ENGL 215: Virginia Literature
Dr. John Miller, associate professor of early American literature
What They’re Reading
John Smith, The Generall Historie; Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia; John Pendleton Kennedy, Swallow Barn; Edgar Allan Poe, Tales; Thomas Nelson Page, In Ole Virginia; Ellen Glasgow, The Romantic Comedians; Edward P. Jones, The Known World.
Present Meets Past
Students often find relevance to their own lives in these historic texts, making them more meaningful. They explore the influence on present-day Virginia culture by asking questions: Why do our heroes still echo John Smith? How are we still entertained by the Gothicism perfected by Poe? What aspects of Longwood’s curriculum fulfill Jefferson’s vision of public education?
Miller had taught a version of the class before, but it was focused more on literature. “The outcomes associated with the new Civitae curriculum allow us to investigate more creatively and thoroughly the links between the literature and the history of the commonwealth,” he said.
As conversations continue about Confederate monuments in cities and towns across the South, Miller’s class begins the conversation in historic texts. “Analyzing the legacy of 19th-century texts set on plantations allows us to explore the literary roots of ‘The Lost Cause,’ that nostalgia for an imagined pre-Civil War society that also fueled the building of so many of the Confederate monuments that are the center of controversies today,” he said. “We’re able to explore what those monuments meant to the people who built them and the psychological investment that their defenders have in them today.”