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This semester will focus on the period between roughly 1550-1850. American ideas of race had taken on a certain shape by the middle of the nineteenth century, consolidated by legislation, economics, and the institution of chattel slavery. But both race and identity meant very different things three hundred years earlier, both in their dictionary definitions and in their social consequences. How did people constitute their identities in early America, and how did they speak about these identities? Texts will include travel writing, captivity narratives, orations, letters, and poems, by Native American, English, Anglo-American, African, and Afro-American writers.


Reading: 150-200 pages/week.

Writing: 3 papers (~20-25 pages total), occasional paragraphs on the reading. One or two presentations using secondary sources.

Work for the Subject

You should expect to be present and prepared at all meetings of the class (repeated absences will affect your grade). You should also expect to present some material in class once or twice during the semester (exact arrangements will depend on class size), this can take the form of outside material which sheds light on the reading, or of a set of directed questions and discussion about some aspect of the reading.

The written work for the subject will include two shorter essays (4-6 pages) and one longer, comparative essay (9-10 pages), the last one. I will ask for brief proposals for the last essay, and we will also schedule a makeup class, with refreshments, at which class members will talk about their work in progress and get feedback. All essays should be handed in on the due date unless we have agreed beforehand (at least 24 hours) on alternate arrangements, late essays will otherwise receive a lower mark.

Please remember, if you cite outside material ("secondary sources") in your writing, that you must acknowledge them in a footnote or other appropriate format, sources which must be acknowledged include not only other books but introductions to our editions and material on the Web. Consult me if you have any questions about appropriate use or citation format. Writing is almost always a collaborative process at some level, but failure to respect the intellectual property of others counts as plagiarism.

Plagiarism - Use of another's intellectual work without acknowledgement - is a serious offense. It is the policy of the Literature Faculty that students who plagiarise will receive an F in the subject, and that the instructor will forward the case to the Committee on Discipline. Full acknowledgement for all information obtained from sources outside the classroom must be clearly stated in all written work submitted. All ideas, arguments, and direct phrasings taken from someone else's work must be identified and properly footnoted. Quotations from other sources must be clearly marked as distinct from the student's own work. For further guidance on the proper forms of attribution consult the style guides available in the Writing and Communication Center, and the MIT Web site on Plagiarism located at Citing and Using Sources.


Writing 80%
Presentations and Work In-class 20%