The Americas: Course Information

This course transcends the traditional and arbitrary distinction that separates North and South American literatures.  The Americas emerge not as a passive colonial object but as an active historical and aesthetic agent.  Emanating from what might be called the geographical site of modernity, American literature is characterized by unprecedented diversity and innovation.  In addition to classic American novels, short stories, and poetry, the following multicultural curriculum features genres ranging from creation myths and exploration accounts to slave narratives and Native American autobiographies.

Syllabus: Fall Semester

I. New World Myths of Origin

  • Popul Vuh (excerpts) and Navajo creation myths
  • Garcilaso El Inca de la Vega, Royal Chronicles
  • Bartolomé de la Casas, Tears of the Indians (excerpts)
  • New York Excursion: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

II. European Myths of Origin

  • Exploration Accounts
  • Christopher Columbus, Journal excerpts
  • Amerigo Vespucci, Mundus Novus
  • William Shakespeare, The Tempest

III. The Colonial Period in South America

  • Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, selected poems and prose

IV. The Colonial Period in North America

  • Anne Bradstreet, selected poems
  • Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Hope Leslie
  • Puritan Writings
  • William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation (excerpts)
  • Mary Rowlandson, "Narrative of Captivity and Restoration"
  • Cotton Mather, The Wonders of the Invisible World (excerpts)
  • Jonathan Edwards, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

V. Slavery in the Americas

  • Phillis Wheatley, poems
  • Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by Himself

VI. Enlightenment in American Narratives of Liberty

  • Enlightenment Writings
  • Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence and the Autobiography
  • Benjamin Franklin, the Autobiography
  • Charles Brockden Brown, Wieland
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne, "My Kinsman, Major Molineux"
  • Herman Melville, "Benito Cereno"
  • William Apess, A Son of the Forest
  • Simón Bolivar, letters
  • Andrés Bello, "Ode to Tropical Agriculture" and "Orthography in America"

Syllabus: Spring Semester

I. Fiction in the New American Republics

  • Jose Martí, "Nuestra America"
  • Esteban Echeverría, "El Matadero"
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance
  • Edgar Allan Poe, stories

II. Slavery in the Americas

  • Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
  • Harriet Jacobs, "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl"
  • Abraham Lincoln, "A House Divided"

III. Poetry of the Americas

  • Rubén Darío and Jose Martí , selected poetry
  • Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
  • Emily Dickinson, selected poems

IV. Anticipating the Modern

  • W. E. B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk
  • Machado de Assis, Dom Casmurro

V. Negritude and Modernism

  • Modernism Resources
  • Harlem Renaissance Resources
  • poetry and prose by Claude McKay, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, others
  • T. S. Eliot, "The Waste Land"
  • Pablo Neruda, "The Heights of Macchu Picchu"
  • William Faulkner, "The Bear"

VI. "The Boom"

  • Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel García Márquez, and Julio Cortázar, selected stories