A Hyperlinked Survey

By Lydia G. Fash
May 2019

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Figure 1. The Tenth Muse. London: Stephen Bowtell, 1650. Original in the Boston Public Library, Rare Books Department; image from the Digital Commonwealth.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Whether it is a seventeenth-century poem or a nineteenth-century novel, every literary work in an anthology is formatted with the same introduction, heading, font, and margins. This regularization makes prayers, reports, poems, stories, speeches, and novels across time look and feel essentially similar—and modern. While invaluable in survey courses, anthologies thus unintentionally give students a sense that old writing should be understood through the lens of contemporary beliefs and expectations. To counter this tendency, I foreground rare books in my literature classes. Looking at an image of Anne Bradstreet’s The Tenth Muse—with its long s’s (ſ), its double-V (VV for W), and its extensive full title—offers a stunning visual illustration of the different protocols that governed literary publication in 1650 (figure 1). So too, the attestation by John Wheatley and the signed statement by the prominent men of Boston that precede Phillis Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773) express the particular challenges a young woman of color faced in writing poetry. Looking at these documents and their placement in the collection complicates discussions of her oft-reviled poem “On Being Brought from Africa to America.” Even as some critics have called that verse pandering, the formatting of the first edition reminds us that Wheatley’s act of publication was radical, controlled, and difficult. In seeing these images, students come to realize that Wheatley would have had to tell any truth “slant,” to borrow Emily Dickinson’s term. They also learn that examining the historical artifacts, both original editions of the readings in their anthology and related historical materials, opens up a wide range of critical possibilities and questions they might not have otherwise seen.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 In an ideal world, perhaps I would hand each student a Wheatley or Bradstreet first edition for these exercises. When I have taught at institutions with such resources, I have taken students to special collections libraries so they could see historical artifacts and use them to launch critical analyses.1 I do value the excitement generated by field trips and physical artifacts, but I am also keenly aware that not all institutions can provide access to rare materials, or the specific materials that connect to course topics and goals. At Simmons University (formerly Simmons College), a smaller, women-centered university with limited resources and no rare books collection, I now use free digital resources to incorporate historic artifacts into my courses. Indeed, these online resources play a central role in our learning: digital images of rare books and materials have become key to inculcating what I call “historical double vision,” the ability to receive a piece of writing in a way that incorporates both a twenty-first century sensibility and, as best as we can mimic it, a sensibility from the time in which the piece was written. For example, showing students images of an 1853 gift-book version of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and pointing out its clear resemblance to ornate family Bibles meant to be displayed in the parlor, helps articulate the immense power of Stowe’s novel.  (The image shown in Figure 2 comes from one of the digital resources I pair with Stowe, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin & American Culture: A Multi-Media Archive.”)  It was nothing less than an abolitionist Bible. Artifacts from the past help students appreciate—although not necessarily like or agree with—how a text was originally understood. They undo the flattening inherent in the standardization of anthologies and the temporal sweep of a survey course.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Figure 2. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, illustrated edition. Boston: John P. Jewett & Co., 1853. Courtesy the Barrett Collection, University of Virginia Library.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 In this short essay, I want to talk about how I, a lover of physical archival materials, have incorporated free digital resources into my classroom teaching to cultivate historical double vision, to encourage a connection to the past, and to foster analytical creativity—that holy grail of energized and innovating synthesis, analysis, and interpretation. First, let me describe the assignment that I crafted for my “American Literature until 1865” course, which includes Native American origin myths, colonial sources, the American Renaissance, and Abraham Lincoln’s writings. Throughout the term, students work on primary source projects, which consist of two parts: an oral presentation and a written paper. The presentation comes first, with each student giving a short talk on a day that he or she chooses at the beginning of the course.2 To create the presentation, students look through the digital resources listed on their assigned presentation date. These links include a variety of digital archives and exhibitions with thematic, chronological, or direct relationships to each day’s reading. Importantly, each day includes at least one digital exhibition, a resource with substantial contextualizing information for displayed objects, and a larger thematic narrative connecting those various objects. Whereas “digital archives,” a term that I use for collections of items with identifying information about the items but little or no interpretation or contextualization, can entice the stronger students, most in this entry-level course need the guiding narrative of an exhibition. In this self-directed project, I ask students to discover and explain how a historical artifact illuminates something new about a class reading. To communicate their findings, students create a (free) Google Slides presentation with one to five slides (with high-quality images, a citation, and no other text) about one object or, at most, three related objects that they can tie directly to the day’s reading assignment.3 The images are the basis of a five- to ten-minute presentation, in which the students do three things: (1) briefly explain which digital resource they used;4 (2) directly quote at least one of the day’s readings published before 1865;5 (3) explain how the object(s) they are displaying help us understand something about the historical context of the day’s assignment, and thus something about the reading itself.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 The second part of the project is a five- to seven-page paper due a week after the presentation, allowing students to benefit from class discussion and to give me and the student time to address any misconceptions or errors before they are enshrined in written form.6 The assignment is an invitation to consider how a digital primary source has allowed the student to see something new or unexpected about a class reading. Given the openness of the project, I strongly encourage students to meet or correspond with me about their ideas. During these interactions, I steer them toward a strong, developing thesis, and assure that they understand their chosen object, the day’s assigned reading, and the various steps in their planned argument. The good papers, which are most of them, illuminate an aspect of the reading otherwise easy for students to overlook. The best papers go even further—revealing to me new ways of thinking about texts that I know well.

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 I assign the primary source project to empower students to make connections with the past, to appreciate the differences between the past and present, and to practice analytical creativity. While some presentations are more successful than others, I find that almost all students get excited by the history they discover. They do research and learn something interesting about a moment hundreds of years ago. More specifically, on the day of her presentation, the presenter becomes our resident expert, eager to share her knowledge. This excitement makes even shy students particularly engaged and refutes the common assumption that early American literature is intimidating, incomprehensible, or dull. In classes after their presentation, students will often describe other objects that they discovered while looking through the links, or their colleagues will return to a classmate’s presentation to draw connections between texts and across time periods. This fall, my students were taken by a diagram drawn by Henry I. Bowditch, a white abolitionist, on how to surround and (violently) subdue a slave catcher (figure 3). Led by the student-presenter, the class had an energized discussion on the different reception given to the aggression advocated by Bowditch and that encouraged by Henry Garnet, a black abolitionist whose impassioned plea for slaves to use any means necessary—including violence—to escape from slavery.

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 Figure 3.Henry I. Bowditch, c1854–1859. Diagram for surrounding and seizing a slave hunter (SH). The interior circle around SH shows the five men responsible for seizing the hunter’s head (C), arms (A1 and A2), feet (F1 and F2). S was the speaker of the Anti-Man-Hunting League. Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 (The student found the image in the Massachusetts Historical Society’s “Boston Abolitionists, 1831–1865.”) My students also became really interested in the memorialization of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond, which was the site of an amusement park from the 1860s to 1902, a fact the class learned when a student presented a nineteenth-century photograph of that park from the New England Historical Society’s “Walden Pond, Then and Now in Pictures.” One student later made the trenchant point that although Thoreau opens Walden by talking about how he eschews commercial ownership of the land, the cultural adoption of his book effectively means that he owns our idea of Walden Pond: we feel it is wrong to have an amusement park at a place associated with living deliberately with nature. In short, their work with these digitized primary sources made them feel closer to and more conversant with the past. The project empowered them to be more confident scholars, making interesting connections between ideas and feeling excited about early America.

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 While at first I saw the lack of interaction with brick-and-mortar archives and special collections as a loss, working with all-digital resources uncovered some unexpected benefits.  My steeped-in-the-digital students enjoyed a level of comfort in interacting with rare and unfamiliar objects precisely because they were digital. The hyperlinked presentation of these internet resources feels familiar to these students, making the project itself less intimidating and the learning more accessible. In other words, their online literacy aided deep engagement with both the rare materials and the scholarship about them.7 Harnessing the excellent resources out there illustrates to my students that, though we are not at a R1 institution, we can have access to a plethora of primary sources that help us engage with the past. We can conduct exciting and innovative research in an undergraduate survey course, and they can be—and view themselves as—scholars undertaking serious intellectual inquiry. In a gratifying meeting during office hours, one paper writer confessed that she had fallen in love with her topic and was more excited about her essay than anything else she had written at college. This project, she said, had given her the space to discover her own interests and to probe them until they yielded rich discovery. Her comments celebrated the analytical creativity that the assignment fostered. Having moved from a major university to a smaller school, I know the ever-increasing divide in the resources offered at elite, richly endowed universities and at smaller or less well-funded colleges. And I seek to share this list of resources in hopes that it allows other colleagues, particularly those who similarly do not have access to databases like Early American Imprints, or to rare books in a special collections library, to incorporate primary sources into their surveys. I hope that others can also find benefit in turning to free digital exhibitions, whose intelligent framing presents huge advantages for students who have no background in pre-twentieth-century literature or history. I share below the full list of digital resources students used for their primary source projects, as outlined on the class reading schedule. The schedule supplies the day’s topic (in boldface), the reading assignment, and the related digital exhibitions and archives. Because I was limited to the free digital sources that I could locate, my syllabus offers many types of connections between the assigned reading and the digital resource. Sometimes the link is thematic (e.g., I give a link to illustrations of one seduction narrative when we read another); sometimes the link is directly tied to the reading (e.g., the Library Company’s wonderful explanation of the printing history of Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography is listed when we read that work). While I have left the page numbers from the anthology that I use in the table below, the digital resources can pair with different readings, or they could be used to build a more discrete assignment for a particular day or theme. I offer the list of these sources both in hope that others can use it, and to emphasize the value of digital resources in undergraduate surveys.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0  

Class Reading Schedule

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 All readings are from the seventh edition of The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Vol. A. (Beginnings to 1800) and Vol. B (Early Nineteenth Century, 1800–1865) unless specified as a handout.

Class 1 What Is American Literature? Course Intro
“The Origin of Stories” (Native American origin tale), 59–62
Edward Said, from Beginnings (handout)
Sign up for primary source presentations
Class 2 First Contact
“The Arrival of the Whites” (versions 1, 2, & 3), 78–82
Jesse Alemán, from The Invention of Mexican America (handout)
Christopher Columbus, from Journal of 1st Voyage; Narrative of 3rd Voyage (1492–1493), 122–132
Primary Source Presentation:
Picturing America, 1497–1899 (prints, maps, and drawings of the “New World” from the New York Public Library)
Discovery and Exploration” (filtered to pre-1800 items; maps and other images from the Age of Discovery at the Library of Congress)
Class 3 Early Transnational Encounters
Spanish & Hopi accounts of the Pueblo Revolt (1680), 249–263 (New Spain)
Adriaen van der Donck, from Description & of the Manners (1655), 351–358 (New Netherlands)
Samuel de Champlain, from The Voyages (1608–1612), 275–281 (New France)
Read the ¶ by Moya and Saldívar on “the Trans-American Imaginary,” 145
Primary Source Presentation:
The Atlantic World: American and the Netherlands” (a Library of Congress project about “America and the Netherlands”)
Descripsion des costs, pts., rades, illes de la Nouuele France faict selon son vray méridien” (from the Library of Congress, Champlain’s 1607 map)
The Great Pueblo Revolt” (Library of Congress images of where the Great Pueblo Revolt took place)
Calling Thunder: The Unsung History of Manhattan” (an artist’s project recreating the sounds of Manhattan as they would have been in 1609)
Class 4 The Virginia Company
John Smith, from Then Generall Historirie (1624), 315–323
Pocahontas (1995, Disney film)
The ¶ by Mary Louise Pratt on the “contact zone” on pages 141–142
Primary Source Presentation:
The Pocahontas Archive” (Pocahontas on Trial from Lehigh University)
Virtual Jamestown: Labor Contracts” (Virtual Jamestown. Look for other primary sources under “resources”; developed by Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia.)
Class 5 New England Puritans
William Bradford, from Of Plymouth Plantation (written 1630–1651), 397–406, 415–417
Anne Bradstreet, “The Flesh and the Spirit” (1650), 446–448
Cotton Mather, from The Wonders (1693), 552–558 (read to “IV. Allin Toohaker …”)
Primary Source Presentation:
First Among Many, the Bay Psalm Book and Early Moments in American Printing” (on printing in early America from the Library of Congress)
The Plymouth Colony Archive Project” (University of Illinois)
The Salem Witch Trials: Documentary Archives and Transcription Project” (an archive of documents relating to the Salem Witch Trials from the University of Virginia)
17th Century Colonial New England“(primary documents from seventeenth-century colonial New England, with particular interest in the Salem Witch Trial; put together by an editor of scholarly transcriptions of the legal records of the 1693 trials)
Class 6 Captivity Narratives
Mary Rowlandson, A Narrative of the Captivity (1682), 480–494 (through end of “Fifth Remove”), 505–514 (all of “The Twentieth Remove”)
Ann Eliza Bleecker, “The History of Maria Kittle” (1790–1791), 1313–1314, 1316–1321
Primary Source Presentation:
The News Media and the Making of America, 1730–1865: News in Colonial America” (the American Antiquarian Society on news in the Colonies)
Evans Early American Imprint Collection: The Posthumous Works of Ann Eliza Bleecker, in Prose and Verse” (a transcription of the posthumous publication of Bleecker’s writing; click on “view full text” or on sections of the book.  From the University of Michigan)
The Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson at the Internet Archive (a facsimile of Rowlandson’s story printed in 1903 but reproducing the original 1682 layout)
Class 7 What Is Liberty?
“In Focus: E Pluribus Unum” section (various dates), intro, 1149–1151;  John Locke, 1151–1152;  Thomas Jefferson, 1157–1162; Prince Hall, 1162–1163
Please look at
Primary Source Presentation:
The Abolition of the Slave Trade” (texts, images, maps, and more from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library)
Thomas Jefferson” (various items related to Jefferson from the Library of Congress)
Declaring Independence: Drafting the Documents” (Library of Congress items about the Declaration of Independence)
The Jefferson-Hemings Controversy” (the Jefferson-Hemings scandal told as a miniseries, from Lehigh University)
Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive” (digital copies of letters between John and Abigail Adams at Massachusetts Historical Society. See particularly Abigail’s letter on 31 March 1776 & John’s reply on 14 April 1776)
The Slave Trade” (various documents from the National Archives on the slave trade)
The Abolition of the Slave Trade: Texts” (documents from the New York Public Library—some twentieth century, some earlier—on slavery & the slave trade in the US)
The Abolition of the Slave Trade: Images” (images from the New York Public Library—some twentieth century, some earlier—on slavery & the slave trade in the US)
Musical Passage” (a digital humanities project that recreates what is probably the first recorded African music in the Western Hemisphere—from a seventeenth-century journey to Jamaica. Put together by professors from Duke, Virginia Commonwealth, and the University of South Carolina)
Class 8 What Is an American?
J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer (1782), 1006–1007, 1014–1027
Benedict Anderson, from Imagined Communities (handout)
Primary Source Presentation:
Nation at the Crossroads: The Great New York Debate over the Constitution, 1787–88” (New York Historical Society on the debates about & passage of the Constitution)
We Are One: Mapping American’s Road from Revolution to Independence” (geographic and cartographic representations of the Age of Revolution from the Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library)
An American Farmer” (Crèvecoeur’s manuscript at the Library of Congress)
City Readers: Digital Historic Collections at the New York Society Library” (the records of a subscription library that opened in 1789 and was frequented by many founding fathers; the site shows who checked out which books and for how long. From the New York Library Society)
The Coming of the American Revolution, 1764–1776” (documents at the Massachusetts Historical Society related to the run-up to the American Revolution)
The Adverts 250 project” (advertisements from a colonial newspaper 250 years ago this week. Random & fun from Assumption College)
Class 9 Rags to Riches, the American Story
Ben Franklin, from The Autobiography (1791, part 1 in French), 935–951 (no section break; just read to bottom of pg), 985–991 (just skim these pages)
Jill Lepore, “The Prodigal Daughter,” excerpt on Jane Franklin (on handout)
Primary Source Presentation:
Benjamin Franklin, Writer & Printer” (from The Library Company, a phenomenal library/archive started by Franklin, on Benjamin Franklin)
Benjamin Franklin: In His Own Words” (Library of Congress items by and about Ben Franklin)
Silence Dogood: Benjamin Franklin in the New-England Courant” (from the Massachusetts Historical Society on Benjamin Franklin in the New-England Courant)
The Papers of Benjamin Franklin” (the papers of Benjamin Franklin at Yale; digital version sponsored by the American Philosophical Society)
“The News Media and the Making of America, 1730–1865: News in the Age of Revolution” (News in the Age of Revolution from the American Antiquarian Society)
Class 10 Early Drama
Susanna Rowson, Slaves in Algiers (1794), 1469–1483 (intro & Act 1, scenes 1–4); 1489–1490 (Act 2, scene 3); 1495–1496 (Act 3, scene 3); 1497–1505 (Act 3, scene 5–end)N.B.: It’s great if you can read the whole play. If not, only the pages above are required. Look for how “slavery” and “liberty” and “Christian” are described. Trace the currents of gender and sexuality in the interactions between characters. And follow the plot using the summary on the handout.
Primary Source Presentation:
The Barbary Wars at the Clements” (from the University of Michigan’s Clements Library with much information on the Barbary Wars and Barbary captivity narratives)
Forgotten Chapters of Boston’s Literary History: Chapter 6, the First Seasons of the Federal Street Theater: 1794–1798” (about the Federal Street Theater in Boston, 1794–1795, where Rowson’s play was performed—after it opened in Philly. A Boston College exhibition)
The First Barbary War” (go here for some context on the Barbary Wars, including a series of links at page end to transcribed primary sources on the conflict. From Monticello, Jefferson’s house and now a museum)
Class 11 The Seduction Novel
Hannah Webster Foster, from The Coquette (1797), 1448–1469
Primary Source Presentation:
A Place of Reading” (American Antiquarian Society website on reading in colonial America)
Martha Ballard’s Diary Online” (a collaboration between George Mason U & Harvard to digitize a diary kept by midwife Martha Ballard between 1785–1812)
Notes from Under Grounds” (a short essay from a scholar visiting University of Virginia special collections with an image of the first edition’s final pages)
Public Women, Private Lives: Other Remarkable Women Authors” (a digitized version of a Rare Books Room exhibition at the Boston Public Library showing the title pages of The Coquette and Charlotte Temple and other books by women authors in the early US)
Picturing Charlotte Temple(from University of Virginia, illustrations to Charlotte Temple, another very popular seduction novel)
Class 12 Native Voices in the Era of Removal
“Native America,” 1575–1577
“Cherokee Nation and the Anglo Nation,” 2396–2397
Elias Boudinot, 2410–2418
John Wannuaucon Quinney, 1643–1648
Also look at:
Primary Source Presentation:
Nation to Nation: Treaties between the United States and American Indian Nations” (National Museum of the American Indian’s exhibition on treaties between the US & various tribes)
Indians of the Midwest” (from the Newberry Library, on Native Americans of the Midwest)
Indian Papers Project” (the Yale Indian Papers Project)
From English to Algonquian: Early New England Translations” (early printed Algonquian documents, American Antiquarian Society)
Photographing the American Indian: Portraits of Native Americans, 1860–1913” (from the Massachusetts Historical Society)
Class 13 Romanticizing American Origins: Two Reading Groups
1.      Washington Irving, “Rip Van Winkle” (1819–1820), 2505–2519, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (1819–1820), 2519–2541
2.      Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Young Goodman Brown” (1835), 2621–2631, “The Minister’s Black Veil” (1832), 2631–2641
Primary Source Presentation:
Hawthorne in Salem” (put together by the North Shore Community College, the Peabody Essex Museum, the House of the Seven Gables, and the Salem Maritime National Historic Site)
Nathaniel Hawthorne Collection of Papers” (Nathaniel Hawthorne’s papers at the New York Public Library)
Twice-Told Tales at Hathi Trust (the 1837 first edition of Twice-Told Tales; physical copy held by University of Virginia)
Class 14 Ralph Waldo Emerson & American Romanticism
Emerson, from Nature (1836), 1825–1842, 1853–1854 (final three ¶s of essay)
Primary Source Presentation:
Collecting Transcendentalism” (about collecting the papers of transcendentalists, including Emerson, at the Concord Public Library, Concord, MA)
Emerson in Concord”  (Emerson in Concord, from the Concord Public Library, Concord, MA)
Class 15 Henry David Thoreau & American Romanticism
Thoreau, from Walden (1854), 1996–2014; 2032 (from paragraph beginning “Rather than love, than money . . .”) to 2034
Primary Source Presentation:
Henry David Thoreau, Land and Property Surveys” (surveys of various land areas that Thoreau drew when working as a land surveyor from the Concord Public Library, Concord, MA)
Comprehensive Index of Images and Essays in the Online Exhibit [about Thoreau]” (various essays, photographs, letters, and other artifacts by and about Thoreau from the Concord Public Library, Concord, MA)
Digital Thoreau” (a wonderful resource that allows readers to compare four different versions of Walden and see the changes that were made; directed by a professor at SUNY Geneseo)
Walden Pond, Then and Now in Pictures” (images from the New England Historical Society about Walden Pond in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries)
Class 16 The Frontier & Westward Expansion
Caroline Kirkland, from A New Home—Who’ll Follow? (1839), 2582–2603
Frederick Jackson Turner, from The Significance of the Frontier in American History (1893), 139–140
Primary Source Presentation:
The Overland Trails, 1840–1860” (maps of the many settlers who made their way west in the 1840s; Digital Scholarship Lab, University of Richmond)
Journals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition” (journals, images, and maps through the University of Nebraska, Lincoln)
A New Home—Who’ll Follow (a digital version of the 1855 5th edition of A New Home, with some engravings; Library of Congress)
Class 17 The Woman Question
Fanny Fern, “Hints to Young Wives,” 2462–2465; “Mrs. Adolphus Smith Sporting the ‘Blue Stocking,’” 2467–2468; “A Law More Nice Than Just,” 2469–2471; “Independence” 2471; “The Working-Girls of New York” 2471–2473
Sojourner Truth, “about” and “Reminiscences by Frances D. Gage” 2444–2459
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “about,” 2473–2475; “Declaration of Sentiments” 2477–2479
Barbara Welter, from “The Cult of True Womanhood” (handout)
Primary Source Presentation:
Beauty, Virtue & Vice: Images of Women in Nineteenth-Century American Prints” (the American Antiquarian Society on depictions of women in the nineteenth century)
Mill Girls in Nineteenth-Century Print” (the American Antiquarian Society on mill girls in New England textile mills)
Public Women, Private Lives”  (a digitized version of an exhibition put on by the Boston Public Library’s Rare Book Room)
The National Women’s History Museum Primary Sources (the National Women’s History Museum’s online exhibition of primary sources & other resources about the fight for suffrage; focus on materials before 1865)
Emory Women Writers Resource Project: Abolitionism, Freedom, and Rights Collection (Emory University’s collection of women writing on women’s advocacy)
Fanny Fern in The New York Ledger” (look at Fern’s scanned columns from the New York Ledger, put together by a PhD student at University of Lincoln, Nebraska)
Class 18 Edgar Allan Poe & the American Gothic
“Ligeia” (1838), 2694–2706
“The Fall of the House of Usher,” 2706–2720
“The Balloon Hoax” (handout)
Primary Source Presentation:
The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore” (the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, with many scanned & transcribed documents by and about Poe)
The News Media and the Making of America, 1730–1865: News in Antebellum America” (as a magazine writer & newspaper man, Poe was very much a part of the antebellum news scene: the American Antiquarian Society’s exhibition on news in the antebellum US)
Philadelphia Gothic: Murders, Mysteries, Monsters, and Mayhem Inspire American Fiction, 1798–1854” (Poe in Philly from the Library Company)
Class 19 The American Slave Narrative, the Quintessential American Genre?
Frederick Douglass, Narrative of a Life (1845), 2163–2199
Primary Source Presentation:
Boston Abolitionists, 1831–1865” (on Boston abolitionists from the Massachusetts Historical Society)
Legacy of Slavery in Maryland” (“The Legacy of Slavery in Maryland,” from the Maryland State Archives)
Virginia Untold: The African American Narrative” (“The African American Narrative in Virginia,” from the Library of Virginia)
Class 20 The American Slave Narrative & the Difference of Being a Woman
Finish Frederick Douglass’s Narrative, 2199–2234
Harriet Jacobs, from Incidents in a Life of a Slave Girl (1861), 2343–2347
Primary Source Presentation:
The Forced Migrations of Enslaved Peoples in the United States, 1810–1860” (maps of the forced migrations of enslaved peoples 1810–1860, Digital Scholarship Lab, University of Richmond)
The African Burial Ground” (recording the discovery and excavation of the oldest- and largest-known colonial-era African burial ground in the US. Exhibition by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library)
Boston Public Library Anti-Slavery Collection” (the antislavery collection at the Boston Public Library)
North American Slave Narratives” (list of North American Slave Narratives; from Documenting the American South at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)
Class 21 Appeals (Violent and Not) on Slavery
Henry Highland Garnet, “An Address to the Slaves” (1843), 2154–2163
Harriet Beecher Stowe, from Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1851–1852), 2772–2785, 2811–2812 (the death of Uncle Tom)
Primary Source Presentation:
Uncle Tom’s Cabin & American Culture: A Multi-Media Archive” (University of Virginia’s wonderful resource on Uncle Tom’s Cabin)
Revising Rebellion: Nat Turner in the American Imagination” (exhibition on Nat Turner and on depictions of Nat Turner from the American Antiquarian Society)
Examination Days: The New York African Free School Collection” (archive of materials from the African Free School, which Garnet and other prominent black abolitionists attended; New York Historical Society)
Images of the Antislavery Movement in Massachusetts” (images of the antislavery movement in Boston from the Massachusetts Historical Society)
A Place of Reading” (the American Antiquarian Society’s exhibition on reading. Look at “Women Readers”)
Class 22 American Imperialism as Seen by Melville
Herman Melville, “Benito Cereno” (1855), 2897–2949
Primary Source Presentation:
Monroe Doctrine” (National Archives’ presentation of the Monroe Doctrine)
United States Maritime Expansion across the Pacific during the 19th Century” (from the Office of the Historian, US Government; background information on US maritime expansion in the nineteenth century)
Nueva York, 1613–1945: A Flag Flies for Cuban Annexation” (documents about US filibustering in and attempted annexation of Cuba from the New York Historical Society)
Texas 175: A Dozen Documents that Made a Difference” (from the Texas State Library, twelve documents from Texas history, including those that relate to annexation & the imperialism of Texans/Americans)
Class 23 The US and Spanish America
Herman Melville, “Benito Cereno” (1855), 2949–2961
Primary Source Presentation:
Territorial Expansion, Filibustering, and U.S. Interest in Central America and Cuba, 1849–1861” (brief account of filibustering from the Office of the Historian in the Department of State; useful for background information)
Nueva York, 1613–1945” (go to “galleries” and hover over “Trade with Spanish America”; New York Historical Society exhibition)
The Atkins Family in Cuba: A Photographic Exhibit” (nineteenth-century photographs of an American sugar plantation in Cuba from Massachusetts Historical Society)
Class 24 Emily Dickinson
“I like a look of Agony” (3350); “Wild Nights” (3351); “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain” (3352); “I’m Nobody!” (3353); “I reason, Earth is short” (3353); “Some keep the Sabbath” (3354); “A Bird Came Down the Walk” (3355); “What Soft—Cherubic Creatures” (3357); “This is my letter to the World” (3358); “I heard a Fly Buzz” (3359); “I started Early” (3361); “They shut me up in Prose” (3363); “Publication—is the Auction” (3367); “Because I could not stop for Death” (3368); “She rose to His Requirement” (3369); “My Life had stood—a Loaded Gun” (3369); “A Narrow Fellow in the Grass” (3371); “Tell all the Truth” (3372); “Rearrange a ‘Wife’s’ Affections” (3375)
Primary Source Presentation:
Emily Dickinson Archive” (a wonderful online archive of Dickinson’s manuscripts made through a collaboration between Yale, Harvard, the Boston Public Library, and others)
Emily Dickinson Collection”  (manuscripts, images, and letters related to Dickinson at Amherst College)
Dickinson Electronic Archives” (scholarly and critical resources as well as some primary sources related to Emily Dickinson. Do not pick a secondary source as your primary source object. Ask if you’re not sure. Also from Amherst College)
Class 25 Walt Whitman
“Song of Myself” 3238–3263, 3286 [chants 1–32, 51–52]
Primary Source Presentation:
The Walt Whitman Archive” (letters, pictures, audio, manuscripts, and more; edited by professors from the University of Iowa and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
Revising Himself: Walt Whitman and Leaves of Grass” (images and other items from the Library of Congress on Whitman. Note that this link brings you to one section; click on the section headings to see other items)
Walt Whitman Manuscripts” (Whitman manuscripts from the New York Public Library)
Walt Whitman Papers” (Whitman papers from the New York Public Library)
Class 26 Abraham Lincoln
“The Gettysburg Address” 2393
“The Second Inaugural Address” 2394–2395
Julia Ward Howe, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” 3075–3076
Please look at: (click “get started” to explore the “Visualizing Emancipation” site)
Primary Source Presentation:
Lincoln/Net” (a website from Northern Illinois University on Lincoln with a huge amount of artifacts related to Lincoln and his age)
The Gettysburg Address” (Library of Congress items and photos related to Lincoln & the Gettysburg Address)
The Civil War in America” (Library of Congress exhibition on items relating to the Civil War)
Documents from Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861–1867 (documents from the Freedmen & Southern Society Project at the University of Maryland)
Northern Visions of Race, Region, and Reform” (from the American Antiquarian Society documenting conflicting representations of African-Americans immediately after the Civil War)
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  2. When I taught at Boston University, I curated a rare books exhibition closely tied to the first-year curriculum of one of the university’s colleges in collaboration with the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center. Aided by an exhibition booklet, students were invited to examine objects, develop theories about their creation, and relate their observations to the shifts in rhetorical practices and humanistic production discussed in two of their required classes. When I taught at Emerson College, we visited the Rare Books Room at the Boston Public Library, which was a short walk away from the school. []
  3. The class was an introductory survey class capped at twenty. Not including our midterm, we had twenty-six ninety-minute class meetings. []
  4. The evening before the class, the student sends me a link to her Google Slides presentation, which I look over and then copy into my own presentation for the next day. The requirement to have no text on the screen save a citation is an attempt to forestall “Power Pointless” presentations wherein a student rehearses a series of reductive bulleted facts listed on a projected slide. []
  5. In showing our students the various places such good information lives on the world wide web, from the Library of Congress to the American Antiquarian Society, and in demonstrating how and why these sources are reliable, this project teaches some information literacy, an imperative skill for a generation awash in often-unreliable information. I require students to describe their database with the hopes that their peers will gain a sense of the scholarly and other institutions putting out free reliable digital resources. This part of the project links up with another thematic thread of the course further fostered in other assignments and in a class exercise on Edgar Poe’s “The Balloon Hoax.” See Lydia G. Fash, “Information Literacy in the American Literature Classroom,” Transformations: The Journal of Inclusive Scholarship and Pedagogy 27, no. 2 (2017): 195–201. []
  6. We occasionally read small critical pieces by modern theorists, but I wanted students to focus on the “primary sources” for each day. []
  7. The requirements for the paper are basic: students need to use MLA citation style, need to include an image of their object, and need to quote a class reading. []
  8. As the course schedule below demonstrates, I did incorporate other digital resources—digital maps—at various points throughout the course to foreground the voices and presence of peoples who are less well-represented in our anthology and to remind us that archives are not equally representative. []
A Hyperlinked Survey

Lydia G. Fash

Assistant Professor of English – Simmons University

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