English 644

ENGL 644

Catalog Entry

English 644: Studies in American Literature I (to 1861)
Three hours lecture (3).

Study of selected authors and important topics of American literature prior to 1861. With a different subheading, may be taken twice for credit.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

The specific content varies with each offering of the course, depending on the particular topic ("subheading") designated by the instructor. Designated topic focus on significant scholarly issues and concerns relevant to American literature before 1861. Such topics have, in the past, included "Conquering the Frontier"; "A Study of the Poems of Edward Taylor, Phillis Wheatley, Edgar Allen Poe, and Emily Dickinson"; and "The Ethos of the Massachusetts Bay Puritans."

Close reading of primary texts assigned is required along with extensive reading in secondary texts, including those providing historical, cultural, social and political backgrounds and contexts as well as those providing a variety of critical and theoretical approaches to the literature of the period.


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

The course is conducted as a seminar, directed by a member of the English Department's graduate faculty with expertise in American Literature before 1861. The seminar meets weekly. These meetings may be formally structured or rather free flowing, but they do include extended presentations by seminar participants on the assigned readings, offering their own interpretations and critical analyses as well as raising questions, concerns and/or problems posed by the readings. During these presentations other seminar members are actively involved. Other activities during seminar meetings might include reviewing drafts of papers and oral presentation of final papers. While seminar meetings afford students the opportunity to take responsibility for much of their learning and to engage both with their peers and with the instructor in the kind of scholarly discourse characteristic of the discipline, the greatest emphasis is on independent study and research done outside the classroom.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

The primary goals of the course are for graduate students to study intensively the particular literary texts, modes and traditions of American literature before 1861; to engage in the kinds of scholarly research, writing and discourse characteristic of the discipline; and to develop and practice the  skills requisite for advanced literary studies in general and for such study of American Literature prior to 1861 in particular. Graduate students pursuing the Master of Arts degree with a concentration in American literature will investigate topics of special interest, undertake research into such topics, and compose formal, scholarly papers that may become the basis for a thesis.


Assessment Measures

While individual instructors may wish to consider a variety of measures in their final assessment of student achievement in this course (e.g., preparation for and participation during seminar meetings, oral presentations, informal and/or creative writing exercises, quizzes and examinations), the single most important measure is the ability of the student to engage in meaningful independent research, to develop on the basis of that research an original insight into or perspective on a significant scholarly question, and to present that insight or perspective in a formal scholarly paper.


Other Course Information



Review and Approval

March 1999