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American Literature I

From the beginnings to the Civil War

Professor Cyrus Patell

Professor Cyrus Patell

  • Associate Professor, Faculty of Arts & Science, New York University
  • Associate Dean of Humanities, NYU Abu Dhabi
  • Ph.D. 1991 (English and American literature and language), Harvard, A.B 1983 (English and American literature and language), Harvard College.
  • Bio & Publications

About the Course

This course is a survey of American literature and literary history, from the early colonial period to the eve of the Civil War. Our goal will be to acquire a grasp of the canon of American literature as it is typically conceived and the various logics behind its construction.

Key Topics

Topics to be considered include: the rise of “literature” as a discipline unto itself; the meaning of American individualism; the conflict between liberty and equality in American social thought; the mythology of American exceptionalism; the relation between history and cultural mythology; the dialectic of freedom and slavery in American rhetoric; the American obsession with race; the ideology of domesticity and its link to the sentimental; the aesthetics of American romance; the role of biography in literary criticism and historiography; the nature of the “American Renaissance”; what it means to say “NO in thunder!” and why so many American writers seem to say it; deliberative democracy and cosmopolitanism.

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Course Readings

  • The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Seventh Edition, Nina Baym, 2007, Volume A (ISBN-10: 0393927393, ISBN-13: 978-0393927399) & Volume B (ISBN-13: 9780393927405)
  • Edgar Huntly Charles Brockden Brown, 1988, ISBN 0140390626
  • Moby-Dick, 2nd edition, Herman Melville, 2002, ISBN 0393972836
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1982, ISBN-10: 0140390030, ISBN-13: 978-0140390032
  •  The Case for Contamination, Kwame Anthony Appiah, New York Times Magazine, January 1, 2006
  •  English Literature at the American Moment, Barbara Lewalski
  • Ideas, Chapter 1 "Of Ideas in General and their Original" in An Essay on Human Understanding, Book II, John Locke, 2010, ISBN-10: 1154696863, ISBN-13: 978-1154696868
  • Marxism and Literature, Raymond Williams, 1978, ISBN-10: 0198760612, ISBN-13: 978-0198760610



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