Writing Early American Lives: Gender, Race, Nation, Faith

Photograph of Frederick Douglass.

Image of Frederick Douglass. (Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [reproduction number, LC-USZ62-15887 (b&w film copy neg.)])


MIT Course Number


As Taught In

Fall 2005



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Course Description

Course Description

This course focuses on the period between roughly 1550-1850. American ideas of race had taken on a certain shape by the middle of the nineteenth century, consolidated by legislation, economics, and the institution of chattel slavery. But both race and identity meant very different things three hundred years earlier, both in their dictionary definitions and in their social consequences. How did people constitute their identities in early America, and how did they speak about these identities? Texts will include travel writing, captivity narratives, orations, letters, and poems, by Native American, English, Anglo-American, African, and Afro-American writers.

Other Versions

Other OCW Versions

This subject on Problems in Cultural Interpretation explores the relation between imaginative texts and the culture surrounding them, emphasizing ways in which imaginative works absorb, reflect, and conflict with reigning attitudes and world views. Content varies in each version.

Related Content

Mary Fuller. 21L.707 Writing Early American Lives: Gender, Race, Nation, Faith. Fall 2005. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, https://ocw.mit.edu. License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

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