Our made-up literary theory: Americanism

I think I mentioned last week that our class invented a new form of literary criticism, which we have dubbed (or, in some sense, dubya-ed) “Americanism.” We came up with our ideas based on our reading or Native American origin myths, Puritan sermons, and Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. This is obviously kind of a limited group of texts on which to base a theory, but we’ve got to start somewhere. I’m sure we’ll keep adding to the theory as the class progresses, but right now we think it has something to do with the following issues.

[Students: As you write response papers this week on the Washington Irving stories, keep in mind that you can choose one or more of the following terms to focus your response.]

“Americanist” ideas:

  • Work (progress, innovation)
  • Community (selflessness, responsibility)
  • Pride
  • Nature (reverence? fear? resource?)
  • Myth (“purposeful” life)
  • Optimism (irony?)
  • Law (obedience; justice, mercy)
  • Destiny (predestination or free will?)
  • Exploration (curiosity, love of the “new”)

So, that seems like a lot of stuff, but we’re trying to embody a whole, unique culture somehow. Maybe as we go through some more texts we’ll be able to narrow down the focus a bit and eliminate some of those question marks.

That is all.


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