Just Teach One

Capping the Atlantic Survey

The History Constantius and Pulchera Blog entry


Cristobal Silva

Columbia University

I felt a bit apprehensive when I agreed to schedule one full day of my early American literature survey to this project, but the text and discussion it produced turned out to fit beautifully with the broader aims of the course.  It’s a testament to Duncan’s and Ed’s scholarly instincts that the first two texts they’ve chosen for Teach One are quite timely, and speak to recent developments in the field.

I have been revising my approach to the survey over the past decade along a trajectory that is likely familiar to others.  The course, now called “Literatures of Colonial America” (rather than “Early American Literature”) is designed to help students consider the broad range of narrative forms through which seventeenth and eighteenth-century inhabitants of the Atlantic world related colonial experiences.  No longer a history of nation formation, I’ve supplanted the teleological narrative of U.S. literary history that ranged from Puritanism to the American Revolution in favor of an increasingly fragmented series of narratives that encompass hemispheric—and particularly Caribbean—relations.  Furthermore, I’ve replaced anthologies with digital resources (EEBO, ECCO, Evans) and standalone modern reprints.  If none of the texts on this semester’s syllabus dealt explicitly with the politics of the American Revolution, I hoped that by the end of the semester, students could speak cogently about the relations between narrative form, the enlightenment, and the politics of race, labor, and gender in the eighteenth century. (more…)

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