Table of Contents
- Section 1: Colonial America’s Literary Beginnings
- Section 2: Native American Contact Zones
- Section 3: Revolution, Liberty, & Founding Figures
- Section 4: The Age of Reform
- Section 5: Slave Narratives
About this Anthology
This anthology was made possible by a grant from Challenge Florida: Open Access Grant etc. by John Raible, Aimee Denoyelles and Penny Beile at the University of Central Florida.
This anthology is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license, except where otherwise noted
I owe huge thanks to John Raible, my Instructional Designer, for his patience and guidance while I worked on this project, as well as his steady encouragement for me to explore open-access resources. John, Aimee Denoyelles, and Penny Beile were the ones who made this project happen, and I owe them for including me, and for all of their hard work and support. I want to give special thanks to my former students Meleena Gil and Samantha Steiner for their ideas about how to make this open-access resource more useful and engaging for students. Thanks also to Chrishawn Speller (Seminole State College) for her time, expertise, and valuable feedback. I am especially grateful to my UCF colleagues Kathy Hohenleitner, who has always generously shared her resources, and to Lisa Logan, for her feedback and all the support she has given me over the years; thank you to both of you for showing me the way.
Textbook cover uses Thomas Cole’s Kaaterskill Falls (1826)
General Structure & Ways to Use this Anthology
This anthology offers a survey of the American literary landscape from America’s “Beginnings” to the Civil War. It is by no means exhaustive. There are brief introductions to several of the authors featured in these sections, and discussion questions in several areas as well. The textual introductions do not include a great deal of biographical material; instead, I have used them to provide a frame that I hope will help students to navigate from. Embedded discussion questions could easily be used as open-ended exam questions or as essay prompts. Some are also invitations for students to make intertextual connections, or to consider how the literary landscape changes from its “beginnings” to the Civil War.
In some areas, I have embedded videos from Annenberg Learner, which is an invaluable resource whether you are teaching online or face-to-face. I have used their videos with students in both modalities, and the students always comment on how helpful they find this material. Internet access is required to view videos and links to external websites.
One challenge in using open-access sources like those collected here is that these texts do not contain as many footnotes as students typically rely on when they encounter “old” literature. While this may initially prove challenging, I also see it as an opportunity for students to become more, rather than less, engaged with American literature produced before 1865. Inviting students to ask questions about the texts and their cultural and historical moments creates opportunities for them to conduct research that they might not otherwise engage in. Instructors could provide a list of “curiosities” for students to conduct and present research on, or, students could be encouraged to follow their own lines of inquiry.
Some of the texts have been excerpted, but in many cases, I have left more rather than less material so that instructors can use the pieces that work best for them and their course objectives. For example, these are the objectives that I currently use in my American Literature I course at the University of Central Florida:
- Students will become familiar with literature produced in the United States from the colonial period through the mid-nineteenth century
- Students will explore a variety of texts that show how early Americans viewed and responded to the various events of their day,
- Students will consider how these writers try to make sense of their world and their roles within it,
- Students will consider how these texts reflect a constantly-evolving definition of what counts as “America” and what it means to be an American
I have grouped the materials in ways that work for me right now, but many of the readings included here easily fit other categories. For example, some instructors might prefer to situate the readings around themes like “Religion & Spirituality” or “Utopian Communities,” while other clusters might focus on gender, race and ethnicity, or social class. Others might begin with the Native American readings and then move chronologically rather than thematically. One colleague suggested moving the slave narratives into the section on “Revolution, Liberty, & Founding Figures.” Any of these approaches will work depending on what particular student-learning outcomes each instructor has. At the end of the semester, it might even be productive to invite students to weigh in on these questions. If nothing else, it might prompt them to think differently about how literary canons work, as well as the kinds of choices editors make when putting together the print anthologies that students are accustomed to using.
This anthology is not, by any means, complete. There is a lot of room for it to grow. There are many other texts I could (and will) use in my future classes. Rather than seeing this anthology as a static text, I see it as full of possibilities for me and my students, and my hope is that others can use it as a springboard for more robust conversations about early American texts and how they connect to our ever-evolving ideas about what it means to be American today.