ENG 223: American Literature Before 1865
Lesson 1: Foundations (Aug. 19-23)
Lesson 2: John Smith (Aug. 26-30)
Lesson 3: Anne Bradstreet (Sept. 4-6)
Lesson 4: Mary Rowlandson (Sept. 9-13)
Lesson 5: Jonathan Edwards (Sept. 16-20)
Lesson 6: Benjamin Franklin (Sept. 23-27)
Lesson 7: William Byrd (Sept. 30-Oct. 4)
Lesson 8: Washington Irving (Oct. 7-9)
Lesson 9: Edgar Allan Poe (Oct. 14-18)
Lesson 10: Nathaniel Hawthorne (Oct. 21-25)
Lesson 11: Herman Melville (Oct. 28-Nov. 1)
Lesson 12: Ralph Waldo Emerson (Nov. 4-8)
Lesson 13: Henry David Thoreau (Nov. 11-15)
Lesson 14: Walt Whitman (Nov. 18-22)
Lesson 15: Emily Dickinson (Nov. 25-27)
Lesson 16: Frederick Douglass (Dec. 2-6)
Oral Examinations (Dec. 9-13)
Imagine a road trip that could take you all over America, showing you exotic locales, introducing you to strange and interesting characters, and dropping you in the middle of wild adventures. You will stalk through the wilds of Virginia, stroll down the streets of Philadelphia, and stare into the depths of a pond in Massachusetts. You will meet rational philosophers and murderous madmen, pious mothers and barbarous slave owners. In addition to loving and losing a few of the people you meet along the way, you will be held captive on three separate occasions, only to make breathtaking escapes. Best of all, you will manage to return home not exhausted and defeated, but refreshed and enlightened.
Welcome to ENG 223: American Literature Before 1865—or, if you will, a road trip through early American literature. In this course, we will explore the rich and fascinating terrain of the poetry, fiction, and nonfiction written in and about America before the end of the Civil War. As I have suggested with my analogy to a road trip, this study of American literature makes for an interesting ride. More important, as I explain in the course objectives below, it can improve your appreciation of language and literature, help immerse you in the world of ideas, and sharpen your skills in communication and research. By the end of our trip, you not only will have experienced some wonderful literature and thought some glorious new thoughts, but also will have some new tools to help you appreciate the stories, poems, movies, and songs you encounter in your own world. You may even have a new list of books you wish to explore on your own.
In general, a successful trip requires some preparation. First, we need a map. This syllabus will do just fine. Please read it carefully. We don’t want to lose you somewhere in the colonial era, stranded among the Puritans. Second, plan to take advantage of the visitors’ centers we will encounter along the way. These resources, which we will call “lessons,” feature information designed to enhance your travels: reading and writing assignments, objectives, activities, names and terms, resources, announcements, and discussions. Finally, make sure that you pack everything you need: The Norton Anthology of American Literature, volumes A and B; a pen or pencil, paper, and diskettes for notes and assignments; and an active and open mind.
Now, let’s hit the road!
It’s a good idea to get to know a bit about your travel guide before you begin a trip. Let me tell you a bit about myself. I have been traveling through the world of American literature for a good part of my life, at least since my early encounters with Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville at Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis, Indiana. After graduating from Indiana University, where I majored in journalism and English, I worked as a copy editor for newspapers in Franklin and Fort Wayne, Indiana, before enrolling in graduate school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It was there that my literary travels really took off, thanks in part to a fine professor I had in a course much like this one. I became especially interested in Edgar Allan Poe and wound up writing both my master’s thesis and my doctoral dissertation about his use of the right brain in his stories and poems. During the five years I spent at Chapel Hill, I covered a good part of the terrain of early American literature, from the early narratives of John Smith and John Winthrop through the novels of Hawthorne and Melville to the poetry of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. In 1997, I completed my Ph.D. in English, majoring in American literature and minoring in the English language, and I came to work as a professor at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. I continue to travel through American literature, not only teaching courses such as this one and ENG 343: The American Novel, but also editing an Internet encyclopedia called All American and writing articles on Poe, Benjamin Franklin, the short story, and other subjects.
Not all of my travels take place in my mind, though. Along with my wife, Lisa, and our two children—4-year-old Esprit and 1-year-old Will—I love to visit the real places where literature and history have lived. Over the last three years, Lisa and I have led student trips to Philadelphia, Boston, Williamsburg, and other places, and we regularly take family trips to such places as New York, Baltimore, and Charleston, South Carolina. You can read more than you would ever want to know about some of these travels, as well as other aspects of our lives, by visiting our World Wide Web site.
Language: Success in college and the world beyond requires more than basic literacy. We must know not only how to decipher language, but also how to analyze it for clues about purpose, audience, and agenda. In this course, we will examine how allusion, figurative language, and other formal features shape meaning, thus equipping ourselves to interpret the complex, often veiled messages we encounter in law, business, and the media.
Furthermore, because of the allusive nature of all language, particularly literature, names constitute a crucial part of one's vocabulary. In this course, we will expand our cultural vocabularies by studying not only authors and works, but also historical figures, events, and places, thus enabling us to become more knowledgeable and active participants in our communities.
Finally, while appreciating language and literature is a means to these valuable ends, it also is a worthwhile end in itself. Like a painting or a symphony, a literature is a form of art, and much of its appeal lies in its impractical nature—its beauty, its humor, the way it makes us feel. By exploring some of America’s greatest literature, we stand to elevate and enrich ourselves in ways impossible to quantify.
Ideas: Edifying and elevating in its own right, language is also a means for expressing ideas, and one of our chief objectives in this course will be to explore those ideas. Thus, in addition to analyzing formal elements in the works we read, we will confront the questions that these works pose about evil, family, community, and other provocative subjects.
Research: The ability to find, evaluate, and use information empowers us, preparing us to make informed decisions and arguments in our professional, civic, and private lives. For this reason, research skills are some of the most important skills you will develop in college. In this course, we will practice conducting literary research, particularly research concerning American literature. In particular, you will use key words and Boolean operators to locate information on computer databases, evaluate the credibility of this information, and incorporate it into your own writing through paraphrases, quotations, and summaries.
Communication: Knowledge confined to a single person's brain has limited use. It is through sharing this knowledge that humans make progress in medicine, science and technology, politics, and every other human endeavor. Through various exercises and assignments, including both essays and oral presentations, you will develop a number of important communication skills, including composition, revision, speech, and graphic design.
As I have explained in the course objectives at the left, this course will give you the opportunity to develop your knowledge and skills in the areas of language, ideas, research, and communication. As your guide, I will work hard to help you achieve these objectives. I want to see every one of you succeed. Of course, your success will depend primarily on you. To help you make the most out of your abilities, I have put together the following list of “p’s and q’s”:
Before you can succeed, you need to prepare. Indeed, preparation is the single most important key to success, not only in this class, but also in college and in life. You already have taken the first step by reading this syllabus. Take a few minutes every few weeks to review this syllabus, which describes not only the assignments, but also my criteria for grading them. An equally important form of preparation is reading the lessons that I will post on the Web throughout the semester. Each lesson contains the objectives, terms and people, and dates that you need to know for that unit, along with announcements, assignments, discussion, exercises, and resources for further study. In short, the lessons are your keys to success in this course. Like any keys, however, they need someone to operate them. Before each unit, you should visit this online syllabus, click on the link to the appropriate lesson, and read the lesson carefully, preparing yourself to meet the objectives and completing the appropriate assignments. Come to class with notes and questions on the lesson and other assignments. Finally, review the lesson at the end of the week to make sure you have met the objectives.
Once you are prepared to learn, you also need to show up for class and to participate in class exercises and discussions. Although I do not require attendance in this course, I urge you to attend class regularly and to participate actively in class activities. Indeed, research shows that active participation dramatically increases the amount a person learns. As you will see when you read the lessons, you will have plenty of opportunities to become engaged with the course material through writing, presentations, and discussion. We will begin each unit with a “Think Fast” exercise, in which you will respond in writing to a question about the material covered in the lesson. I then will set the stage for the lesson by giving a brief audio-visual presentation on the author and novel we are studying, as well as their historical context. You then will take center stage for much of the remainder of the lesson as you collaborate in groups, give presentations of your own, discuss the material with me as a class, review the material in a “Think Again” writing exercise, and meet with me in one-on-one conferences. Finally, I will close the lesson with some announcements about upcoming lessons and assignments. I encourage you to make the most of each of these course components by participating actively and thoughtfully.
Your mind is part of your body. It should come as no surprise, then, that good physical health can improve your learning and your grades. Studies have suggested that eating breakfast can improve test performance, that protein can boost alertness, and that exercise can help a person think effectively. I suggest drinking 8-10 glasses of water each day, avoiding junk food and caffeine, exercising at least a half-hour each day, and maintaining a consistent schedule of seven to nine hours of sleep every night. You may be surprised by the difference these simple practices can make not only in your health, but also in your productivity and consequent academic success.
Your grades depend entirely on your performance. Nevertheless, being polite is good practice for life after college and can help you establish a good rapport with your professors. When I write recommendations for a student to earn a scholarship, enter graduate school, or obtain a job, I always include a paragraph on the student’s character and comment specifically on qualities such as punctuality and politeness. In addition to doing your best work in this course, you will want to put your best self on display. Show up for class and conferences on time and wait until class has ended before packing up your books. Turn in assignments when they are due and avoid making excuses for absences or poor work.
Nothing impresses a teacher or an employer more than work that shines not only in content, but also in form. Invest the time and energy into submitting assignments of which you can be proud. For starters, read each assignment carefully and try to provide exactly what the professor requests. In addition to researching, writing, revising, and proofreading your work carefully, follow instructions on format, such as use of correct bibliographic citations.
When you need information or help, ask. For example, if you have problems coming to class, keeping up with assignments, or using the computer, see me immediately. In addition, please note the following statement from Disability Support Services: "Any student with a documented disability needing academic adjustments is requested to speak directly to Disability Support Services and the instructor, as early in the semester (preferably within the first week) as possible. All discussions will remain confidential. Please contact Mary Helen Walker, Disability Support Services, DF Lowry building, 521-6695.”
William Bradford (Sept. 9): Hailey
John Winthrop (Sept. 11): Priscilla
Edward Taylor (Sept. 11): Matthew
Elizabeth Ashbridge (Sept. 18): Crissy
John Woolman (Sept. 18): Shannon
Annis Stockton (Sept. 25): Myranda
Samson Occom (Sept. 25)
Sarah Kemble Knight (Oct. 2): Brandon
Phillis Wheatley (Oct. 2): Carol
A.B. Longstreet (Oct. 16): Jerry
William Cullen Bryant (Oct. 16): Brandi
Catharine Sedgwick (Oct. 30)
Lydia Maria Child (Oct. 30)
Bronson Alcott (Nov. 4): Misty
Orestes Brownson (Nov. 13)
George Ripley (Nov. 13): Andrea
Jones Very (Nov. 20): Jadelyn
Harriet Jacobs (Nov. 20): Nakecia
John Greenleaf Whittier (Dec. 4): Maurice
Henry Timrod (Dec. 4): Jason
Like John Smith, Sarah Kemble Knight, and numerous other American travelers, you will keep a written account of your journey, thus making your experience more meaningful. In addition to this account, which we will call a “portfolio,” you will give a presentation and take an oral examination. Details of each of these assignments appear in the space below.
During the first week of the semester, you will choose an author from the list at the left, and we will visit the campus library so that you can begin conducting research on this author. Using your own skills in literary interpretation, as well as what you have gleaned in your research, you then will begin writing an article about this author for your portfolio. Furthermore, during the appropriate lesson, you will give a 20-minute oral presentation in which you share your findings with your classmates and me. Students who work on earlier authors will have less time to prepare their presentations, and I will take this into consideration in my grading. In the early presentations, for example, I will look for breadth of research and creative literary interpretations, while I will expect later presentations to contain more details. Regardless of whether it comes early or late, however, every presentation should present both the student’s own interpretations and relevant findings from research and should be clear, organized, thoughtful, and engaging. Although I do not require them, you may want to use handouts, a PowerPoint presentation, or some other types of aids to help convey information and engage your audience.
This assignment actually consists of several smaller assignments, which I have described below. You will submit your final portfolio to me on Nov. 18, 2002.
Introduction: In an informal essay of about 100 words, share a few details about yourself and your interest in American literature.
Author Project: As noted under “Presentation” above, you will have the opportunity to do some research and writing on an American author. In this article, you will introduce this author to a general audience. Your project should include the following components in the order below:
· a sidebar containing lists of the author’s major works, close family members, homes, and occupations, along with a chronology of the author’s life and an annotated bibliography that briefly summarizes at least two useful resources where readers can find more information about the author (50-100 words per resource);
· an introduction summarizing the author’s literary contribution (50-100 words);
· a brief biographical sketch highlighting major events and features of the author’s life, especially those that helped shape his or her work (300-500 words);
· a thorough overview that not only summarizes the author’s major works, but also characterizes his or her style and major thematic concerns, illustrating points with examples drawn from at least two of the author’s works (1,000 words);
· a list of works cited featuring MLA citations for least two primary sources written by the author and two secondary sources written by credible authorities;
To see an excellent model of this project, see the page on H.P. Lovecraft.
Two Essays: Throughout the course, you will write several “Think Again” essays in which you synthesize material covered in the readings, lessons, and class activities. You will revise two of these essays and include them in your portfolio. Since you will have had the opportunity to revise them, I will expect these essays to be insightful, clear, and polished.
Reflective Essay: In this essay, you will comment on how the work you did in this course affected you in one or more ways. For example, you might explain how what you learned about human behavior in the literature we studied will help you as an employee or a parent, how you plan to use your research and communication skills in graduate school, or how some of the characters and themes you encountered changed your outlook on the world. Although this essay need not be formal—indeed, the more creative and personal, the better—it nevertheless should be clear, engaging, and free of distracting lapses in grammar, spelling, and the like.
Like a traditional written final exam, this oral examination is designed to determine how much you have learned and retained over the course of the semester. I have chosen to meet with each of you one-on-one and have you answer questions orally, however, because I value the interaction that can take place in oral examinations and because I believe they are more akin to experiences you will have outside of college. Each of you will sign up for a time to take this exam during exam week. You then will show up at the arranged time in the ETL Resource Center, where you will find a sheet of paper with questions. You will have 30 minutes to review this sheet and take notes; you then will meet with me for 30 minutes to discuss the material on the sheet.
A student who earns an A has excelled in both skills and knowledge. In content, clarity, readability, and format, the student's work fully or almost fully meets my criteria. In short, the student has mastered the material and is likely to succeed in future challenges.
A student who earns a B has demonstrated many of the same qualities shown by the student who earns an A, but is deficient a few minor areas. The student has generally mastered the material and is likely to succeed in future challenges.
A student who earns a C has demonstrated some of the same qualities shown by the student who earns an A or a B. Although the work is adequate, it suffers from several minor deficiencies. Nevertheless, the work suggests that the student is competent and is ready to take on future challenges, though he or she may need to shore up some of these deficiencies to succeed.
A student who earns a D is deficient in at least one major area or many minor areas, but has demonstrated adequate knowledge and skills to merit a passing grade. The student who earns a D probably will struggle when confronting future challenges.
A student will earn an F for one of the following reasons:
I will evaluate your portfolio twice: once before midterm and once at the end of the course. Each time, I will assign you a letter grade based on the quality of your portfolio. Your final grade in the course, however, will depend only on your final portfolio and final interview. Thus, even if you earn a D on the first evaluation, you may revise your portfolio, use what you have learned to improve on future work, and earn a better grade--perhaps even an A--in the course. The purpose of this system is to give you an opportunity to continue learning and improving over the duration of the course. Each time I evaluate your work, I will use the criteria below.
Each written and oral assignment should contain all of the components described on the syllabus. Furthermore, it should thoroughly and insightfully address its subject with accurate, credible, timely, and relevant information.
Each written and oral assignment should present information in a clear, logical fashion. In general, each paragraph in the written projects generally should begin with a precise topic sentence, followed by clear, well-organized sentences that support the topic sentence. Transitional words and phrases should effectively guide the audience through the information.
All work should engage the audience with lively, concise writing or oral presentation and should generally lack lapses in tone, register, punctuation, mechanics, spelling, word choice, and grammar. Each assignment should effectively incorporate source material with proper use of attribution, paraphrases, and quotations. Longer assignments should begin with engaging introductions and include satisfying conclusions. Both written and oral projects should be functional and attractive, conforming to all appropriate professional standards. In particular, all parenthetical citations and lists of works cited in the written projects should conform to MLA style.
Each assignment must be your own work. That is, except for properly cited quotations, every sentence and phrase must be in your own words. All interpretations, except for those properly cited, also must be your own. If you turn in someone else's work, use a source's exact words without placing these words in quotation marks, or use an interpretation you found in a source without giving credit to the source, you are guilty of plagiarism and may fail this course. You must be prepared to prove that you have done all your own work by showing me your sources and discussing the details of your project with me in conference.
“This publication is available in alternative formats upon request. Please contact Mary Helen Walker, Disability Support Services, DF Lowry building, 521-6695.”
This course helps education students fulfill Teacher Education Program Standard 1: “The teacher candidate commands essential knowledge and understandings of the academic discipline(s) from which school subject matter is derived and integrates that knowledge into personally meaningful frameworks.”