“What, then, is the American, this new man?”
When the French settler St. John de Crèvecoeur asked himself that question, he wasn’t living in the United States. He was living in what was then called British North America, and the first Fourth of July was years in the future. When it did arrive, it arrived bearing a document, the Declaration of Independence, which answered the question officially. But some other, unofficial documents have provided and are still providing the new men (and women!) with new words to help them ask their questions.
That body of words makes up what’s called American literature. It’s powerful in its own right, and it’ll also teach you interesting things about yourself, the country you live in, and the words you’ve been thinking with. The American words we read this semester will be provided by a dozen or so English-language authors from the seventeenth century to the twenty-first.
Text: The Norton Anthology of American Literature, shorter ninth edition (two volumes).
Assignments: four five-page papers, midterm and final.