Advanced seminar: Puritanism - Details
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Lehrveranstaltung wird online/digital abgehalten.

General information

Course number 019 115 0014
Semester SS 2020
Current number of participants 4
expected number of participants 20
Home institute Amerikanistik
Courses type Advanced seminar in category Teaching
First date Thu , 23.04.2020 10:00 - 11:30, Room: (D, 1087)
Pre-requisites Requirements include, next to regular and active participation and preparatory readings, a written reading response and an oral presentation, as well as a final term paper.

Students of the MA International Literature (EAS-1781 / 1782 / 1783), please be aware that you need to complete an Übung or Vorlesung in addition to this seminar to successfully complete your module.
Learning organization The readings will be made available to students via the e-learning platform. Please purchase the Norton Critical Edition of Hawthorne’s Scarlett Letter, ed. by Leland S. Person.

The reading list includes primary texts by the Puritans and their followers (Mather, Bradford, Bushnell) as well as an overview on New England scholarship from Perry Miller to Sacvan Bercovitch and George McKenna. Select readings will be provided at the beginning of term. Please purchase Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlett Letter (Norton Critical Edition) and Arthur Miller, The Crucible (Penguin Modern Classics Edition).
Online/Digitale Veranstaltung Veranstaltung wird online/digital abgehalten.
Hauptunterrichtssprache englisch

Course location / Course dates

(D, 1087) Thursday: 10:00 - 11:30, weekly (12x)


“Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy” (US journalist H.L. Mencken)
In US culture, the Puritans hold a particular standing—they are viewed as the sour-faced fanatic founders of the nation. Moreover, Puritanism continues to haunt US literature and popular culture well into the present, thus tapping American cultural tropes such as civil religion, the invention of tradition, and settler colonialism.
This course examines the key role of Puritanism in US literature from the 17th century to the present, including works by the Puritans themselves, key motifs in Puritan theology and life, and literary engagements with the Puritan heritage. We will read Nathanael Hawthorne’s The Scarlett Letter alongside Arthur Miller’s Crucible and recent novels by Margaret Atwood (The Testaments), Geraldine Brook’s (Caleb’s Crossing) and Celeste Ng (Little Fires Everywhere) to discover how they discuss femininity, sexuality, and whiteness.

“A diffuse […] sense of mission permeates our lives, private and public, in the United States”. Thus wrote Leo Marx in the New York Times about Sacvan Bercovitch’s The Puritan Origins of the American Self when it first came out in 1976, the bicentennial year of the founding of the US. Throughout US history, the essence of American character, its “mission” is routinely ascribed to Puritanism, with its dual heritage of dissent and struggle for reform and political activism. Puritanism becomes the magic formula for Americanness, New England, in a hyperbolic move, serves as the cradle of the nation. This seminar revisits original Puritan texts, critically examines their burgeoning into a national myth in historiography and literary criticism, and traces the representation of Puritanism in two canonized literary texts, Hawthorne’s The Scarlett Letter (1850) and Miller’s The Crucible (1853). We will discuss the latter through recourse to film versions and historical contexts.