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Why do colonial recreations remain so popular, despite the obvious lack of popular interest in reading William Bradford, John Winthrop, John Smith, and Cotton Mather? If you have ever been to one of these recreations, what did you like about it? How would Handler and Saxton explain their popularity?

What has changed in Rip Van Winkle’s town after his twenty years of sleep? How has the economy changed? How have people’s ways of interacting changed? Does Irving seem to welcome or dislike these changes? How do you know?


How does “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” seem to regard Ichabod Crane? How is he different from those who have long lived in the valley? How would you characterize the clash of values between Crane and these long-time inhabitants?

Brown published both Arthur Mervyn and Edgar Huntly in 1799. Judging from the prefaces to these novels, what does he seem to think should be the role of the novel in the still emerging nation? Why do you think he offers these prefaces in the first place? “Somnambulism” is a story, not a novel, but does it seem consistent with his thinking about the novel in the two prefaces?

Thomas Cole

Why does Cole think it is important to observe and paint American scenery? How does he think nature and humans should interact? How does one painting depict (or fail to depict) the ideals he discusses in his essay?

The Coquette

We’ve discussed the place of slavery, ideas of enlightenment rationality, and depictions of masculinity in the literature and culture of the early republic. How does The Coquette imagine the role (or multiple roles) of women in the new nation? You might think about the nature of female friendship, marriage, or some of the discussions about political participation that appear in specific letters.

The Contrast

The Contrast was a very popular play in the early republic. What are some of the things that you think audiences would have liked most about it? How might they have responded to one or two particular passages, such as accounts of going to the theater or the habits of flirtatious women or men?

In the years leading up to the American revolution, Copley painted both loyalists (such as Nicholas Boylston and Mrs. Benjamin Pickman) and revolutionaries (such as Paul Revere and Sam Adams). How does he stage the identities of these figures in different ways? What makes a revolutionary look like a revolutionary? What about the “founding fathers” of the United States? How does Gilbert Stuart, a slightly later portrait painter, create the mythology surrounding George Washington and others in his work? Are Stuart’s images of Washington consistent with what you read in Weems’s very popular biography? You don’t have to address all of these questions in your post.

What, according to Crevecoeur, is an American? How is this “new man” made? What distinguishes him from a European? Does Crevecoeur’s later letter on Charleston undermine his somewhat idealistic vision of the American? Why does he include this chapter?

Jefferson, Wheatley, and Woolman all come from very different backgrounds but nonetheless have have serious apprehensions about the persistence of slavery in the colonies and the emerging nation. How would you say two (or all three) of these writers understand slavery in the colonies and the United States? What are one or two details in their writing that make you think as you do?

Olaudah Equiano

For Equiano, what distinguishes his life in slavery across the Atlantic from what he remembers of life in Africa? Does he feel that only ill befell him after leaving Africa? Does he seem to identify himself as African, Western, or both?

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