Laura E. K. Von Wallmenich, Ph.D.
Recent Courses Taught
Survey of American Literature. ENG 260.
Survey courses are about literary history; they are intended to provide students with an introduction to the historical patterns and contexts that have shaped the literature of a particular culture or nation. American literary history is a story that can be told in many different ways, and for various different reasons. In this course, we will be as interested in exploring how the 'story' of American literature is constructed as we will be in the story itself. For instance, consider the question of where a course on American literature should begin. Do we start with the first texts published in English in the British colonies, with the British promotional tracts describing an promoting colonization of the "new World", with Columbus's letters to the King of Spain describing his discoveries, or with the rich and complex native American oral traditions that predate the "discovery" of the Americas? Or do we look at ancient writings from early cultures in South and Mesoamerica? What criteria do we use to decide which texts and authors are central to the story, and which do we demote to a minor role -- or omit entirely? Each of these decisions changes the story itself.
Although I want to provide you with an overview of some of the major scenes in the literary and cultural history of North America to 1865, I also want you to think carefully and critically about why these moments and these figures matter -- and to whom. My hope is that you will leave this class with a richer understanding of the literature and culture of early America, as well as a more complex understanding of the role that literature played in the development of the United States as a nation.
For a description of this course and course materials, please see the course website.