History 410

Contested Events in Early America

Winter 1999, Tu, Th, 2-3:20, 342 GIL

Matthew Dennis, History (hours: M, 1-3; Th, 12-1), 220 PLC; mjdennis@darkwing

Gordon Sayre, English (hours: W, 1-3; Th, 1-2), 521 PLC; gsayre@oregon

This team-taught, interdisciplinary course on early American literature, history, and culture will adopt a case-study approach to assess the colonial origins of American culture as well as the methods and approaches of literary scholars and historians. It will combine lectures, class discussion, and small group collaboration in its efforts to study the texts and context of colonial America. This course is the equivalent of History 455 or English 461 and will count as such toward major requirements. Next term, the course will continue as English 410, probing the literature, history, and culture of the early national period; that course will be the equivalent of History 456 or English 461. Both courses may be taken idependently of each other.

The class is divided into five two-week units, as described below. These are a few of the questions we will be asking as we study American culture, 1600-1775, this term: Who was Pocahontas? Does her life and legacy -- or the way they have been portrayed by Disney and others -- matter? What was the nature of the encounter between European colonists and Native North Americans? If it was often violent, was it also a clash of world views and words, a rhetorical as well as a political and economic contest? How did Europeans respond to the strange New World, and how was the Native American old world transformed by colonization into something new? What happened when colonists were held captive by Indians? Why did some refuse to return to Christian civilization, while the captivity narratives of those who did created a foundational genre of American literature? What do we make of the witch-hunting crisis at Salem, Massachusetts in 1692? Why did women predominate among the accused? Have we fully exorcised such demons today? How is it possible that slavery existed in the land of opportunity and freedom? Did racism cause slavery, or was racism a product of the "peculiar institution"? How did enslaved Africans understand, accommodate, and resist their predicament and in the process create something new and American: African American culture?

Attendance is mandatory, both at general class meetings and in discussion sections.

Readings include three required books available at the UO Bookstore:

Jean Fritz, The Double Life of Pocahontas

John Demos, The Unredeemed Captive

Elizabeth Reis, Spellbound,

Most of the reading assignments, however, are contained in a photo-copied packet available for purchase at the Copy Shop, 539 E. 13th Ave. A few short excerpts are not in the copy packet, but will be available on electronic reserve, and on paper reserve at the Knight Library.

Assignments and Grading There will be no exams, but students will write five short papers (one per two-week unit; each 10% of grade) as well as a term paper of moderate length (30%) -- an in-depth study of a topic chosen from one of the course units. Students will also be evaluated on the quality of their discussion participation (20%). Academic integrity is important. We will hold all students to the UO "Standards of Conduct." Plagiarism will not be tolerated; all work must be your own, written for this class.  


Unit 1 - Pocahontas: An American Myth

The story of Pocahontas, daughter of the powerful chief Powhatan, who helped the early Jamestown colonists, married one of them, and journeyed to England, originates in just a few pages of documents from the early 1600s. It has captured the imaginations of millions since then, and has been retold in countless histories, plays, poems, children's books and films. Our aim in studying Pocahontas is twofold: first we shall examine the source documents and assess the evidence for and against the veracity of the events recounted by John Smith; then we will try to determine why the myth has retained such power, and how it has been updated over the past 200 years.


Jan. 5 Introduction to the plans and goals of the course. Outline of the assignments. Introductory words on Pocahontas.

Assignment: John Smith selections 1-5; First half of Fritz; Philip Young article (which is on reserve only; not in copy packet).

Sections: Review an historian's account of "the rescue." Discuss standards of evidence and proof in the controversy.

Jan. 7 Lecture: contrasting views of the myth from Historical and Literary scholars. Paradigm of mutual misinterpretation in cultural encounter. Colonialist analysis; myth-archetype analysis.

Assignment: selections by John Davis, Henry Adams.

Jan. 7th, 7-9 pm; Jan. 11th, 5-7 pm - Screenings of "Pocahontas" in IMC.

Jan. 12 Pocahontas romanticized and politicized; on stage and canvas; in North vs. South.

Assignment: last 2 selections from Smith; Rolfe, Purchas; second half of Fritz.

Sections: choose research teams for research project. Discuss Pocahontas.

Jan. 14 Prof. Sayre on Pocahontas in England and Tilton's book. Prof. Dennis on changing race relations in 17th and 18th century Virginia.

Assignment: Brébeuf, Relation of 1635 [for Unit 2].


Additional Reading for Research Projects: Pocahontas

This bibliography will provide a good start for research into the Pocahontas legend, from an historical or a cultural perspective. There are, however, many more sources, including several more plays about Pocahontas, many short historical articles, and many works of literature which mimic the myth. Ask Prof. Sayre for more help on sources if you need it.

James Nelson Barker, The Indian Princess (1808) in Early American Drama, ed. by Jeffrey H. Richards. Penguin Books, 1998.

Robert Beverley, The History and Present State of Virginia (1705). Ed. Louis B. Wright. Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1947.

Leslie Fiedler, The Return of the Vanishing American. New York: Stein and Day, 1966.

Jay B. Hubbell, "The Smith-Pocahontas Story in Literature" Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 65:3 (July 1957), 274-300.

Peter Hulme, Colonial Encounters: Europe and the Native Caribbean, 1492-1797. London: Routledge, 1986. pp 137-173.

J. A. Leo Lemay, Did Pocahontas Save Captain John Smith? Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1992.

Frances Mossiker, Pocahontas. New York: Knopf, 1976.

David R. Ransome, "Pocahontas and the Mission to the Indians" Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 99:1 (January 1991), 81-94. [many other articles about Pocahontas have been published in this periodical]

Helen C. Rountree, Pocahontas's People. Norman, OK: Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1990.

Bradford Smith, Captain John Smith. Philadelphia, Lippincott, 1953.

Robert Tilton, Pocahontas: The Evolution of an American Narrative. London: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1994.

Alden T. Vaughan, American Genesis: Captain John Smith and the Founding of Virginia. Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1975.

Grace Steel Woodward, Pocahontas. Norman, OK: Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1969.


Unit 2: Jean de Brébeuf and the Jesuit Mission in New France.

Although little known in the United States, the missionaries of New France, and the Relations which record their efforts, are an epic story of colonial North America. These Jesuits' accounts of the customs of the Hurons and other native tribes are among the most valuable ethnographic sources available, and their religious zeal was astounding. Our unit concentrates on one missionary, St. Jean de Brébeuf, who labored among the Hurons for 15 years until he was martyred in an attack by the enemy Iroquois. We will also watch "Black Robe," an unusually perceptive and powerful cinematic representation of early American history.


Jan. 19th Lecture introducing the Jesuit Relations. Maps, chronology, religious and colonial context.

Assignment: Watch "Black Robe", read Ward Churchill's review.

Jan. 19th 7-9 pm; Jan. 20th, 5-7 pm - Screenings of "Black Robe" in IMC

Sections: Issues of representation of Native Americans. Discuss film.

Jan. 21 Lecture and discussion of Black Robe. Review some scenes.

Assignment: Relation of 1636 and chapter from Parkman.

Jan. 26 Lecture and discussion of Huron ethnography, the Feast of the Dead, and the Earthdiver myth.

Assignment: Brébeuf's martyrdom and Issac Jogues' captivity narrative (which is in Unit 3 in your course packet and on the e-reserves).

Sections: discuss captivity and martyrdom, cultural attitudes toward violence

Jan. 28 Lecture on adoption and torture, typology, suffering, and martyrdom.

Assignment: Mary Rowlandson's captivity narrative.


Additional Readings for Research Projects: Brébeuf and the Jesuits

The chief source of primary texts by and about Brébeuf is The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents. Ed. Reuben Gold Thwaites. 73 vols. Cleveland: Burrows Brothers, 1897-98. This huge set was not only the first time most of these texts had been translated into English, it was also the first time that some texts written by the French Jesuit missionaries had been published at all. The Thwaites edition has "page-opposite" translation throughout, with English on the right-hand page, and French (or occasionally Latin or Italian) on the left. The documents on Brébeuf are all in the first half of the set, and some other interesting excerpts are cited below. We encourage students to do additional reading in this edition, which is in Knight library at F 1030.7 C96. Treat them with care, however; these books are rare.

from the Jesuit Relations:

"Of the difference between the manners and customs of the French, or the Europeans, and those of the Savages" vol. 44 pp. 277-309. This is a marvellous essay in cultural relativism, which shows how open-minded the Jesuits could be, or at least how their encounter with Native Americans forced the reexamination of European values.

Paul LeJeune, Relation of 1634 in Vol. 6. This narrative of LeJeune's winter with the Montagnais nation is another of the best episodes in the Relations, and provided some of the details used in the novel and film, Black Robe.

Relation of 1637 vol. 13 pp. 171-189. This is a good excerpt for showing the give and take between the missionaries and the Indians over the values of Christianity and baptism. In the midst of an epidemic of illness afflicting both Hurons and Jesuits, one town agrees to build a chapel and be baptized. Explanations and debates about Heaven and religion ensue.

Other sources:

Francis Parkman, The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century, from which we've taken one chapter for the course packet. Parkman was a very popular historian during the mid-nineteenth century, author of The Oregon Trail as well as a seven-volume colonial history entitled France and England in North America. When Parkman was writing the Thwaites edition had not yet begun, and Parkman travelled to Paris and transribed many documents by hand. He had great respect for the French missionaries and explorers, even as his history tried to show why the English Protestant colonists eventually defeated the French.

Joseph P. Donnelly, S. J. Jean de Brébeuf Loyola University Press, 1975. This biography of Brébeuf is useful for information on his life before coming to New France, and about his canonization and beatification.

James Axtell, "The Power of Print in the Eastern Woodlands" William and Mary Quarterly 44:2 (April 1987) pp301-309.

Brian Moore, Black Robe (the novel on which the movie was based).

Gordon Sayre, Les Sauvages Américains: Representations of Native Americans in French and English Colonial Literature. Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1997.



Unit 3: Captivity Narratives and colonial warfare in New England.

While the French Jesuits have been virtually ignored in the United States, the Captivity Narratives of Puritan New England have been frequently re-read and re-published, and according to many scholars have had an important influence on our national ideology. Although the literary history of the Captivity genre extends through the nineteenth century, in this unit we will emphasize two female captives from late seventeenth-century Massachusetts, Mary Rowlandson and Eunice Williams. One wrote her own story, which has long been a classic of early American literature; the other did not record her story, and in fact never returned to her former life. Her narrative is the work of a modern historian.


Feb. 2: Mary Rowlandson compared to Jean de Brébeuf. History of King Philip's War.

Assignment: reread Rowlandson and write position paper. Read Hannah Duston's captivity (on e-reserve).

Sections: Debating Mary Rowlandson.

Feb. 4 More on Rowlandson. Eunice Williams and the problem of assimilated captives. Archetypes of captives.

Assignment: The Unredeemed Captive, chapters 4-6 (pp. 77-139)

Feb. 9: History or Literature? the controversy over The Unredeemed Captive.

Assignment: The Unredeemed Captive, chapters 7-9 (pp. 140-213).

Sections: workshop on the writing of History and of Literary Interpretation.

Feb. 11: Conclusion of Demos. Puritans vs. Catholics; English vs. French.


Additional Readings for Research Projects: Captivity Narratives

There is an enormous body of writing about the Captivity Narrative as a literary genre and captivity as an historical phenomenon. Here are a few good sources which concentrate on Rowlandson, on Williams, or on King Philip's War.

Kathryn Zabelle Derounian. "Puritan Orthodoxy and the 'Survivor Syndrome' in Mary Rowlandson's Captivity Narrative." Early American Literature 22 (1987) 82-93.

Gary L. Ebersole, Captured by Texts: Puritan to Postmodern images of Indian Captivity. Charlottesville, U. Press of Virginia, 1995.

David L. Greene, "New Light on Mary Rowlandson" Early American Literature 20 (1985) 24-37.

Douglas Leach, Flintlock and Tomahawk: New England in King Philip's War. New York: Macmillan, 1958.

Jill Lepore, The Name of War. New York, 1998.

Alexander Medlicott, Jr. "Return to this Land of Light: A Plea to an Unredeemed Captive." New England Quarterly 38 (1965) 202-216.

Neil Salisbury, ed. The Sovereignty and Goodness of God. New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 1997. [this classroom edition contains supporting documents, and a fine introduction]

John Seelye. Prophetic Waters: The River in Early American Life and Literature. New York: Oxford UP, 1977 pp. 281-304.

Richard Slotkin. Regeneration through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600-1900. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan Univ. Press, 1973 pp. 78-145.


Unit 4: The Salem Witchcraft Trials and Beyond

Few episodes from the history of colonial America have been as fascinating, puzzling, and enduring as the notorious trials in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, in which over a hundred people were accused of witchcraft and some twenty executed for the crime. This unit examines this crisis as a way to probe the nature of early American religious belief and practice, to study the colonial New England's "world of wonder," and to analyze the shifting intellectual and cultural atmosphere of colonial America. The witch-hunting of 1692 quickly became an embarrassment for some, especially those embracing a new "rationalism" associated with the Enlightenment. But did faith in revelation, providence, and worlds of wonder disappear in the 18th century or later? Students might also contemplate the question: why did witch-hunting so consistently target women? Finally, we might consider the persistent use of Salem witch-hunting -- and the social psychology of fear, recrimination, and persecution it seemed to display -- as a metaphor for later crises in American life (as in the 20th-century Cold War fear of Communism).

Feb. 16: lecture on New England "World of Wonder": Lived Religion in Puritan New England; social, economic, political context of the 1692 witchcraft crisis.

Assignment: Spellbound, 1-24; trial record excerpts (Hobbs, Carrier, Foster, Lacey, Nurse).

Sections: discuss relationship between "reason" and "revelation," between "wonder" and "rationality," in historical context. Assess "what actually happened" at Salem - why might this be a difficult question?

Feb. 18: lecture and discussion on the Crisis at Salem - assessment of events and perspectives . . . and how they were represented by participants or contemporary observers. Outline range of historical interpretations of the event. Possible screening (in class) of parts of "Three Sovereigns for Sarah."

Assignment: trial record excerpts (Roots, Tituba, Toothaker); Lawson, Brief and True Narrative; Spellbound, 25-98.

Feb. 19th, 5-7 pm; Feb. 22nd, 7-9 pm - Screening of "The Crucible" in IMC.

Feb. 23: discussion of women and witchcraft: how and why have women been demonized through witchcraft accusations?

Assignment: Cotton Mather, Discourse; Increase Mather, Cases of Conscience; "Reversal of Attainder"; Spellbound, 99-119. Paper: approx. 3 pp. assessing the following quotation: ìThe most curious of all facts in that welter we call Salem witchcraft is this: . . . the intellectual history of New England up to 1720 can be written as though no such thing happened. . . . [Only later] does it begin to be that blot on New Englandís fame which has been enlarged, as much by friends as by foes, into its greatest disgraceî [Perry Miller, The New England Mind: From Colony to Province (Boston, 1966 [orig. publ. 1953]), 190].

Sections: discussion of The Crucible - though fictional, does the film nonetheless hold up as historical representation?

Feb. 25: Beyond Salem: discussion of the representation of witchcraft in America, and the practice of witch-hunting in later American history.

Assignment: Hawthorne, "Young Goodman Brown"; Spellbound, xi-xxiii, 121-43.


Additional Reading for Research Projects: Salem Witchcraft

Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, eds., The Salem Witchcraft Papers: Verbatim Transcripts of the Legal Documents of the Salem Witchcraft Outbreak of 1692, 3 vols. (New York, 1977).

_____, Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft (Cambridge, Mass., 1974).

John Putnam Demos, Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England (New York, 1982).

David D. Hall, Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment: Popular Religious Belief in Early New England (New York, 1989).

Carol F. Karlsen, The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England (New York, 1987).

Elizabeth Reis, Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New England (Ithaca, N.Y., 1997).

Bernard Rosenthal, Salem Story: Reading the Witch Trials of 1692 (Cambridge, 1993).



Unit 5: Servitude and Slavery in Colonial America

This two-week unit addresses the origins of slavery in colonial America -- perhaps the nation's greatest paradox and challenge. The unit probes the questions: how and why did slavery emerge as a fundamental social, economic, and political instution in colonial Anglo North America? And how did the institution affect those who experienced it? Students will examine the relationship between slavery and anti-black racism, as well as study more generally the nature of "race" in early America. Finally, students will assess the creation of a new African American culture in North America, born of necessity as a means to endure, resist, or transcend the horrors of slavery. Our sources include primary, narrative accounts of servitude and slavery, excerpts from legal sources, folk songs and tales, and visual representations of slavery and the slave trade. Secondary historical writings add background and context.

March 2: lecture on labor, servitude, the transatlantic slave trade, and the origins of slavery in colonial America.

Assignment: narrative accounts and documents (Frethorne; Revel poem; Beverly, Falconbridge; Virginia statutes); historical essays (Jordan, Edmund Morgan).

Sections: discussion of timing and causes of slavery's emergence on mainland North America.

March 4: discussion of slave experience; how scholars can reconstruct a sense of this through documentary and literary sources.

Assignment: narratives (Ayuba Suleiman Diallo; Venture Smith); historical essays (Kullikoff, Philip Morgan).

March 9: Accommodation, resistance, rebellion - background lecture and discussion.

Assignment: narratives and documents (Marrant; Dunlop; report to South Carolina Assembly); historical essay (Wood).

Sections: discussion of origins of racism in America, its relationship to institution of slavery; and/or discussion of slave accommodation and resistance and origins of African-American culture in America.

March 11: Origins of African-American culture, especially African-American literature.

Assignment: selections of African-American songs and tales.

Paper: in 1903, W. E. B. DuBois wrote of a ìdouble-consciousnessî among African Americans: ìOne ever feels his two-ness, -- an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunderî [Souls of Black Folk (New York 1961 [orig. publ. 1903]), 17.] In approx. 3 pp., assess the origins and significance of this doubleness for African Americans in the colonial period.

Supplementary Reading for Research Projects:

Olaudah Equiano [ca. 1745-97], The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings (New York: Penguin, 1995).

Accounts of the Middle Passage, from Elizabeth Donnan, ed., Documents Illustrative of the Slave Trade to America, 4 vols. (Washington, D.C., 1930-35).

Vincent Carretta, ed., Unchained Voices: An Anthology of Black Authors in the English-Speaking World of the 18th Century (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1996).

Henry Lewis Gates, Jr., ed., "Race," Writing, and Difference (Chicago, 1985).

Winthrop D. Jordan, White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812 (Chapel Hill, 1968)

Lawrence W. Levine, Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-American Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom (New York, 1977).

Michael McGiffert, ed., Constructing Race, special edition of The William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., 54: 1 (January 1997).

Russell R. Menard, "From Servants to Slaves: The Transformation of the Chesapeake Labor System," Southern Studies, 16 (1977), 355-90.

Edmund S. Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia (New York, 1975).

Philip D. Morgan, Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake and Low Country (Chapel Hill, 1998).

Darrett B. Rutman and Anita H. Rutman, A Place in Time: Middlesex County, Virginia, 1650-1750 (New York, 1984).

Shane White and Graham White, Stylin': African American Expressive Culture from Its Beginnins to the Zoot Suit (Ithaca, N.Y., 1998).

Donald R. Wright, African Americans in the Colonial Era: From African Origins through the American Revolution (Arlington Heights, Ill.: Harlan Davidson, 1990).

Final examination, Tuesday 16 March, 3:15PM.