Fall 2015

American Origins

Listed in: American Studies, as AMST-350  |  English, as ENGL-350


Lisa Brooks (Section 01)
Barry O'Connell (Section 01)


(Offered as ENGL 350 and AMST 350.)  [before 1800]  American Origins is a course in Early American literature and history.  It explores when and how this country began.  We readily forget that it only became the “United States” in 1789.  Before that and from early in the European conquests, it was “the (Spanish, or French, or English, or Dutch) colonies,” or “America” and thus but a part of European settlements in both the Southern and the Northern hemispheres.  It was also a place known as “Turtle Island,” with indigenous trade networks that traversed the continent.  It was also a foreign land to which countless African people were brought as slaves, men and women who adapted and made this land their own.  These simultaneities and complexities frustrate any comprehensive narrative of the period. 

This will, then, be an experiment in shaping a transnational Early American literature and history course.  Our goal is to expand the geographic and temporal boundaries of the subject using archival, print, and digital sources.  We hope to learn multiple ways of reading the “texts” of early America:  print books, pamphlets, broadsides, petitions, manuscripts and graphic media–and innovative scholarship.  These will give us some access to the many peoples reshaping what was, in fact, a very Old World.

The end goal is for students to design a syllabus that can be used in secondary schools, or for a future course at Amherst.

Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors, and to first-year students with consent of the instructor.  Limited to 36 students.  Fall semester.  Professor Brooks and Professor Emeritus O’Connell.

If Overenrolled: Seniors will be admitted first, then juniors, then sophomores.


Attention to Writing


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Spring 2019