Teaching the Literatures of Early America

By Johnson, Vernetta | Style, Winter 2000 | Go to article overview

Teaching the Literatures of Early America


Johnson, Vernetta, Style


Carla Mulford, ed. Teaching the Literatures of Early America. New York: Modern Language Association, 1999. xii + 402 pp. $40 cloth; $22 paper.

Fulfilling its professional responsibility to prepare and showcase enlightened scholars, especially those freshly arriving in the literary studies profession, the Modern Language Association has established a series of resource books entitled Options for Teaching. Begun in 1975, the series targets literary categories in areas of composition, film studies, oral traditions, and contemporary theory. The concentration on specialized literary topics furnishes instructors with opportunities for deeper, more diverse study in the increasingly competitive arena of academic hiring, promotion, and tenure.

The fifteenth volume of the series highlights an area of American literature receiving renewed attention from literary critics. Contemporary critical approaches to literature and history addressing issues of race, class, and gender have prompted educators to revise their definitions, portrayals, and understanding of the early years of North America after European settlement and the literature that describes it. This reexamination of America's founding years entails challenging the version of American history often depicted in traditional early-American studies. Consequently, instructors are expanding, replacing, supplementing longstanding mythologies embedded in this literature that traces the development of the United States, its relationship to other North American countries, and its interaction with indigenous peoples and with non-English colonists.

For decades, educators have struggled with defining the words "literature" and "America." These two terms become even more enigmatic when they converge in a course that explores the body of literature recognized as documenting the creation of a nation. Students have been overeducated in the literature that records the explorations of Columbus, the establishment of the Puritans at Plymouth Plantation, and the subsequent colonization of the "uncivilized, barbarous Indians" that led to the emergence of the "founding fathers." The recent confirmation, however, of Thomas Jefferson's romantic involvement with his slave Sally Hemmings attests that the formation of the United States was not the simple, linear progression from discovery to nationhood often presented in American literature. These documented interactions also counter the projection of a superior European race that was responsible for elevating the subhuman ideas and customs of native North Americans.

Confronting these complex exchanges in colonial culture, literary scholars are now exploring works that span the spectrum of North American colonial writing. While editor Carla Mulford admits that Teaching the Literature of Early America does not reflect "the full range" of colonial writing, she asserts that the text expands the present scope, definitions, and categories of early American literature. For example, the collection includes the territory of the Caribbean islands and presentday Canada. In addition, it addresses literary genres beyond traditional classifications of poetry, fiction, and autobiography. Therefore, the collection's portrayal of early America is more representative of the early American perioda period when society lacked the rigid geographical boundaries, literary classifications, and cultural divisions facilitated by the formation of the United States of America.

This collection combats presentism by supplying instructors with the methods and resources required to expose students to the abundant quantity of early American literature and to situate them in the multifaceted culture of colonial times. A number of literary educators have been introducing students to the various literary works represented by Jesuit captivity narratives, female Spanish explorers, Native American narrative forms, and also to the concept of the social role of saloons and clubs in British colonies. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Teaching the Literatures of Early America
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.