American Intellectual History

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Course Level:
Course Length:
15 weeks

Course Description:

Surveys historical interpretations of American intellectual life from the colonial period through the progressive movement in the early 20th century. 


Course Objectives:

  1. Apply reading and writing skills toward analyzing significant primary and secondary texts.
  2. Investigate and evaluate scholarly approaches to American Intellectual History through written and spoken means.
  3. Understand historical narratives and major ideas of American Intellectual History by comparing and evaluating different viewpoints.
  4. Increase critical reasoning skills about how American Intellectual History contributed to social, political, and religious arrangements in the United States.


Required Texts:

Philip Gura, American Transcendentalism

Henry May, The Enlightenment in America

Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club

Perry Miller, The New England Mind: From Colony to Province

Select Texts Provided by Instructor


Course Requirements and Grade Distribution:The final grade will be determined by averaging five grades:

  1.  Four essay book reviews (40% total, 10% each)
  2.  Research Paper (20%)
  3. Final exam (20%)
  4. Class participation (20%):  You must be on time, bring your book, listen to lectures, answer and askquestions, work diligently on assignments, and turn in work on time.  Participation is arequirement—coming to class and not adding to discussion is similar to taking anexam and not answering any questions. If you come to class and do not contributewith questions or insights, do not expect an A, B or C for this portion of your grade.



Grading Scale:  92-100= A; 90-91= A-; 88-89= B+; 87-82= B; 80-81= B-; 78-79= C+; 72-77= C; 70-71= C-; 68-69= D+; 62-67= D; 60-61= D-; Below 60= F


Course Policies:

Academic Integrity:As stated in the Samford University 2007-2008 catalog, “students, upon enrollment, enter into voluntary association with Samford University. They must be willing to observe high standards of intellectual integrity; they must respect knowledge and practice academic honesty.” Unless specified otherwise, students are expected to do their own independent work, and to refrain from cheating, copying or plagiarizing the work of others. When drawing from various resources for assignments, students must provide proper citations.

Accommodation:Samford University complies with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Students with disabilities who seek accommodations must make their request by contacting Disability Support Services located in Counseling Services on the lower level of Pittman Hall, or call #726-4078.  A faculty member will grant reasonable accommodations only upon written notification from Disability Support Services.

Attendance Policy:Students who miss 6 classes will receive an “FA” for the course. All unexcused absences will negatively affect your participation average.  Make-up work may be negotiated for absences due to medical or emergency reasons.

Electronic Devices:  As stated in the Student Handbook, “Student use of cell phones, messaging devices and other electronic devices (for example, recording devices, music players, PDAs, computers) is prohibited in classes unless specifically permitted by the instructor.” 



Mon. Aug. 30              Course Introduction


Wed. Sept. 1               Foundational Considerations


Fri. Sept. 3                  The Errand Into the Wilderness


Mon. Sept. 6               No Class.  Labor Day


Wed. Sept. 8               The Puritan State and Puritan Society


Fri. Sept. 10                Reading Discussion: Miller, The New England Mind,

                                      pp. 3-146


Mon. Sept. 13            Puritanism and Covenantal Theology


Wed. Sept. 15           The Puritan Dilemma


Fri. Sept. 17               Reading Discussion: Miller, The New England Mind,

                                     pp. 149-302


Mon. Sept. 20            The Transformation of Calvinism


Wed. Sept. 22           Reading Discussion: Miller, The New England Mind,

                                     pp. 305-485


Fri. Sept. 24                First Book Review Due: Miller, The New England Mind


Mon. Sept. 27             Defining the Enlightenment


Wed. Sept. 29             Experiential Religion and the New Divinity


Fri. Oct. 1                    Reading Discussion: May, The Enlightenment in America,

                                    pp. xi-149


Mon. Oct. 4                 Deism, Nature, and Nature’s God


Wed. Oct. 6                Revolutionaries and the Conservative Reaction


Fri. Oct. 8                    Reading Discussion: May, The Enlightenment in America,

                                    pp. 153-304


Mon. Oct. 11               No Class.  Fall Break. 


Wed. Oct. 13              Rise of the Moderates


Fri. Oct. 15                  The Democratization of American Christianity         


Mon. Oct. 18               Reading Discussion: May, The Enlightenment in America,

                                    pp. 307-362

Wed. Oct. 20              Discuss Research Paper Ideas


Fri. Oct. 22                  Second Book Review Due:  May, The Enlightenment in America


Mon. Oct. 25               Higher Criticism and the New Historicism


Wed. Oct. 27              Unitarianism                                       


Fri. Oct. 29                  Reading Discussion: Gura, American Transcendentalism

                                     pp. xi-97


Mon. Nov. 1                Communitarian Experiments


Wed. Nov. 3               Research Paper Topic Proposal Due


Fri. Nov. 5                   Reading Discussion: Gura, American Transcendentalism

                                    pp. 98-208


Mon. Nov. 8                Abolitionism


Wed. Nov. 10             Reading Discussion: Gura, American Transcendentalism

                                    pp. 209-306


Fri. Nov. 12                 Third Book Review Due: Gura, American Transcendentalism


Mon. Nov. 15              Legal Realism


Wed. Nov. 17             Pragmatism and Process Metaphysics


Fri. Nov. 19                 Reading Discussion: Menand, The Metaphysical Club

                                    pp. ix-148


Mon. Nov. 22              Research Paper Outline Due


Wed. Nov. 24             No Class.  Thanksgiving Break


Fri. Nov. 26                 No Class.  Thanksgiving Break


Mon. Nov. 29              Education as Activity


Wed. Dec. 1               Reading Discussion: Menand, The Metaphysical Club

                                     pp. 151-284


Fri. Dec. 3                   Research Paper Introduction Due


Mon. Dec. 6                Reading Discussion: Menand, The Metaphysical Club

                                     pp. 285-442


Wed. Dec. 8                Fourth Book Review Due: Menand, The Metaphysical Club


Fri. Dec. 10                 Review for Final


Wed. Dec. 15              Final Exam 10:30 AM

                                      Research Paper Due