Exploring American Identity: “American Letters” FYS

3 min read

Julia Pecora ’25

Features Editor

In the heart of academia, there’s a unique class offered at Trinity College, one that delves deep into the intricate fabric of American identity. Aptly named “American Letters,” this First-Year Seminar, under the guidance of professor Hilary Wyss, is more than just another course—it is an opportunity for students to embark on a journey of self-discovery through exploring a deeper connection to America. As students step into the shoes of their fellow peers and explore their diverse stories of how they came to be part of this land, they uncover a richer understanding of our collective American identity.

“American Letters” is not your typical seminar. It is a celebration of the eclectic mix of backgrounds and narratives that converge within its classroom. The core essence of this course revolves around the exploration of individual students’ relationships with their American identity. Whether it’s an international student who has come to the United States to pursue their education, or someone whose ancestors arrived on the shores of Ellis Island decades ago, this class is a buffet of stories, experiences and perspectives that illuminate the multifaceted nature of the American identity.

Professor Wyss, a distinguished scholar in American literature, guides her students through a carefully curated syllabus that traverses the annals of American history and literature. With her expertise and passion, she encourages students to critically engage with texts that reflect the various facets of American identity. Through the exploration of classic works by people like Frederick Douglas, and even Trinity’s own Davarian Baldwin, professor of American studies, students gain insights into the complex tapestry of this nation’s history and culture.

What sets “American Letters” apart from other courses is the sense of community it fosters. Each student’s unique journey to the classroom adds depth and richness to the discussions. It’s not just about studying American identity from a distance; it’s about living it, experiencing it and sharing it. The diversity of perspectives allows for a more comprehensive understanding of the intricate threads that bind us together as Americans.

One of the distinctive features of this seminar is the complementary tutoring session offered at Peter B’s. This mentorship not only enhances the students’ academic experience but also reinforces the sense of community and support within the class. It’s a weekly opportunity for students to deepen their understanding of the course material and forge meaningful connections.

“American Letters” is not just a seminar—it’s a journey. A journey of self-discovery, empathy and connection with our fellow students and the nation we call home. Through the exploration of our individual stories, we come to understand that our differences are what make us stronger as a community. Professor Wyss has crafted a remarkable educational experience that leaves a lasting impact on students, helping them navigate the complexities of American identity with grace and introspection.

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