Monday, December 14, 2009

Early American Lit! Oh My!

Emily Dickinson doesn't look like she's having nearly as much fun as my family at the moment. While I'm taking a minute to blog, the kids are rolling up red velvet cookies, glazing lemon cookies, and coating truffles in milk and white chocolate. The baby and I are so hyped up on sugar, he's bouncing off the proverbial walls.

I announced on Twitter a while ago that I'm teaching an Early American Literature class online for the Spring semester. I rarely get to add a new class to my repertoire. Community and career-college profs are generally slaves to freshman composition, but I have a crop of new stuff to wallow in in the coming months.

Admittedly, early American lit is sooooo not my thing. I'm much more of a contemporary girl, but I've done my fair bit of studying the old stuff, too. And I should mentioned that I've liked quite a few select authors from before 1865. When I found out I'd be teaching this class, I went mining the internets for inspiration and to jog my memory in regards to what I should teach. Alas, here is the reading list (authors) for the course:

  • Anne Bradstreet
  • Mary Rowlandson
  • Jonathan Edwards
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Washington Irving
  • Edgar Allen Poe
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Henry David Thoreau
  • Emily Dickinson
  • Frederick Douglass
  • Harriet Jacobs/Linda Brent

We'll be reading short selections and excerpts from these authors' most famous works. I also wanted to them to read two longer selections, so I've chosen The Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne, and one of my favorite books of all time, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs (also named Linda Brent). I would've preferred something a little more unexpected than Scarlet Letter, but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what else to choose at the moment. I need to brush up on my House of the Seven Gables if I want to use it in the future.

I'm working up my plans and written lectures and all that good stuff, and I'm actually really excited to hear what my students have to say about this good stuff. I suspect Poe will be a fave, as will Slave Girl.

I can't believe it's been a week since I blogged. End-of-semester grading is killin' me. 'Nuff said.

I'll be back to the blogosphere soon. See ya!


  1. Love this! It was probably one of my favorite subjects in my undergrad! Good luck! Have fun with it!

  2. Sounds wonderful! It's always such a pleasure to teach an upper level lit course after slaving away at the lower level comp courses!

    I'm teaching online for the first time in the spring -- a comp course, and Women's Lit. Any advice on teaching a successful online course? I don't know how to recreate lectures online in an engaging way.

  3. Red velvet cookies?!?! Recipes please (email me: astripedarmchairATgmailDOTcom)! I read House of Seven Gables this time last year and loooved it. I loved Scarlet Letter too, but I had to read it back in high school. At least you're not making them read Walden (had to read that in hs too-Thoreau was such a twit!). :D Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl has been on my TBR list forever.

  4. Sounds like it will be a great class!


  5. I think I read the Harriet Jacobs at least three times in school. Twice as an undergrad and then again when I got my first Masters (in American Studies). It is a great book.

    I was hoping I would see some more obscure writers on the list like Susanna Rowson, Charles Brockden Brown, and Tabitha Gilman Tenney. There are so many bloggers who eat up British Lit from this period, it would be nice if a publisher made an effort to market these ye olde American writers. I'm not saying they will become Austen-popular. Hmm, wait a minute, I have a blog, I suppose I could do my bit...

  6. That sounds like fun, and a great change of pace. Congrats!

  7. Congratulations on scoring a new class to teach! I imagine you're right - Poe will be a favorite. My son loves his work.

  8. First, the baking sounds deeeeelicious. Mmmmm lemon cookies! Second, I recommend having them read Hawthorne's Rappaccini's Daughter. It's one that always stayed with me from my American Lit class.

  9. Sounds like a fun class! :)

  10. Good luck with your class! I took a class almost exactly like that a few semesters ago.Anne Bradstreet was my favorite from that time. What book are you going to use?

    One favor: no Ben Franklin. I almost killed myself trying to read that. ;)

  11. I'm with Eva...I want to know more about the cookies! I've had red velvet cake and cupcakes, but not cookies.

  12. Miss Remmers, I can't say it was one of my fave subjects, but I remember more than I thought I would. Let me know if you have any ideas along the way.

    Pilgrim Soul, it is a pleasure isn't it? I'm so excited! Advice for teaching an online course: make the work and grading as streamlined for yourself as possible. Utilize built-in quiz features that will automatically grade for you and supplement with thoughtful discussion questions and other stuff to help the students grasp the material. I've had to work on this myself--the streamlining that is. As for lectures, I type up the really important stuff and supplement with websites that are insightful and helpful.

    OH, Eva! I hated Walden. I just couldn't do that to them. Nope, nope nope! I'll have to hurry up with Seven Gables!

    Thanks, Lezlie!

    Thomas, I'm all for obscure writers, but I've not studied those folks myself, so it would involve a lot of reading time I don't have before next term. However, it is a long term goal to diversify the reading list a bit. I have some Early Americanist buddies that I'm sure would recommend some of the same folks you've mentioned here. Thanks for stopping by!

    Thanks, April!

    Kathy, I love Poe myself, but it's been a ridiculously long time since I've read any of his stuff. I'll be revisiting, that's for sure!

    Thanks, Alayne! I haven't read that one, but I'll jump on it.

    Thanks, Kailana!

    Vasilly, I loathe Ben Franklin myself, so it's a selfish decision not to drag them through too much of his muck! lol

    Softdrink, I'll put that in my next post. :)

  13. I love Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl too - Harriet Jacobs was all brave and intelligent. Sigh.

    But, blech, The Scarlet Letter. I always wonder if I'd have liked it had I read it before learning anything about Nathaniel Hawthorne. The first thing I ever learned about him was that he said women shouldn't write, and women writers should have their faces deeply scarified with an oyster shell. (Which if I were Louisa May Alcott would have hurt my feelings.)

    Are you giving them Bartleby the Scrivener? Or was that after 1865? I love that story.

  14. Jenny, Hawthorne's views are a big downer. I had no idea about that part of it when I read Scarlet Letter, though. The first time I "faked it" in high school, and then when I hit college I actually read the whole book and all in one sitting, too! Loved it the second time.


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