AWEJ for Translation & Literary Studies, Volume 6, Number2. May 2022 Pp.2-25
“A National Literature of Irrationalism”: Horror and the Weird as Foundations for an
American Literature Survey Course
American University of Iraq, Suleimani, Iraq
Received: 3/24/2022 Accepted:5/4/2022 Published: 5/24/2022
While recent pedagogical scholarship has examined how to teach horror and “weird fiction” in the American Literature classroom, there has been no study of the possibility of organizing an entire American Literature survey course around such texts. I elaborate on my own experience teaching such a survey course, which used texts in the American “weird” tradition to examine the whole US literary tradition in terms of the nation’s originary conflict between the forces of reason and unreason. I pay particular attention to the first two weeks of the course, in which we set up this framework through readings of Langston Hughes, The Declaration of Independence, Jonathan Edwards, Michael Wigglesworth, and Phillis Wheatley. I discuss pedagogical considerations underlying the course design, and ways that readers might adapt the course’s principles beyond its immediate context.
Keywords: American literature, horror, Jonathan Edwards, Langston Hughes, Michael Wigglesworth, pedagogy, Phillis Wheatley, survey course, unreason, weird,
Cite as: Chetwynd, A. (2022). “A National Literature of Irrationalism”: Horror and the Weird as Foundations for an American Literature Survey Course. Arab World English Journal for Translation & Literary Studies 6 (2)2-25.
Akrami, R. (2018). “’O Captain! My Captain!’ Trump is President”: Teaching American Literature in Tehran.” Teaching American Literature 9.3 (Spring/Summer 2018), 77-85. https://www.cpcc.edu/sites/default/files/2019-04/taltp_sp_su_18_roshanak_77_85.pdf
Blake, W. (1793). “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.” In D. Erdman (Ed.), The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake (pp. 33-45). The William Blake Archive, http://erdman.blakearchive.org
Bostian, P., and Brawley, P. (2020). “Introduction.” Teaching American Literature 11.2, Special Issue on Teaching Horror in the American Literature Classroom (Fall 2020), ii-iv. https://www.cpcc.edu/sites/default/files/2021-05/Teaching%20American%20Literature%20Fall%202020%20Teaching%20the%20Weird.pdf
Brockden Brown, C. (1798). Wieland, Or the Transformation, Together with Memoirs of Carwin the Biloquist. Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1926.
Brown, P.C., Roediger, H.L. III, and McDaniel, M.A. (2014). Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. Harvard University Press.
Chesnutt, C. (1899). “Po’ Sandy.” In W. Sollors (Ed.), Charles Chesnutt: Stories, Novels, and Essays (pp. 19-29). Library of America, 2002
Edwards, J. (1741). “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” In R. Smolinski (Ed.), Electronic Texts in American Literature 54. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/etas/54
Erdrich, L. (1984). “Saint Marie.” The Atlantic https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1984/03/saint-marie/376314/
Fiedler, L. (1960). Love and Death in the American Novel. Stein and Day.
Hamilton, A. (1787). “Federalist no. 1: General Introduction: For the Independent Journal.” In The Federalist Papers. Library of Congress Primary Documents in American History. https://guides.loc.gov/federalist-papers/text-1-10#s-lg-box-wrapper-25493264
Hughes, L. (1936). “Let America be America Again.” In A. Rampersand (Ed.), Langston Hughes: The Collected Works, Volume 1: Poems 1921-1940 (pp. 131-134). Columbia University Press, 2001.
Hurh, P. (2015). American Terror: The Feeling of Thinking in Edwards, Poe, and Melville. Stanford University Press.
Jacoby, S. (2009). The Age of American Unreason. Vintage.
Jefferson, T. et al. (1776) The Declaration of Independence. US Government National Archives. https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript
Lawrence, D.H. (1923). Studies in Classic American Literature (pp. 7-161). Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Major, L. (2017). “Teaching American Literature in the Deep (Israeli) South: Anne Bradstreet—Convergence and Divergence.” Teaching American Literature 9.2 (Fall 2017), 1-16. https://www.cpcc.edu/sites/default/files/2019-04/taltp_fa17_major_1_15.pdf
Martin, R.K. and Savoy, E. (Eds.). (1998). American Gothic: New Interventions in a National Narrative. University of Iowa Press.
Mather, C. (1693). The Wonders of the Invisible World. In R. Smolinski (Ed.), Electronic Texts in American Literature 19. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/etas/19
Moffett, J. (2020). “Teaching American Literature in Romania: Emerson and” Self-Reliance.” Teaching American Literature 11.1 (Spring 2020), 5-13. https://www.cpcc.edu/sites/default/files/2020-03/taltp_sp_20_moffett_5_14.pdf
Morrison, T. (1992). Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination. Harvard University Press.
Morrison, T. (1987). Beloved. Alfred Knopf.
Melville, H. (1855). Benito Cereno In The Complete Shorter Fiction (pp. 52-126). Everyman, 1997.
Melville, H. (1850). “Hawthorne and his Mosses.” In The Complete Shorter Fiction (pp 234-249). Everyman, 1997.
Paine, T. (1776). Common Sense. Project Gutenberg. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/147/147-h/147-h.htm
Pynchon, T. (1997.) Mason & Dixon. Penguin.
Savoy, E. (1998). “The Face of the Tenant: A Theory of American Gothic.” In R. Martin and E. Savoy (Eds.) American Gothic: New Interventions in a National Narrative (pp 3-19). University of Iowa Press.
Thifault, P. (2017). “Ripping up the Syllabus: Teaching” Rip Van Winkle” on Day One of the Early American Survey.” Teaching American Literature 9.1 (Summer 2017), 24-41. https://www.cpcc.edu/sites/default/files/2019-04/taltp_su17_thifault_24_41.pdf
West, N. (1939). The Day of the Locust. In S. Bercovitch (Ed.) Nathanael West: Novels and Other Writings (pp. 239-391). Library of America, 1997:
Wheatley, P. (1773a). “On Being Brought from Africa to America.” In J. C. Shields (Ed.), The Collected Works of Phillis Wheatley (p. 18). Oxford University Press, 1988
Wheatley, P. (1773b). “Thoughts on the Works of Providence.” In J. C. Shields (Ed.), The Collected Works of Phillis Wheatley (pp. 43-50). Oxford University Press, 1988
Wigglesworth, M. (1662). The Day of Doom, Or, A Poetical Description of the Great and Last Judgment. Project Gutenberg, np. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/56053/56053-h/56053-h.htm