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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Douglass M Furrh
ENGL 250
Seattle Campus

American Literature

Introduces American culture through a careful reading of a variety of representative texts in their historical contexts.

Class description

English 250 is a survey course that focuses on the major writers, modes, and themes in American literature and in this course we will be focusing on many of the defining texts of the nineteenth-century. We will be looking at the literature of the early Republic through the nineteenth century and the socio-economic, ideological and historical forces shaping the literary productions of the period. Republicanism in the words of Abraham Lincoln was the “political religion” of the United States so that America was a virtual echo chamber of republican assumptions and values. One of the consequences of the power of republicanism to shape American consciousness was that the ideological assumptions were reproduced throughout the literature affecting characterization, narrative structure, plot, theme and setting. And certainly one of the most resonant narrative structures to emerge out of the American Renaissance, foundational to republican ideology, is the Romantic archetype who emerges from “poverty and obscurity,” from the margins of society to achieve “a state of affluence and some degree of reputation in the world” (Franklin 3). We will focus on the major works of the nineteenth century in order to hone the requisite skills necessary for successful literary interpretation. Major texts will include Melville's Piazza Tales, Emerson's essays, Fuller's Summer on the Lakes, The Awakening and Into the Wild.

With these texts in mind we will accomplish the following goals: (1) construct an interpretive framework with which we will conduct effective and informed analyses of the primary texts in question; (2) investigate the larger cultural ramifications that these texts as a group have had on the American imagination and consciousness; (3) formulate complex arguments concerning these writings; (4) bring to bear scholarly essays on specific primary texts in order to see how scholars have dealt with these texts and to broaden our own understanding of and relationship with the ideas expressed within; (5) and finally and ideally begin to reshape, re-imagine and deepen our own understanding of what America means.

With these texts in mind we will accomplish the following goals: (1) construct an interpretive framework with which we will conduct effective and informed analyses of the primary texts in question; (2) investigate the larger cultural ramifications that these texts as a group have had on the American imagination and consciousness; (3) formulate complex arguments concerning these writings; (4) bring to bear scholarly essays on specific primary texts in order to see how scholars have dealt with these texts and to broaden our own understanding of and relationship with the ideas expressed within; (5) and finally and ideally begin to reshape, re-imagine and deepen our own understanding of what America means.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Douglass M Furrh
Date: 01/01/2009