Connections 20057. Early American Studies
The courses in this connection address America before the 1860s. Grounded in the interdisciplinary field American studies, the connection offers students an opportunity to employ different disciplinary approaches to texts that are often shared across English and history. As Sam Coale notes in his syllabus, “literature has never existed in a vacuum. It is always a product of its particular era, both participating in and criticizing it.”
Questions of interpretation characterize both disciplines in their approaches to the period. Students in the English course read literary texts with close attention to the historical contexts in which they were produced. In the history courses, students learn to interpret a variety of primary sources, including documents produced by and for governments, narratives and diaries written by individuals, newspapers and other periodicals printed between 1750 and 1876. Students are as likely to find themselves listening to or singing folk songs as they are reading novels or learning about electoral politics. Central to each course are questions about the development of the place that came to be called America and interactions among the peoples who encountered each other there.