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Literature 3A: American Literature, 1620-1865: The American Renaissance


Admission requirements

Students in English: Literature 1A and Literature 2, or equivalent. Minor students: none.


This seminar surveys the development of a distinctly American literary culture and history from the colonial period to the Civil War. In exploring this expanding terrain, we will encounter new genres and media, consider the impact of race and gender on ideas of freedom and democracy, and assess the formation of an American canon. Our goal is a critical familiarity with texts that have claimed a place in American literary history and the social movements that produced them. We will consider: what constitutes "American literature" before 1789? What factors determined the canonization of primarily English language texts from a multi-lingual, multi-colonial, and native population? How have pre-revolutionary and antebellum America been represented in our own time?

Course objectives

  • To survey works of American literature during the colonial and early national periods.

  • To identify and understand persistent American mythologies rooted in this period.

  • To encounter a wide range of texts, and learn how to analyze texts by style, genre, and rhetorical aim.

  • To develop MLA-based and archival research skills, and to communicate ideas in discussion, oral and written presentations, and collaborative team-work.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


  • Midterm Exam: Written Examination with closed questions and essay questions

  • Final Exam: Written Examination with closed questions and essay questions

  • Paper: Essay and analysis of 1500 words

  • Oral Presenation


  • 20% Midterm Exam: Written Examination with closed questions and essay questions

  • 30% Final Exam: Written Examination with closed questions and essay questions

  • 30% Paper: Essay and analysis of 1500 words

  • 20% Oral Presentation


If the overall course mark is insufficient (less than 5.5), students will have one combined resit exam covering the entire course.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

  • Norton Anthology of American Literature (NAAL), vol. A & B, 9th ed.
    Students will be required to write on one of the following texts:

  • Moby Dick, Herman Melville

  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe

  • Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

  • My Bondage and My Freedom, Frederick Douglass

  • Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte

Registration Contractonderwijs


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Arsenaal


This is the first of three survey courses in American literature (lit 3a, 4a, and 5a), which can also be taken individually and/or in combination with the introduction to American Studies “From Bradford to Obama.” This course is a required course for students taking the minor in American Studies.