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Materials > Assignments > Overview | Book Reviews | Term Project

General Overview of Course Assignments

Exams: There will be three in-class exams. Dates are given in the class schedule. Exams will consist of "objective" questions (i.e. multiple choice, fill in the blank, identification) and short essay questions. Ample instruction will be given on what to expect on the exams.

Book Reviews: Over the course of the semester, you will be expected to write three book reviews (4-5 double-spaced, typed pages). See below for dates and descriptions of the book review assignments.

Term Project: At the end of the semester, you and a partner will be expected to present a short powerpoint presentation on a theme you have identified as a neglected chapter of Civil War history.

Participation: You are expected to come to class prepared to talk about the assigned reading. When necessary, students will be called on at random.

Book Reviews (30% of course grade; 3 @ 10% each)

Your book reviews should be trenchant yet concise, incisive yet spare. Look to the New York Times Book Review, the New York Review of Books, or various academic journals for inspiration. The following questions are designed to stimulate your thinking. You may use one or more of them as a point of departure for your review.
  • Book Review #1 > September 7 > Uncle Tom's Cabin
    What do you know about the term "Uncle Tom"? How does what you know of the term match up with the Uncle Tom of the novel? Why does the title of the book focus not on Tom, but on his cabin? What was Stowe trying to accomplish and how did she go about it? What roles do her minor characters (Haley, Shelby, Loker, Marks, Senator Bird, St. Clare, Eva, etc.) serve? What is Stowe's critique of the economic structure of her society? What does she propose as an alternative? Why do you think UTC is considered a "sentimental" novel? What role does emotion play in the work? What is it about slavery that Stowe most objects to? What is the book's message about the future of African-Americans in America? Why do you suppose this novel was the bestselling book of the nineteenth century and the first American novel to sell more than a million copies? Is this a racist book? Why should we or shouldn't we read it?

  • Book Review #2 > October 7 > Lincoln at Gettysburg
    In what ways was Gettysburg not a great battle but a disastrous, fratricidal bloodbath? What does Wills think Lincoln accomplished in his Gettysburg address? In what ways does Wills ground the speech in the nineteenth century's Greek revival, culture of death, and transcendentalism? Why does Wills think the speech marks a "revolution in thought"? A "revolution in style"? Do you think the speech accomplishes so much? Does it bother you that presidents don't write their own speeches any more?

  • Book Review #3 > November 18 > Confederates in the Attic
    What does the Confederate flag symbolize to various groups? Make as strong a case as possible both for and against the display of the flag in public areas. Horwitz devotes more space to Robert Lee Hodge than to any other character. Why? What drives Rob? Do you find him heroic, appealing, repellent, or just plain nuts? Why is the United States so uninterested in history generally but so fascinated by the Civil War specifically? In what ways is it our Iliad? Are there problems with that? What are reenactors doing and why do they do it? What gives the South its sense of self? What are the region's distinctive traits? Why does it cling to the war more fiercely? What does the future hold for Southern distinctiveness? How important was slavery in bringing on the war? Can the Confederate war effort be honored and memorialized without offending somebody? How should the Confederate dead be remembered? Horwitz meets many women who are as devoted as men to memory of the War: Sue Curtis, June Wells, Melly Meadows, Mauriel Joslyn. How does their approach to the War differ from that of men?

Term Project (15% of course grade)

Near the end of the semester, you and a teammate will deliver a fifteen-minute PowerPoint presentation on a topic you have identified as a "neglected chapter in Civil War history." Teams and topics must be submitted by NOVEMBER 9.