AMS 355 • Main Currents of American Culture to 1865
9:30 AM-11:00 AM
"Who is this new man, this American?" Hector St. John de Crevecoeur In many ways, what we now call the United States began as a national entity as a blank slate. As late as two hundred years ago, there was no conception of what it meant to be American. Yet, within seventy-five years, this entity would fight its most bloody and vicious war ever over insistence upon this very identity. This course traces the concept of the American identity in cultural even more than political terms from the time of first settlements up until the Civil War. We will study not politics per se but political ideas and institutions as well as such subjects as religion, work, gender roles, race, painting, literature, philosophy, the law, and social reform. Throughout the course and especially in the assigned reading the emphasis will be upon the interaction of the lives of ordinary people and the newly developing ideas and institutions that helped create this new American identity. The books, indeed, will all be about very specific ordinary peopleexcept for the very extraordinary Frederick Douglassand the impact of a rapidly changing society upon their lives.
Stephen Innes and Timothy Breen, Myne Owne Grounde Mary Beth Norton, In the Devils Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Trial of 1692 Alfred Young, Shoemaker and the Tea Party Laurel Ulrich, A Midwife's Tale Carol Sheriff, The Artificial River Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Paul Johnson and Sean Wilentz, The Kingdom of Matthias