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ENGL431 American Literature: Revolution to Civil War

E pluribus unum or “out of many, one” has long served as the unofficial motto of the United States. In 1776, the American experiment in democracy was an improbable venture, and the Civil War (1861-1865) soon tested the unity of the young Republic. This discussion-based class charts the emergence and development of American literature and culture from the tumultuous era of settler-colonialism and continental expansion to the rise of North-South sectional strife over slavery. Often excluded from this founding vision of “We, the people,” Indigenous, African American, and women writers sought to imagine “America” otherwise and challenge the foundational narrative of U.S. exceptionalism. They faced some of the same questions that we ask today of an increasingly divided nation: What is America? Who is an American?

We will read a wide range of literary genres from this period of nation building, including the slave narrative, poetry, novels, short stories, autobiography, sensational fiction, essays, antislavery polemics, and speeches. In our readings, we will ask, among other things, how these writers, activists, and thinkers changed peoples’ ideas about themselves, sent people to war, and built or broke down ideas about “America,” race, gender, and class.

0101 - Edlie Wong

Schedule of Classes
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