking,” Emerson’s “Nature,” “Chief Seattle’s Speech,” selections from Riis’s How the Other Half Lives, Whitman’s “Song of Myself” and Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.”
*The course pack is available at the Ave Copy Center.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Class assignments and grading