American Studies 335
New England
CAS 152
MWF 1:00-1:55
Fall Semester 2002
Click for a Print Friendly View of Course Introduction
Michael R. H. Swanson, Ph. D.
Roger Williams University
Office Hours   T, Th, F, 9:00-10:00
M 12:00 -1:00 or By Appointment
Feinstein 110
(401) 254 3230
Course Introduction

History and Culture of the New England region examining the varieties of New England life from Colonial Plymouth to modern Boston, as well as the continuities of New England tradition in education, religion, seafaring, and milling. 3 credits
Roger Williams University Catalogue

Well, we'll do some of the above.   American Studies as a mode of investigation borrows insights and methodologies from a wide variety of disciplines.  This time around, we will be using concepts drawn from cultural geography, gender studies and material culture studies to a greater degree than ever before.  I've made these changes out of a conviction that these have been under represented in the courses I've offered to this date.    Newness always brings a degree of risk.  The books used are likely to be quite different from other books with which you are familiar, and we'll have to work hard at understanding the concepts which underlie the work.  The chief question we're going to be investigating is how the land and land settlement patterns influenced the shape of New England Culture as it emerged.  We'll be looking at the New England Village in fact and myth, at the web of social relationships which underlay village life, at some of the types of homes which formed the state on which that life was lived out, an at contributions New England makes to American Culture generally, through the activities of persons important in New England history, and through some of the attitudes and ideologies which seem important in contemporary New England.

Wood, William
New England's Prospect,
edited with an introduction by Alden T. Vaughan
Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1993

Wood, Joseph S.,
The New England Village
Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1997

Hansen, Karen V.
A Very Social Time: Crafting Community in
Antebellum New England
Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1996

Nylander, Jane C.
Our Own Snug Fireside:
Images of the New England Home, 1760-1860
New Haven, Yale University Press, 1993

Mansfield, Howard
In the Memory House
Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 1993
We'll use these five texts in the order given.  After the first units of this course we'll be working in more than one text simultaneously, so you will need to purchase them all early in the semester.

Internet Requirement

More and more, academic literacy and scholarship cannot be said to be complete without a knowledge of the internet as a resource and tool.  There will be a number of exercises in this course which will require significant time spent online.  Those of you with computers will not find this too difficult.  In fact, internet resources are available 24 hours a day, barring the occasional system crash.  For those of you who do not own a computer or do not have access from your home or dorm room, there are many public machines available on the second floor of the Gabelli School of Business.  If you are uncomfortable with using the "net", I'll be happy to assist you during office hours or by appointment. 
I have created a website for this course at  This is a work in progress, and you will be expected to visit it weekly as assignments for the following week will be posted there on Thursday night.  There is a special mailbox for this course, and you will demonstrate that you have visited the website by sending me a weekly e-mail to that mailbox.   I will be encouraging you to make scholarly websites of your own, which will let you share your ideas and insights with others.  I may  require you to post some of your work on the class website.  I encourage you to submit work for this course electronically, either by e-mailing me attachments, or by turning in a floppy disk with your work on it.  This will facilitate my ability to comment extensively on what you're producing, and will save you the chore of deciphering my handwriting, which grows more and more mysterious every year.
Work and Evaluation

The vast majority of the work you prepare for a grade in this course will be written outside of class.  Most assignments will be fairly short (3-5 pages), and I'll accept an informal style of documentation.  However, I won't be happy with work which is mentally or grammatically sloppy.  Some of this work will be more like take-home examinations in other words, there will be a question or questions to which each of you will respond.  The rest of it will be more free form: perhaps involving some private investigation of your own with a report of the results.  I expect these assignments will come about once every other week, give or take.  Initially, I will make these assignments as handouts which I distribute in class.  I will also post them at the website.  In the interest of tree-saving, I hope by the middle of the semester to post everything  on the net, and only provide paper copies on request.  Note: you will be able to print off anything which is web-based.   There will also be a required class presentation, based on work which you will turn in in writing. 

Grading will be based on approximately these proportions:

4 short papers as described above... 20 per cent of your grade each. One of these will be on a person who has made a contribution to New England Culture, and this will form the basis of your class presentation.

Class Presentation based on one of those papers, 10%:  I would expect this paper to be of greater length and more fully developed conceptually than the others. 

Attendance and Participation, Quizzes if there are any, 10%

Attendance will be recorded.  Three unexcused absences will lower your grade a notch.  Seven unexcused absences will result in a grade of F.   Appropriate excuses include illness, a family emergency, or a scheduled activity of another class or Roger Williams University athletic team.  I will circulate a sign-in sheet for you to initial as a method of recording your attendance.  Record your visit to the class Website by sending an e-mail to the special mailbox with your name as the subject line.  Use the mailbox to ask questions or to communicate with me regarding absences.
Assignments for Friday, September 6

Read, in New England's Prospect,

1.  The Introduction by Alden Vaughan, pp. 1-14.

New England's Prospect is a primary source.   It was written in 1634. For Wood's contemporaries.   From this introduction come away with an understanding of (a) why this is an important book in the history of American Ideas... locate it as an example of a particular literary genre.  (b) Understand the editorial principles which Vaughan used to create this particular version of the book.  What kinds of choices did he make, and why?  What work is left for modern readers when it comes to developing a thorough understanding of this work conceptually?

Internet Assignments:

A.    Visit the website for this course at
B.    Go to the "Resource" page at
Click on the icon MURL, and you'll find bookmarks to websites I've located. 
Add this website to your own bookmark list.
C.    At register for a free place to store your own bookmarks.
This is especially useful if you use more than one computer.  You'll always have access
to your own references, and you also will have an insurance policy against the crashing
of your own hard drive. 
D.    Visit 
This interactive tutorial is provided by the Social Science Information Gateway,
which is an academic site based in the United Kingdom.  You will be able to sign on
to a free account and then proceed to take the tutorial at your own pace.  This is one
of two tutorials I will be assigning you.  There may be a quiz on this material
sometime the week of September 9.