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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

David T Holmberg
ENGL 352
Seattle Campus

American Literature: The Early Nation

Conflicting visions of the national destiny and the individual identity in the early years of America's nationhood. Works by Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, and such other writers as Poe, Cooper, Irving, Whitman, Dickinson, and Douglass.

Class description

During the early national period of American history and literature, sometimes referred to as the “antebellum” or pre-Civil War era, writers grappled with the role literature would play in the still new nation. Of particular concern in this class will be the ways in which authors of the first half of the nineteenth century attempted to self-consciously articulate their own sense of a national, American identity in the face of the social and cultural pressures of westward expansion, slavery, colonization, Indian removal, Manifest Destiny, and the beginnings of the industrial revolution. American authors reacted to the unsettled nature of the new democracy with an astonishing mix of responses, from the hallucinatory poetry of Edgar Allan Poe to the meticulous descriptions of nature in Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. By focusing on American literature of the early national period, we will explore a time in which different visions of the nation and national identity vigorously competed, with the diversity of the literature of this period reflecting the heterogeneity of the nation at this moment in history.

Our primary authors are likely to include Herman Melville, Frederick Douglass, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, John Rollin Ridge, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rebecca Harding Davis, Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry David Thoreau, and Emily Dickinson. We will also draw on a number of other archival and secondary materials, including music, paintings, and visual culture from the period as well as more recent secondary criticism. Grading will be based on participation in discussion, weekly online discussion board postings, reading quizzes, group presentations and projects, and two essays.

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 David T Holmberg
Date: 11/01/2012