Discussion Week One: Time Travel and Defining Literature

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Discussion Week One: Time Travel and Defining Literature

Dr. Brandon
Administrator
Use this thread to answer one of the following questions.  I'll chime in occasionally to keep the discussion going and to keep you thinking.

a.  The notion of "Early" in "Early American Literature" refers to the period between American Indian and European Contact, that is, beginning in 1492 and--as it is defined at Reynolds--running up until 1867 or so, that is, just after the Civil War.  If you time travel were a reality and you could take an all expense paid, safe trip back to the Americas between 1492-1867, when, who, and where in America would you visit.  Why?

b. Literature is a hard term to pin down, but you've probably studied it throughout most of your education.  This week, you'll read a letter, poems, and listen to songs from between 1782 and the 1860s.  When most people think of literature, they think of novels, plays, short stories, poems, etc.  They don't think of songs, letters, diaries, etc.; yet, much of the literature we study were texts like song lyrics or, in the case of one of my specialties--Native American literature, oral traditions and songs that were never written down at all.  It's all literature, and part of what we'll be doing this semester is expanding your ideas about what literature is.

In any event, we don't think of everything that is written down--grocery lists, for instance--as literature.  In this question, take a stab at defining what is and isn't literature and why we study such a broad range of texts as literature.  
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Re: Discussion Week One: Time Travel and Defining Literature

kevcon27
When I first went to answer this question I said between 1760-1812.  That was an early americans life expectantcy.  After giving it further thought I would say the 1790's.  The federalists lead by Alexander Hamilton and the anti-federalists lead by Thomas Jefferson, were in fevered political discussions that would set the tone for our history.  I would want to hear Hamilton explain how common people shouldn't be given an opinion.  Or that we should have a strong central government.  I wonder if I would agree with his elitist rhetoric.  Or would I go the way of the humble yeoman farmer, philosphy king Jefferson so despretly believes in.  My rightous side always wants to support Jeffersons ideals and scould Hamilton for his darker view.  In reality I feel Hamilton was a correct and validated throught time and policy.  Jeffersons ideals are what we should always strive for.  Today the yeoman farmer is a working mom or a small bussiness family. I think it would be amazing to see the intellectual giants go at it in on the capital.  They both believed if the other succeeded then the United States would fail.  When you think about how unique America was at that time.  These are two men who were involved personally in the founding of the country.  Their convictions must have run deep.  I can only imagine what it would have been like but makes proud either way.
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Re: Discussion Week One: Time Travel and Defining Literature

Sam Coleman
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
I feel similarly that if to have a choice I would go back to the 1780's and go to Philadelphia, although it is a close choice between that and anywhere in the 1860's. I can not imagine anything more interesting than watching what was essentially the forging of our country's government. I consider the constitution to be one of the greatest living documents and I have a lot of of questions for the founding fathers. In today's society it seems as though the founders ideas and documents are continually misquoted if not misunderstood altogether. I would like some clarification from Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Franklin, or Mr. Washington on a variety of issues currently in debate. I have a particular interest in the issue of the separation of church and state seeing as it is one of the most fiercely debated issues and one of which that I have a strong opinion.
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Re: Discussion Week One: Time Travel and Defining Literature

Dr. Brandon
Administrator
In reply to this post by kevcon27
Jefferson gave interesting dinner parties.  He invited leading politicians, explorers, artists, architects, etc.  I suspect it would be interesting to have been a fly on the wall to one of these dinner parties--Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, Adams, Burr, and Hamilton, all discussing what the new nation should look like.  Burr would later kill Hamilton in a dual over an insult Hamilton offered in a debate about who was the greatest rascal--Jefferson or Burrr, but if you caught them before the election of 1800-1801, I suspect you would have heard brilliant discussion.

Good choice.

Steve

Stephen Brandon, PhD
Associate Professor, Composition and Rhetoric
J. Sargent Reynolds Community College
Richmond, VA 23221
[hidden email]

Often the accurate answer to a usage question begins, "It depends." And what
it depends on most often is where you are, who you are, who your listeners
or readers are, and what your purpose in speaking or writing is.
-Kenneth G. Wilson, usage writer (b. 1923)


On Wed, Jan 12, 2011 at 4:46 PM, kevcon27 [via General Assembly Online Discussion Forum, ENG 241, Spring 2011] <[hidden email]> wrote:
When I first went to answer this question I said between 1760-1812.  That was an early americans life expectantcy.  After giving it further thought I would say the 1790's.  The federalists lead by Alexander Hamilton and the anti-federalists lead by Thomas Jefferson, were in fevered political discussions that would set the tone for our history.  I would want to hear Hamilton explain how common people shouldn't be given an opinion.  Or that we should have a strong central government.  I wonder if I would agree with his elitist rhetoric.  Or would I go the way of the humble yeoman farmer, philosphy king Jefferson so despretly believes in.  My rightous side always wants to support Jeffersons ideals and scould Hamilton for his darker view.  In reality I feel Hamilton was a correct and validated throught time and policy.  Jeffersons ideals are what we should always strive for.  Today the yeoman farmer is a working mom or a small bussiness family. I think it would be amazing to see the intellectual giants go at it in on the capital.  They both believed if the other succeeded then the United States would fail.  When you think about how unique America was at that time.  These are two men who were involved personally in the founding of the country.  Their convictions must have run deep.  I can only imagine what it would have been like but makes proud either way.



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Re: Discussion Week One: Time Travel and Defining Literature

Dr. Brandon
Administrator
In reply to this post by Sam Coleman
Sam,

Jefferson and Franklin were firmly behind the separation of church and state.  They were both Deists, which meant that they believed in a supreme being who set up the world to run by loving but firm laws--like Newtonian physics.  Jefferson wrote the Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom as a means of solving a problem with the early country, that is, how do you bring together colonies and townships used to different state religions into a coherent country.  He solved the problem like he did many, by making it a right to hold and discuss whatever beliefs one wants, that is, as long as you are willing to let others hold their own.  You'll have a chance to read the Statute.  I think all the founders would be nervous about the general lack of conversation about religion.  All thought that getting religion right was essential, but they thought we'd get it right over time by debate and discussion.  Jefferson said in the Statute that we have nothing to fear from false beliefs, that is unless true beliefs are denied their natural defenses, reason and discussion.  

Hamilton, Adams, Patrick Henry, etc. were worried that without a state religion to assure a common morality, the moral values needed for democracy to work would erode.  

What we ended up was an ongoing, weakening debate, which I suspect is what the founders were trying for.  They also set up the way the debate had to happen, that is, outside of state control and in public.  

We'll be reading about all this over the semester, so you'll have a chance to at least read the documents where things were set out and to make up your own mind.

Steve

Stephen Brandon, PhD
Associate Professor, Composition and Rhetoric
J. Sargent Reynolds Community College
Richmond, VA 23221
[hidden email]

Often the accurate answer to a usage question begins, "It depends." And what
it depends on most often is where you are, who you are, who your listeners
or readers are, and what your purpose in speaking or writing is.
-Kenneth G. Wilson, usage writer (b. 1923)


On Wed, Jan 12, 2011 at 6:15 PM, Sam Coleman [via General Assembly Online Discussion Forum, ENG 241, Spring 2011] <[hidden email]> wrote:
I feel similarly that if to have a choice I would go back to the 1780's and go to Philadelphia, although it is a close choice between that and anywhere in the 1860's. I can not imagine anything more interesting than watching what was essentially the forging of our country's government. I consider the constitution to be one of the greatest living documents and I have a lot of of questions for the founding fathers. In today's society it seems as though the founders ideas and documents are continually misquoted if not misunderstood altogether. I would like some clarification from Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Franklin, or Mr. Washington on a variety of issues currently in debate. I have a particular interest in the issue of the separation of church and state seeing as it is one of the most fiercely debated issues and one of which that I have a strong opinion.



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Re: Discussion Week One: Time Travel and Defining Literature

Courtney DeLong
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
For me, I would go back to the late 1770s and early 1780s for the making of the constitution and our government. So many historic events happened during this time that has shaped America into what it is today. The Declaration of Independence and the making of the Constitution played a key role. Because of these documents, Americans have personal rights that people in other countries do not have. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were two solid leaders that had a dream that should be a reality. Because of their hard work and many others as well, the Declaration of Independence was put into place. This was a huge ordeal for the states who had finally received the independence that they had so longed for. As far as the U.S. Constitution, it is probably one of the most historic and rewarding documents there is, as it has an impact on our everyday lives. I can only imagine what it was like to be a part of such a historic event in America. When all else fails, the U.S. Constitution is the one thing that we can rely on to protect our rights as American citizens.  
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Re: Discussion Week One: Time Travel and Defining Literature

scarver
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
I would like to go back to the 1840-1850's to meet Harriet Tubman and Abraham Lincoln.  I would work with both individuals to help end slavery.  I feel slavery is one of the worst acts in American history.  To think so many people could agree to treat another human as if her/she was less than an animal, just because of the color of their skin was horrible.  Before African slaves, there were slaves from other countries, but they were not treated as cruelly as the slaves from Africa were.  I would have been proud to assist Harriet in her underground railroad.  If that trip weren’t available, I would go back to the beginning to meet the Indians.  It would be interesting to see what America looked like, before the Englishmen arrived.  It was probably pretty and scary at the same time.  People and animals both free to roam the land at will.
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Re: Discussion Week One: Time Travel and Defining Literature

Brittani Fleming
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
a.) I would travel to somewhere in the 1700's.  Specifically I would visit Benjamin Franklin to understand how he came up with various theories and inventions.  It would be interesting to discuss with him how technology is today, and how some of those theories and inventions he had paved the way for current technology.

b.) In my opinion, literature is a piece of writing , song or speech that tells a story or has meaning. It is important to study all types of literature because there are so many stories people have to tell aand ideas people have.  Literature is one of the few ways we can truly understand the past.
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Re: Discussion Week One: Time Travel and Defining Literature

Cynthia
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
1. I think to go back to 1492 and be part of Columbus movement to America would be a wild experience. All the exploration of the new land, learn how to hunt, fight for surviving, all the diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, lack of medicine supplies and the hot weather at that time, would be a hard time. Thinking of that I would go back to 1781 when George Washington spoke out he did not want to be a king and America became a Republic, after the battle of Yorktown.
    In my opinion George Washington was a brave man, with a good conduct and great ideas for the good of the society and contributing to education.

2. Like music, painting and dance, literature is considered an art. Through it we come into contact with a set of experiences of the man without having to live them. It is a communication tool, by transmitting knowledge and culture of a community. Like history, literary text allows us to identify the marks of the time it was written. The literary works help us understand ourselves, the man's behavior changes over the centuries, reflected on ourselves.
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Re: Discussion Week One: Time Travel and Defining Literature

Amy Wildonger
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
If I could travel back in time I would go ALL the way back and hang out with Christopher Columbus as he discovers the new world.  Even though he was trying to get to East Asia when he ended up at or around the Bahamas.  He also discovered Haiti along the way.  I just think it would have been amusing to see Columbus' reaction when he found out he really hadn't ended up in East Asia.  Plus I love anything that has to do with the ocean so what a remarkable trip that would have been.
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Re: Discussion Week One: Time Travel and Defining Literature

Antonio Lewis
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
If I could travel back in history to any time period between 1492-1867 in America, I don't think I would be particularly excited, but I would go to 1776.  I am an African American and therefore, I would have been a slave.  I would love to have met George Washington, although, he owned many slaves.  His inhumane treatment of them is illustrated through his sets of false teeth.  This sets not only contained false teeth made from ivory, but real teeth that he took from the slaves.  I chose Washington because he was the commander in chief that led our country to victory in the American Revolution.  Being in the military myself, I would've loved to have the opportunity to fight for such a brave man.  Being that I live outside of Washington D.C., I often drive past his Mount Vernon estate.  I love water and the estate overlooks the Potomac River.  I think it would have been fun to engage in conversation with the President while smoking a pipe of his fine tobacco and overlooking the river.  Oh and I can't leave out the fact he made his own whiskey at a distillery on the plantation.  Whiskey always makes for an interesting conversation.  Ha-ha....
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Re: Discussion Week One: Time Travel and Defining Literature

Kristi Kesler
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
To me literature is a piece of work (whether song, novel, poem) that an individual has set aside the time and thought to produce.  A grocery list persay is a list that someone intentially wrote down with a purpose but yet it serves no "meaning" to anyone else other than a simple list.  Whereas novels, poems, songs can have many different reasons and interpretations.  Again comparing a list...a quick jot of items as compared to a song or novel...a list is a quick, unmeaningful piece of work.  Songs, poems, novels, etc take much considerations and have meaning to the indivudal writing it.  Also a list is quickly forgotten and thrown away...whereas a novel, poem, etc is typically kept and sometimes published and/or cherished.
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Re: Discussion Week One: Time Travel and Defining Literature

Antonio Lewis
In reply to this post by Cynthia
Cynthia,

I can't imagine being on that boat with Christopher Columbus.  Sure, it would have been certainly exciting to discover new lands, but a dangerous journey it would have been.  I can barely stand being on a cruise ship for a week, even though it has wonderful amenities.  I'm sure I would have been sick sea fifty percent of the time.  As you mentioned, there were many diseases being transmitted by mosquitoes.  I would have devoted my time to creating some sort of mosquito repellent being shipping out.  
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Re: Discussion Week One: Time Travel and Defining Literature

carlos colindres
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
Ill take a shot at what literature is or isint. literature is actually anything that is expressed in writing and the native americans versions of storytelling is also literature. I also define it as telling what was happening during that time period. Novels, songs, poems, and diaries are a powerfull way of telling what was going on because they put emotions and personal thoughts on there own personal situation of what was around them. so i think there isint anything that doesent classify as literature because every "work of art," tells a story.
   
 
Carlos
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Re: Discussion Week One: Time Travel and Defining Literature

Ben Morgan
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
a.   To answer the first question, there are so many places that come to mind. Being a Virginian however, I think I will connect with my southern roots and look towards the very end of the “Early American Literature” period. I would go to the years in which the civil war took place. (1861-1865) I would specifically want to watch President Lincoln. I would want to see how he handled one of the most discouraging things a president could ever handle. For the sake of time and argument, I will not say he was a good or bad president. I do however think that he went through one of the toughest things a president could ever go through. A presidents job is to make a decision for the people, with the people, which would benefit the nation as a whole. To watch the country you love and seek to guide turn on itself had to be a difficult situation.

b.   When I think about literature, I do not picture any one piece. I do not believe that it is meant to be pictured this way. I believe that literature is simply an outflow of words coming from every day people like you and I. It is an outflow of feelings or conviction in which the author is trying to portray a message. I think what literature is, is what others take away from those authors works. Literature is not just the physical copies in which have been compiled over the years, rather, it is the way in which the reader, the viewer, the listener perceives the art. It is the message in which we take away.
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Re: Discussion Week One: Time Travel and Defining Literature

Anthony Rinaldi
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
Out of all the events within that time period, there are many to choose from... The Burning of Washington, battles of the Civil War, expansion into the untamed west, etc... However, if I had to choose only one, I would have to say it would be the debate and adoption of the current United States Constititution in 1787.

It is nearly mindboggling; the idea of a creating a government from scratch for leading a new nation, which happens so rarely in today's interconnected world. To be proverbial fly on the wall when it was decided what powers the federal government and State governments would have, and which ones would be restricted, the separation of the federal government into the three branches.

What was seen as important, but now, 224 years later, is not as pertinent? And vice versa, what was glossed over that is now a source of contention throughout the country?
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Re: Discussion Week One: Time Travel and Defining Literature

Charlie Smoak
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
If I could go back in time, I would really want to be on the beach where Christopher Columbus landed in 1492. While sitting on a beach chair watching him come to shore, I would wait until he came up to me so I could be the one to tell him that he made a wrong turn. The look on his face after hearing that would most likely be priceless. Another time I would like to go back to to witness would be 1737 so I could watch the construction of Richmond. I would love to see how they took the land and turned it into such an important city. Jumping ahead a few years to 1775, I would also head to to St. Johns Church to see Patrick Henry's famous speech. Witnessing that historical and passionate speech would be quite an experience.
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Re: Discussion Week One: Time Travel and Defining Literature

Jeff R
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
A)  I would travel to 1775 and stay through the Revolution.  I’ve always been interested in the time building up to the Revolution, and I would like to observe the town meetings.  I think it would be great to have been at St. Johns church when Patrick Henry gave his famous speech.  I would have also liked to see what General Washington was like.  Mostly, I wish I could have seen the atmosphere in the Colonies during the buildup to war.  

B)  I think literature is creative writing that comes from the heart, and is written with purpose, excitement, and passion.
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Re: Discussion Week One: Time Travel and Defining Literature

Cynthia
In reply to this post by Antonio Lewis
I know, I completely agree! I would be sea sick 100% of the time. I cannot barely go on a small boat for two hours!
The idea of creating something was great, it would have prevented so many deaths.
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Re: Discussion Week One: Time Travel and Defining Literature

Kendall Plummer
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
To me, literature is an expression of someone's thoughts, feelings, emotions, and lifestyles. Anything that is written can help describe the author. For example, someone's grocery list would tell the reader  of the individual's habits, like if the person was semi-healthy or not. They could probably tell if the person had kids, was maybe planning for a party, or even what holiday was probably coming up.
The work of music composers expresses their emotions and how they may have been feeling when they wrote the piece. A lot of times I've learned or noticed that the more melodic and soft the piece was, the composer was usually in mourning or in a state of depression when they composed it.
Other individuals thoughts, reminders, or ideas have been turned into books that others read now for historcial reasons. Some examples are Anne Frank's Diary or the notes in Abe Lincoln's top hat.
It's so interesting how something that could be so little to one person could change another person's views or life forever.
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