Start Here: Course Introduction

This course was run on during the Winter of 2016.  All materials on this WordPress site are now available as a guide for individual study of the authors of the American Renaissance.  While we have no current plans offer the course again in the future, we encourage both the edX community and new learners to continue their engagement with the course and each other via this WordPress site, our social media outlets (listed at the bottom of this page), and the comments on our YouTube channel.

Welcome to the American Renaissance!

Get started with the Course Readings.

After you have completed the readings, view the videos here.

You may also find these videos helpful to begin thinking about the American Renaissance.

One cornerstone of the American Renaissance is its contested relationship to the idea of American Exceptionalism.  This video explores why American Exceptionalism is relevant both for the 19th Century and today.

How does Dartmouth preserve, research, and provide access to the archive of 19th century literary artifacts?  This video conversation with Professor Jed Dobson and Special Collections Librarian Jay Satterfield examines why this access is important and how Dartmouth is moving forward in this effort.

This video explores the significance of genre to an understanding of 19th century American literary text.

Please join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter (#AmRenX) and here below to share your own experience:

When and how did you first begin to read and study American Literature?  What works struck you as particularly powerful?


62 thoughts on “Start Here: Course Introduction

  1. I started with Moby Dick in high school. It put me on the track of finding the meaning of life. I read Moby Dick again in my freshman seminar, Three Great Journeys, with John Lincoln. I didn’t get to the meaning of life then, but Professor Lincoln knew how to teach writing. I just started reading Moby Dick again. Now that I am no longer searching for the meaning of life, the book is a fun read.

    • I could describe Moby-Dick as many things, but “fun read”? Yes, it has humor, but the questions it addresses lie at the foundations of the human mind’s confrontation with the enigma of being

      • Sir,
        I recognized the name Frank Gado from when I was writing when Ingmar Bergman passed away.
        I was reviewing his last film as we got new during its production.
        I downloaded the entire work from Duke Press tonight in the event that you are he.
        if not I still look forward to studying literature with you online.
        Scott Lord,
        Cambridge, Massachusetts.

    • William, I hope you’ll share some of your favorite passages of Moby-Dick with us. I would love to hear about those other two great journeys. Perhaps some of Emerson essays might provoke a similar feeling–he always brings me to the edge of my seat. Welcome to the course!

  2. “As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.” Henry Thoreau – “Walden.” I think “Walden” was one of the first works our class read my freshman year in high school. Of course at 15 years old I don’t think you appreciate such great works. Thankfully, while age isn’t always a precursor to wisdom, I’m glad that in this case it was. I truly appreciate these wonderful writings more now than I ever did as a teenager.

  3. As I recall my earliest exposure, during high school, was to Melville and Thoreau. While in college I believe I read a little Emerson and some Whitman. During my working years I read Cooper, but much more non-fiction and biography. I’m looking forward to this immensely having started now with the Emerson essays and enjoying the simple pleasure of learning.

  4. Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” was my first taste of American Literature. I cherished this book in my childhood and I go back to it every year at Christmas.

  5. My first classic read was Carmilla, by J Sheridan Le Fanu. It can be a little difficult at first to really mesh with older books because of the difference in language, but once you get a feel for the time and the people, it makes the process a lot smoother. Such elegant description makes for a treat you don’t get much these days.

  6. I began reading translation of American novel during my college years. The work struck me most, i think, would be Martin Eden by Jack London. i love his style and narative, also the depth of human mind hidden behind the story.

    • Xixima, Martin Eden is a very special book! I wonder if passages of Melville might produce a similar sense of what you refer to as the depth of the human mind? A late nineteenth century version of this course would have to include some London.

  7. “What we love that we have, but by desire, we bereave ourselves of love” quotes Emerson in his Essay ‘Self-Reliance’. It is this unique doctrine of Self-Rule that got me venture into the realms of American Literature. Slowly and steadily as the magic of the works began to unravel, I was awed by the impression it made on my thoughts, later followed by action-transformation.
    Although most of the transcendentalists have their own unique and interesting perspectives of looking at things, nothing fascinated me more than Emerson’s works. It wouldn’t be wrong if I say that it is Emerson who provided me with the basis of venturing further in American Literature.
    I curiously await this new journey…

  8. I am an American but I grew up in Asia. The schools there did not have any courses about American literature. I started reading books about that literature on my own. I have read “Walden”, parts of “Leaves Of Grass, and other books. In December of 2015, I read “The Scarlet Letter” and “Moby Dick” for my first time, and “Visionary Compacts” by Prof. Pease. I graduated from Dartmouth College in 1968. I enrolled in this course to learn something more about the American Renaissance.


    • Cliff, Looking forward to hearing more about your experiences at Dartmouth and hope that we will make some of our institution’s past come alive for you! We’ll post several chapters of Visionary Compacts once the course launches.

  9. In high school English class, though I likely was reading American literature earlier on my own and in middle school. Books such as “Of Mice and Men” and “The Scarlet Letter” stand out as early memories. “Walden” and “Moby Dick” were also key and certainly struck me as powerful, though not all of my classmates shared my enthusiasm of Thoreau.

    “The Great Gatsby” as well as works by Faulker, Updike, Mailer, Vonnegut, and Steinbeck were studied both in school and at home for summer reading. I’m looking forward to revisiting many of these texts.

  10. I think my first exposure was when I read The Scarlet Letter for my high school English class. Since then I have read many others. Books that have left a particularly strong impression have included Moby Dick, several of Poe’s short stories, several of Cooper’s novels, Uncle Tom’s Cabin and several of Hemingway’s novels. I am sure that I am leaving out others that I cannot come up with at the moment.

    • I would love to know what delights you have discovered in American literature that are not in the self-echoic curricula of the American education industry.

  11. The first American writing I can remember reading were by Mark Twain and Laura Ingalls Wilder. I checked these books out of our grade school’s small library over and over, because they were so exciting and made vast stretches of the country that I had not yet seen seem wide open and full of endless opportunities for adventure. They were so different, from a child reader’s perspective, than the darker adventures found in fairy tales.

  12. I think I was in high school when I came across a book of poems which contained excerpts from different authors. I loved music. It was the time of the Beatles and the “British Invasion.” So, that led me to lyrics and to poetry. I remember an excerpt form Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” on animals – “I think I could turn and live with animals,/ they are so placid and self- contain’d,” &c.- Not only did I empathized with the “message,” but I became mesmerized by the rhythms, the language, and Whitman’s variety of line lengths. After that, I managed to get Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” complete, which just blew my mind.

    Later on, I became acquainted with Emerson and Thoreau, who talked to me about the dignity of the individual, freedom, and our connection with nature. They talked to me about Democracy too.

    That was quite an eye-opener for a Mexican boy living in Mexico City in the 1960s.

  13. Being an avid reader, I’ve crossed paths with American writers throughout my entire life, but, putting aside Dr. Suess and PD Eastman, I think the first books would have been Jack London’s Call of the Wild and Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer. We, of course, read many American authors in high school (Poe being one of my favorites from then).

  14. I read early and easily. Our home was full of books, so I moved seamlessly into grown-up literature from children’s books such as Grimm’s and Andersen’s Fairy Tales, the Oz books, and Hawthorne’s A Wonder Book and Tanglewood Tales. I probably thought of Huck Finn as a children’s story. My first “heavy” book was Moby Dick (as a HS junior). I was not an idea person. I grew up in a rural area and had few peer contacts outside of school. I read to learn how people survived, happily and lovingly, in the real world. I read to learn how people lived, not what to think. In that sense Moby Dick was very scary, as well as being a beautiful work of art.

  15. As a Chinese girl I didn’t read much American literature except Whitman and Hemingway and a few others, not to mention that most American literature I read was translated into Chinese. We never had any systematic introduction to American literature in school. I am currently reading The Great Gatsby and I’m really attracted by Fitzgerald’s way of description.

    Can’t wait to embark on this new journey of literature!

  16. Reading literature from the “American Renaissance” came later in life for me than for most. The earliest work I remember reading was in a Humanities Literature undergraduate course where I studied some of Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.” The thing I love about American literature, from this period and in others, is that there is never one concrete way to study and understand a text. What it means to be an American has certainly changed overtime but I feel like there are many themes that are at our core foundation as a society and they will never go away. They will be bridges for us to connect across time and culture.

  17. I began with literature in high school as well, as it was required at the time. I had to read many classics along with more recent works…and it helped shaped my education on literature.

  18. I first studied American literature in U.S. school grades 6, 7, & 8, and went on to further study American literature in high school, then in two American literature college classes. Most of my studies focused on 19th Century writings starting with Washington Irving (“Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”) and Fenimore Cooper (The Last of the Mohicans). I studied Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s writings, the stories of Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne (The House of the Seven Gables).
    I think my class studied “Transcendentalism” as a religious movement
    with Ralph Waldo Emerson as a central figure of it. Thoreau was mentioned, and we might have read “Civil Disobedience.”
    In my college classes, I think we studied most of the same authors, including Melville, Whitman, and Mark Twain, and others.
    After college, I continued reading American literature on my own. I read a lot of Emerson and Thoreau–both of them influenced my thinking about a philosophy of life.

  19. I am Brazilian and I would love to know more about American culture , I love literature and 19th century fascinates me . I would like to learn more about it .

    • Vanessa, Welcome to the course! We are quite interested in hearing how Brazilians have encountered and read American literature! I hope that you find many interesting aspects of nineteenth-century culture illuminated alongside the literature of the period.

  20. As a self proclaimed bibliophile, I grew up on books. We lived in a fairly secluded area, and I was a shy child, anyway, so you could say books were sort of my form of friendship in my younger years.

    My first obsession with an American author was when I was in elementary school, with Madeline L’Engle. I devoured everything she wrote, with particular fondness for the Wrinkle in Time series. Later, in middle school, I had an English teacher who introduced me to Walt Whitman, with O Captain! My Captain! It was really the first time I’d been taught to read anything while looking for meaning outside the words on the page. This same teacher opened me up to a whole new world of reading – Faulkner, Lee, London, Hawthorne, Miller, Sallinger – many of whom are still my favorites today.

    I’m really looking forward not only to revisiting some of these works, but also to engaging in discussion about them with fellow readers across the globe!

  21. I was born and raised in Brazil, so we don’t have acquaintance with classic Americans books in our public schools. I begin to read translated best-selling novels and then I have moved forward reading more classical works such as Mark Twain’s novels and Poe’s short stories on my high school. I decided to attend the English graduation course at my local university, and then, I started to know a little more of these classic books and I’ve fallen in love with literature. Actually, I am reading two books at the same time: The Stand by Stephen King and Bury My Heart At a Wounded Knee. I know they are completely different books from each other as well as the literature of the ninetieth century, but I’m sure I’m gonna enjoy this course and gather knowledge of this amazing and cultural hundredth.

  22. I first started studying American Literature at St. Olaf College. I read Scarlett Letter and other essays and stories of Hawthorne. I also read Moby Dick. I had a course on the impact of the East on transcendentalism of Emerson, Thoreau, etc. I loved the literature with the exception of the excessive detail about whaling, ships and the creatures. Many times, when I first read the book, I caught myself saying “come on! Give me a break!” This time around I appreciated that he was so thorough. The aspect of religion and society interested me a great deal. The fact of religion being such a negative force up against natural human tendencies such as adultery seemed extreme. It made it easier to imagine that witches were created out of normal people by figureheads and the people and subsequently put to death. The hideousness of the repression of people under society’s or religion’s expectations is something I have pondered often ever since first becoming aware: something literature more than history made me aware of.

  23. Midway through my life’s journey, it’s hard to remember clearly now — but I think that my introduction to American literature began with either Patricia MacLachlan’s Sarah, Plain and Tall or E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web; I forget which one came first. Either way, these books had a profound effect on me — to this day, I think that I love Willa Cather and esteem her above all as my favorite author because of those early books that I read about rural life in America. The existence, struggle and survival of life in such settings — particularly of the pioneers in Willa Cather’s novels– is something that I admire and from which I obtain a sort of nourishment and encouragement. Of course, then came authors such as F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby, of course!), Ernest Hemmingway (the Old man and the sea), and Faulkner (As I Lay Dying) — these books allowed me to appreciate the art of literature. I love American literature — so much that I try to read as much of it as I can. Finally, I’m very grateful for the existence of this course. I look forward to learning a lot as well as sharing the love for this nation’s literature with others!

  24. I started with Red Badge of Courage, about the American Civil War, and the Cremation of Sam McGee, and how one freezing gold miner wanted to have his body disposed of upon his death. -The first book I thought was boring and too wordy and almost turned me off to literature. Later I realized it wa was not factual but made up (and somewhat difficult language for a 14 year old boy). Whereas Sam McGee was funny and had me laughing so hard that I did not want to put it down–I was in tears.

    • Jeffrey, I agree that Crane can be difficult, especially for younger readers. Maybe you’ll have a chance to revisit some of the ideas related to Civil War though Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? Here Twain is both hilarious and deadly serious. We are unfortunately not including Whitman and Melville’s Civil War poetry in the course, but you might find these works of interest.

    • Jeffrey,
      Allow me to make a self-serving recommendation: Drawn from Life, a collection of his stories I edited with an introduction that attempts to explain what Crane was getting at. If you have difficulty finding it, let me know ( and I get a copy for you. Crane is a maddening writer, ruined, like too many American writers by the need to chug out stories to support his spending–in his case, a problem exacerbated by his relationship with Cora, the proprietor of the unlikely Hotel de Dreme [sic]. The parallels with Hemingway are patent. (See Crane’s very early “Killing His Bear.” ]

      Crane died too young (30).

      Are you aware that Conrad credited Rd Badge with teaching him how to write a novel?

  25. Reviewing my junior high and high school reading for this question was enlightening. Clearly I need this course more than I realized! The vast majority of what we read in English class was English literature and not American literature. Was our curriculum strongly influenced by one specific anglophile English teacher or is there something inherently more interesting in 19th century English literature over American literature for teens?

    Looking at the readings for this course plus the writings of the early American republic, it seems that American writing was focused more on freedom & rights and the call to action to exercise those rights than on telling tales. Teens not living under oppressive nobility, a manor house or slavery probably don’t understand how different the American experience was. As a teen it was enough for me to know that slavery had been TERRIBLE and that the North had won and slavery was no more. I really didn’t want to be subjected to ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ like a voyeur to know all the horrible details of man’s inhumanity to man. As an adult I also am not so eager to read the details. As an eco-conscious adult in the 21st century I am not at all eager to read a story about whaling ships or a captain’s particular grudge against a particular whale. I am rooting for the whale.

    In school we read ‘The Scarlet Letter’ and ‘The Last of the Mohicans’ but our teacher stressed that James Fenimore Cooper wasn’t really a good writer and we only read him because there isn’t someone better to represent that time period. We read Mark Twain’s ‘The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras Country’ and found him so very funny; Emily Dickinson and found her so very sad; Poe’s ‘Tell Tale Heart’ and found him so very interesting; O Henry and found him so very clever.

    • Sarah, Thank you for your response! It is interesting to hear that you read more English rather than American literature in secondary school. I enjoyed your comments about Moby-Dick and I am sure that many others in the course will share your sympathies for the whale. I do wish that we were able to include Poe and Dickinson in the course. Looking forward to hearing more from you once the course starts!

    • Despite what Professor Dobson says, I hope you will not let your sympathy for the whale block you from the magnificence pf M-D. The book is not about killing whales; it is about the confrontation with a God who does or does not exist and about how to justify living when we cannot determine God’s/No God’s will.

  26. My first American novel was Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer. But the book that captured my imagination like no other was Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. Living in a completely different culture, knowing about war politics and societal norms of another nation was quite fascinating. Gone with the Wind is my favourite novel, and there is so much that one can learn from this novel. It opens up debates on not just social position of women, and their desire to break through them, or how the Civil War disrupted lives and relationships, even one’s state of mind, but the book brings out issues pertaining to slavery, trade, and love for one’s land.

    Mitchell, through her only literary publication, could deliver such a strong message so beautifully. She makes her female protagonist utter the famous line, “Tomorrow is another day”, reminding the readers to never give up. The optimism that comes with the plot reassures people of how things are never fixed on definite conclusions – that situations do change.

  27. As a Dartmouth English major, one of my most memorable courses was James Cox’s on American biographies, but my close reading in American literature began long before that, when I was in junior high school. My being a Baltimorean was partially responsible for my interest in Edgar Allen Poe, which was strongly abetted by my mother. I would regularly sit in the Poe Room in the Enoch Pratt Central Library and read his stories with a mixture of delight, terror, and excitement over the exotic references to masquerades, Amontillado, plagues, and other sophisticated cultural artifacts embedded in his work. Later, as a participant in the Dartmouth Abroad program in France, I wrote a term paper on Baudelaire’s translations of Poe, which piqued an interest in comparative literature that I would pursue later in graduate school at Princeton.

    But my high school curriculum included such American classics as The Scarlet Letter, Leaves of Grass, and Huckleberry Finn, and on my own I developed a passion for modern and contemporary American novelists, particularly F. Scott Fitzgerald, also piqued by the Baltimore connection (Later, I learned that for one year of elementary school I had attended a school on Lapaix Lane, the road leading to La Paix, the Turnbull family estate, where Scott lived and wrote Tender Is the Night while visiting Zelda at Sheppard Pratt, a short walk through the woods.) I also read Andrew Turnbull’s edition of Fitzgerald’s selected letters, particularly enjoying his sometimes exasperated and witty letters to Scottie.

    Later on, at Dartmouth I expanded my exposure to American literature in the English major and went on to Columbia in English and American literature, concentrating in the modern period. While I thoroughly enjoyed Jim Cox’s lectures, as did myriad students at Dartmouth and elsewhere, in my graduate studies I came to evaluate them more critically than I had as an undergraduate, while still appreciating their performative aspects.

    I’m particularly enjoying a deeper dive into Emerson than I had in high school (via an excerpted version of “Self-Reliance”) or in later years. This is an especially intense interest on my part because of my having subsequently been a student and follower of Vedanta, Buddhism, and Taoism, and having recently joined a Unitarian Universalist parish. I’m finding many passages in Nature and “Self-Reliance” resonating in ways they could not have done in my earlier exposure, particularly to the latter. I find I understand Emerson’s Idealism in ways that resonate with my already established interest in Bishop Berkeley’s phenomenalistic philosophy (strongly influential in the cognitive aspects of Marshall McLuhan’s work), as well as seeing the links with Vedantic thought. The ending of Nature is a revelation, and each time I reread it, it remains an almost transcendent experience. And “Literary Ethics” has helped me better to understand, informed by Susan Cain’s book Quiet, what had led me to studies in literature, psychology, and religion in the first place, and why I am appreciating all the more the opportunity to devote my retirement to returning to them with concentrated attention. Thank you for offering this course, and thanks to Cliff Groen, one of my friends and college classmates enrolled in the course, for calling my attention to it.

    • Jim,

      I had a complex personal/professional relationship with Cox, a brilliant but conflicted mind. If you feel so inclined, I would be most interested in your more critical evaluation. (

  28. I am an Indian. Haven’t read much of classic literature, which I am doing to do. Enrolled in this course, as it had ‘literature’ in it. I always wanted to know or read more of Emerson and wanted to understand why Mark Twain is considered one of the greatest. Seems like the course is the right platform and I can get to know about other authors too. 🙂

  29. I’ve started pretty late, as my first experience of Am. Renaissance author was in my early twenties – when I started to study at English Philology Department. So, I’ve read Emerson’s Nature and Self-reliance first, but it was Melville’s Moby Dick that really got me going. The book intrigued and attracted me. Also, it became my first close-reading experience. Now, I’m writing my MA Thesis on Moby Dick, and I’m hoping to learn more about it on this course.

  30. At the first English class in 9th grade students at Milton were given a Norton reader, which we read throughout the next four years. That volume showed American literature as a subset of English writing—and akin to human evolution in geologic time. But over the years it provided a pretty solid base.
    At Dartmouth, where I majored in Comp Lit, I got interested in African art, including authors who write in English, although it is not their first language. (My thesis compared the plays of Nigerian Wole Soyinka, the first African to win the Nobel Prize, with the theatre of the absurd and Jean Genet.)
    I have been an editor of nonfiction, mainly producing books on art and natural history (, for the past 30 years. I still enjoy reading for pleasure—a habit that began as a better alternative to becoming a juvenile delinquent in order to survive eight years of excruciating boredom in Catholic parochial schools. I am curious to return to this body of work at a different point in American history and in my own life, and look forward to the structure imposed by the course and the discussion.

  31. I have an M.A. in English from the University of Iowa, but I graduated several decades ago. My initial encounter with the American “Romantics” was Walt Whitman. I read Leaves of Grass several times and became quite caught up in “Song of Myself” and “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking.” I read Moby Dick in high school, but didn’t get a good understanding of it until college. That was when I stumbled upon “Bartleby the Scrivener,” which has remained my favorite novella. In this course I look forward to learning about authors I haven’t read before as well as re-encountering those I have, albeit many years ago. I just hope I’m not in over my head!

    • Try Arthur Mervyn (Charles Brockden Brown), Paul Felton (R.H. Dana, sr.) Koningsmarke (an intriguing novel, by James Kirke Paulding, that falls quite short of greatness), The Grandmothers (Glenway Wescott), Because I Was Flesh (Edward Dahlberg). I don’t know where you draw the line between well-known and half-forgotten, but I think Sherwood Anderson is the most undeservedly neglected 20th-century American writer. (WInesburg is fairly well-known, but that was very early. He is at his best (and most complex) in his short stories. (My collection, The Teller’s Tales, has an introduction that has won praise–and been ripped off twice.) His best novel is Poor White. I hope you know Flannery O’Conner and Nathanael West, both influenced by Anderson.

      You might check out Conrad Richter’s The Awakening Land trilogy.

      Of course you are not “in over your head.” Just suck hard on the marrow of the American mind s rendered by its great storytellers. And read EVERYTHING by its two greatest, Melville and Faulkner.

      • Oh, and let me add Barth’s Floating Opera and the series (not collection) Lost in the Funhouse. And Updike’s Rabbit novels brilliantly reflect the America of my generation.

        The best reflection of the failure of American ideality in the first third of the 20th century is Dos Passos’ USA. I rate him much higher than Hemingway.

        OK, Ok, I’ll curb my enthusiasm.

  32. When I was a child, my Mum read “The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn” for me and my sister. Story of a teenage boy who travels city by city to examining and experiencing life. That novel was my first experience of American literature till in high school I read Harriet Beecher Stowe’s master piece “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. I had enjoyed a lot and remembered poor Huckleberry Finn so I read again The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn and realized its story more and more and could comparison these works together.
    Now by this course I can perceive these works in their correct category “American Renaissance”

  33. As a Canadian, I read mostly British literature through high school and didn’t get into American literature until after university. I loved Steinbeck’s, The Grapes of Wrath, Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind…and countless others. I never studied American literature as a course and I am eager to explore the American Renaissance. I found the short discussion on American exceptional fascinating. I never heard it explained that way. I loved the historic perspective.

  34. Hello,

    I am brazilian and I have always been interested in English and its literature, so I decided to study more about it in college. From this moment on, I got in touch with texts from Thomas Jefferson, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short stories and beyond. Even so, I’d like to study those authors more in-depth and enrich myself as a student and a teacher.

  35. We read nothing but American literature in high school. We had a marvelous teacher, as a child she had been one of the Little Rascals – and she used to break into song and dance for the class. But despite her great teaching, I have never gone back to the American classics, and have felt somewhat about them as my British husband does about Dickens. I’m hoping this course will reignite my interest and appreciation of America’s first influential writers, and help me recall my American History as well. I look forward taking another (and more mature) look at the writing in context of the history.

  36. Thank you,

    I grew up in Hamilton, Massachusetts and collected old hardcover copies of New England authors. Our eight grade teacher had a poster with a quote from Emerson, “The only way to have a friend is to be a friend”

    I have began the first week of the course and one of my favorite places to visit here is the cemetery where William Ellery Channing is buried- it is also an State Park That has wild rabbits and wild turkeys, in fact.

    Thank you for allowing me to join the class and I look forward to studying American Literature.
    With great appreciation,
    Scott Lord
    Cambridge Massachusetts.

  37. Good evening, I’m from Brazil and my first contact with american literature happened during my graduation course in English language and there we studied authors like: Anne Bradstreet, Phillis Weatley, Fenomore Cooper, Hawthorne, Melville, Poe, Emily Dickson, Henry James, Mark Twain and other writers.

  38. As a very young child I was appalled by phonics and Dick and Jane; I declared myself a kindergarten drop-out and spent the rest of the year reading Pygmalion, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and To Kill a Mockingbird. I was especially delighted that a fictional character found herself in the same pinch I was with a teacher forbidding her to read the newspaper. Now I will be perfectly frank here, I am certain that I did not understand the nuances of the literature I read, but I loved the structure and the cadence of words. The next year, in second grade, I had a teacher, a pedant of the Dick and Jane school who nearly broke my enthusiasm and certainly slowed my progress. But by the next summer my mother gave me her most prized possession — her copy of Gone With the Wind. Sublime! That summer I could not be removed from the pages of that elegant, sinuous tome. Mitchell instilled in my a love of southern writers — a love that would burn its way through Faulkner, Welty and, of course, my beloved Tennessee Williams. I will refrain from going on, only to know that much to my chagrin (and late Dartmouth English professor Henry Terrie’s woe) I have never been able to acquire a taste for Henry James. But before I close, I just want to reply to Jeffrey Silverman above — I was brought up at the knee of Sam McGee! I adored that funny little poem! When I went to Dartmouth, the cold of the Hanover winter almost slayed me and I thought of Sam McGee in his warm fire. Most recently my darling mother died and I had to wait all day for her ashes, so I pulled up Sam McGee on the computer and that silly little poem got me through. Which says a lot for the healing properties of literature — and God bless Robert Service!

  39. Growing up in Laredo, Texas, on the US/Mexican border in the 1950’s and ’60’s, my first readings in American literature were Mark Twain and Ambrose Bierce. I found the Eastern and Southern writers pushed my way by teachers mostly incomprehensible. Their language and social contexts were so foreign to my experience that I might as well have been reading Russian or Japanese.
    Somehow I got through a long literary training in grad school with an almost Phd. (no dissertation) in Spanish literature with extensive readings in Greek, Latin, medieval Latin, French, Italian, and English literature without reading American authors who were not poets (Eliot, Pound, Stevens), essayists (Christopher Lasch, Joseph Epstein), or academic literary critics. Of course, I read and enjoyed the odd American novel or memoire recommended by a friend (Confederacy of Dunces, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Cotton Goes to Harlem, Duke of Deception, etc.), but I never felt that the American writers like Emerson and Thoreau had much to say to me.
    In 1977, living in Madrid and working on 16th century Spanish poetry in the Biblioteca Nacional, I picked up a paperback copy of Walden. It put me off as the dull ramblings of a cranky misogynist. Prejudice confirmed.
    Over the years though, I’ve realized that I am actually a lot moreAmerican than I had previously –and foolishly!– thought. Last fall I read Emerson’s American Scholar essay on a flight from Seattle to San Francisco. A revelation: it was speaking to me! This winter I stayed up late more than once reading Thoreau’s Journals in bed. Another revelation: I like Thoreau!
    As plan for my 45th college reunion in Hanover in a couple of months, it turns out that Cervantes and the great Counter-Reformation poets of Spain’s Golden Age are not as important to my late-found, American identity.
    This course will be, I hope, a way to organize my reading and thinking.

  40. My first taste of American literature was when my eight grade home room teacher put it on my desk and said “Here, you need something more. Read this during homeroom!” I picked and chose, going through the book, but it was a little too early for me. Later, I was introduced to more modern American writers like Philip Roth but no earlier writers. Now 50 years later, I am devouring classics, both European and English, as well as American poets…Emily Dickinson is one of my favorites. I’m looking forward to the class!

  41. I started reading American literature as a kid, starting with Huckleberry Finn when I was 9 or 10. I studied a bit of the American literature featured in this course throughout highschool and my time in college, with courses in the humanities, 19th Century English literature, and philosophy reigniting my love for 19th Century literature. I find some of the Transcendentalist pieces very intriguing, and hope to learn more about how Americans viewed these, and other period pieces, in connection with their daily lives during that time.

  42. I cannot exactly remember when I was introduced to American literature, but I know I was young. Both my grandmother and grandfather were English professors at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, and instilled in me an appreciation for reading at an early age. My mother read Lord of The Rings to my siblings and I before going to bed, and I was familiar with Emily Dickinson, Virginia Wolfe, Louisa May, Hawthorne, Poe, Mark Twain, and many others. I read whatever I could get a hold of going through elementary school, and into high school. My first novel I remember reading in high school was in my freshmen English class called ‘The Yearling’.

  43. My earliest experience with American lit was when my eighth grade homeroom teacher put Leaves of Grass on my desk and told me it was an important book, and he didn’t want me to waste my time in homeroom, so get reading! I found it curious and interesting, but I was more interested in math. When I discovered reading for pleasure again in my late 30’s I began to devour books like The Scarlet Letter and Tom Sawyer, finding them so rich and satisfying, like a lobster bisque! I look forward to doing more of this discovery in this course.

  44. I’ve first started with ‘Leaves of Grass’ on world literature when I was in high school. That was an interseting experience to explore Whitman’s style and touch.

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