September 1, 2, 3

WEEK THREE: Days Two, Three, Four

John Smith, 1580-1631

The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles: With the Names of the Adventurers, Planters, and Governours From Their First Beginning Ano: 1584. To This Present 1624. With the Procedings of Those Severall Colonies and the Accidents That Befell Them in All Their Journyes and Discoveries. Also the Maps and Descriptions of All Those Countryes, Their Commodities, People, Government, Customes, and Religion Yet Knowne. Divided Into Sixe Bookes. By Captaine Iohn Smith, Sometymes Governour in Those Countryes & Admirall of New England.

London: Printed by I.D. and I.H. for Michael Sparkes, 1624.

Work Cited - Documenting the American South, University of NC Library;


Characteristics of American Literature During the Seventeenth Century

Unit Theme:

Purposes of Early American Writing

Unit Essential Question:

How did the earliest American writers view America?

How did the earliest American writers view the settler's difficulties in surviving a new land?

Essential Skill or Concept: Each student will

Visit the Jamestown Settlement Museum on-line and watch museum videos with podcasts.

Read selections from
The General History of Virginia (1624).

Answer the assigned questions in a notebook.

Mini-Lesson Outline:

A. The teacher will administer vocabulary quiz for the week, and then present the following by means of the multimedia projector, video, and background notes (three days):

John Smith (1580-1631) - multimedia presentation

General History of Virginia - multimedia presentation

Jamestown Settlement - multimedia presentation

Adventurer and Writer - mulitmedia presentation

Pocahontas: Her True Story - video (50 minutes)

B. Each student will read selections from The General History of Virginia (1624), in the text, pages 11 - 16, and answer assigned questions #1 and 2 in a notebook.

C. Students will continue this assignment during the next day of class.

1st Night: Homework will be to finish the final draft of their fairytales.

2nd Night: Homework will be to read pages 17 - 23 in the text.

3rd Night: No homework

* Teacher's Background Notes: from notes based on Professor Walter Fuller Taylor's notes and lectures - Michael S. Seiferth

"The American writings of the seventeenth century possess as a whole no great artistic merit. They are valuable chiefly as a study in origins and as a complex mirror of early American experience. The world which they reflect is that of the Renaissance and Reformation, of Raleigh and Calvin and Cromwell, modified by its contact with the American wilderness. With the Renaissance vogue of travel literature the writings of Smith are intimately connected; to Renaissance poetic models the poetry of Anne Bradstreet owes at least its form and probably its existence. The main current of early American literature, however, originated in the Puritan branch of the Reformation. With unconscious faithfulness this Puritan literature reflects the Puritan mind: its rigid Calvinism, its morbid consciousness of sin, its superstition, its austerity, its stoical bravery, its vein tenderness, its preference of morality to beauty, its contradictory tendencies toward orthodoxy and nonconformity. Puritan literature is antique in manner and often in matter; yet it treats profoundly a few subjects of universal and permanent importance, such as the relation between church and state, and the source and functions of governmental sovereignty. And, what is more important, the Puritan tradition established itself as one of the major influences on our nation. For better or for worse, it has modified the whole development of our life and literature, and its influence is still discernible in twentieth-century America."

Travel Literature in Early Virginia

"The Twofold Origin of American Literature: The story of American letters has its beginnings in Europe, for the roots of our culture are grounded in the life of the Old World. Only in their surroundings were the seventeenth-century immigrants American. In race and in civilization they were merely transplanted Europeans, who brought to the colonies unchanged Old World speech, manners, politics, and religion. The Colonists thought as Europeans; and, when they wrote, they discussed issues of interest in Europe, and followed European models of style. Yet from the very beginning, their Old World manner of life was modified by their new environment. Distinctions in social rank, which were taken for granted in Europe, had soon to be maintained by conscious effort in the colonies; and, as the settlements moved westward, they tended to disappear. In such ways as this the influence of the New World surroundings was constantly at work, molding the immigrant material into American forms."

"The Vogue of Travel Literature: When Jamestown and Plymouth were being settled, Europe was still undergoing the rapid changes wrought by the Renaissance and the Reformation. Of these two movements, it was the Renaissance that fostered the earliest American Writings. By the term Renaissance is meant not merely a revival of learning, but a tremendous liberation of energy into all forms of secular enterprise - commerce, creative literature, science, and by no means least, exploration."

"John Smith (1580?-1631) and the Virginia Settlement: To this popular type of Renaissance literature - the travel book - the first American writing is closely akin. Captain John Smith, who saved the Jamestown settlement by his boisterous method of enforcing labor, found time to write an account of the colony for its English sponsors, the Virginia Company of London. By some member of the corporation Smith's report was given to a printer in 1608 for publication. It duly appeared under the quaintly Elizabethan title, A True Relation of such occurrences and accidents of note as hath happened in Virginia since the first planting of that colony, which is now resident in the south part thereof, till the last return from thence. In this narrative Smith relates the search of the colonists for a place of settlement, their early skirmishes with the Indians, their explorations, their petty quarrels, and their first desperate struggles with illness. Naturally there is no lack of adventure, particularly in those portions that tell of the capture of Smith by the Indians."

"Smith's next work of importance, A Map of Virginia with a description of the country, the commodities, people, government and religion (1612) [Published in 1612, it was written shortly after A True Relation] was written apparently with the object of attracting colonists to Jamestown. Smith's descriptions 0f the bays, large rivers, isles, forests, springs, and mountains of Virginia are singularly attractive. The life of the natives Smith portrays with a remarkable abundance of concrete detail. The Indians' agriculture, their fishing and hunting, their tribal government, their wildly barbaric religious ceremonies, their childish curiosity and love of ornaments - all these are set forth in a style that is matter-of-fact, yet vivid."

"...Smith's composition, done amid the hardships of a pioneer camp, was rough and hasty; yet his work possesses important literary virtues. With singular directness he penetrates to the essential facts and discards the nonessential. His vocabulary is broad, forceful, aptly employed, and pithily idiomatic...Smith wrote extensively in areas other than travel. His principal work, The General History of Virginia (1624), which was written in England, and which is famous chiefly for the dubious story of his rescue by Pocahontas, is well known."