I am grateful for being included in this ongoing experiment, particularly as one of the first cohort to teach The History of Constantius and Pulchera. Duncan Faherty enticed me by appealing to my research interest in early American Shakespeare adaptations, but I found that the prior readings on my syllabus produced a different—though still enjoyable–conversation.
The first two units of this undergraduate survey in American literature before 1865 were very historical in their focus. The students read only one text that we would properly call Literature—a selection of Phyllis Wheatley’s poems. Instead, they were focused on the ways that trade, war, and migrations (forced and voluntary) reconfigured geographies and group identities, setting the Atlantic rim in violent and perpetual motion. We read from Calloway’s The World Turned Upside Down, Michael Gomez’s Exchanging Our Country Marks, as well as Harriot’s Briefe and True Reporte. The second unit focused on captivity narratives, comparing those of Rowlandson, Dustin, and Marrant both to each other and to the fictionalized “Panther Captivity.” This segment immediately preceded Constantius and Pulchera, the first extended reading in fiction. Considering the onslaught of historical documents and scholarship, I could tell the students were relieved to be in territory that they associated with an English literature course.