American Literature, Beginnings to 1865: Syllabus & Policies

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American Literature, Beginnings to 1865: Syllabus & Policies
Instructor: Sarah Sillin Email:

ENGL221, Section 0701 Office: 2116F Tawes Hall

Fall 2011,TTh 12:30-1:45 Office Hours: Th. 2-3pm & by appt.
Texts: The Norton Anthology of American Literature 7th Edition Volume A: Beginnings to 1820 ISBN: 978-0-3-9392739-9

Catharine Sedgwick’s Hope Leslie (Penguin) ISBN: 978-0-1-4043676-1

Herman Melville’s Benito Cereno (Dover Thrift) ISBN: 978-1-4-2092549-4

Fanny Fern’s Ruth Hall (Penguin) ISBN: 978-0-1-4043640-2

Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (Oxford University Press) ISBN: 978-0-1-9953900-0
Learning Outcomes: By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate familiarity and facility with fundamental terminology and concepts relevant to the analysis of early American literature.

  2. Demonstrate critical thinking in the evaluation of sources and arguments in scholarly works, or in the evaluation of the various literary approaches and techniques employed by writers from the colonial, early national, and antebellum periods.

  3. Describe how various American writers’ use of language is related to contemporary ways of thinking, cultural heritage, and cultural values.

  4. Demonstrate the ability to formulate a thesis related to early American literature and to support the thesis with evidence and argumentation.

Course Description:This course is a survey in American literature from the beginnings through 1865. The syllabus is therefore designed to introduce you to a variety of different writers—such as Benjamin Franklin, Catharine Sedgwick, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Emily Dickinson—and help you develop a sense of how literature and culture changed from the colonial period through the early national period and the antebellum. In doing so, we will also explore the different forms popular in these periods, from sermons and autobiographies to short stories, poems, and novels. You will hone your skills in close reading by attending to stylistic aspects of the texts, such as diction, imagery, meter, irony, dialogue, and metaphor.
In particular, we will focus on themes such as travel that will help us to consider the relation between the primary texts we are reading and the historical and social context in which they were written. We will examine how depictions of Americans moving around the colonies and early republic can help us imagine these places and the peoples that inhabited them. We will also consider who had the mobility to travel and what motivated them to do so, whether they sought material prosperity, intellectual and spiritual liberty, or an escape from slavery. Moreover, we will discuss the effects of travel, such as how it brings new groups or individuals into contact with one another. Finally, we will look at how literature itself travels, circulating ideas both around and outside the nation. While this theme will help us draw connections between different readings from a variety of genres, our class will also cover a range of other subjects, including representations of gender, class, and race, and discussions on how these issues relate to formal and stylistic concerns.

Grade Distribution:

1st Paper (2 pages) – 10%

2nd Paper (3 pages) – 25%

3rd Paper (5 pages) – 25%

Reading Quizzes – 10%

Class Participation - 10%

Final Exam – 20%
Essays: The purpose of the writing assignments will be for you to develop your own interpretations of our texts and to support your arguments with close reading, i.e. the careful analysis of how the details of a text’s language and form shape its meaning. I will provide specific assignment sheets for each essay.
Quizzes: There will be weekly reading quizzes, which you will take online through Quizzes will be posted by 5pm each Monday evening and must be completed before the start of Tuesday’s class. These will be closed book, and you will have 10 minutes to complete each quiz. They will assess whether or not you have completed the reading.
In Class Work: I expect that you come to class prepared to participate in small and large group discussions. If you have any concerns about participating, please see me immediately. Please be respectful of everyone’s opinions, presence, and person in this course. A primary purpose of our discussions is to give you the opportunity to practice developing interpretations of the texts. While you are encouraged to offer differing interpretations, you should do so in a thoughtful manner.
Final Exam: The final exam will be cumulative, providing you with an opportunity to demonstrate the breadth of knowledge you have gained over the semester. The format will include quote identification and a comparative essay. This will require you to show your familiarity with the form and style of different writers and periods, as well as to make thematic connections across the periods we have studied.
Website: This class will use elms to take weekly reading quizzes, to post readings not included in the books you have purchased for this class, and to post the syllabus and essay assignment sheets. Please make sure you can access it, as your first quiz will be due before class on Tuesday, September 6th:
Absences: Should you have an excused absence (for a serious illness or a death in the family), you may make up participation credit by meeting with me briefly to discuss that day’s reading. You should contact me as soon as possible, and make the work up within a week, as well as providing a self-signed note stating the reason for your absence. You should also try to borrow notes from a classmate. In the case of an unexcused absence, you may not make up any credit, though you should still see me with any questions about the material. If you need to miss multiple classes for medical reasons, you will need official documentation, and you should contact me as soon as you know this in order to establish a plan for how you will make up the missed work and class time. Please see the university website for more details on the appropriate documentation to provide for medically necessitated absences:
Technology: Make sure to turn off cell-phones and other electronic devices prior to coming to class. Texting, using laptops for purposes other than note-taking, and other misuses of technology during class time will adversely affect your participation grade. You should check your email regularly, as I may send out announcements. In the case of an extended campus closure, I will communicate with you over email about how we will adjust the readings and assignments. I will also answer questions over email, although you should allow 24 hours for a response; depending on the question, I may recommend that we discuss it in person.
Submitting work: All work for this course should be submitted in hard-copy form, not by email. All papers should be submitted on time. In case of an emergency preventing you from arriving at class to submit your paper on time, you may email it to me and then bring a hard copy as soon as possible. For every day a paper is late, your grade will be lowered one third of a letter grade, and papers that are more than a week late will receive an F. In case of a serious emergency preventing your timely completion of an assignment, contact me as soon as possible.
Academic Dishonesty: Please remember that academic dishonesty is a violation of the University’s code of Academic Integrity and will result in automatic failure for this course. This includes cheating, fabrication, facilitating academic dishonesty, and plagiarism (which involves presenting the words or ideas of another person as though they are your own). Before the next class, you should review the definitions and consequences of dishonesty provided on the university’s website:
Outside help: I strongly encourage you to make use of my office hours to discuss our reading and the writing assignments. I also recommend that you visit the Writing Center on the first floor of Tawes Hall; you can make an appointment online at

Special needs: If you have a registered disability that will require accommodation, please see me within the first two days of class so we can provide the resources you need. If you have a disability and have not yet registered it with Disability Support Services, you should do so immediately. The office can be reached by phone at 301.314.7682.

Grading Questions: The weight distribution for your grades is described above. If, at any point this semester, you do not understand why you’ve received a particular grade, you may make an appointment to see me. I want you to understand how your work is evaluated and how you can strengthen it. However, I only conduct these meetings in person.

Reading Schedule
Readings should be completed by the day on which they are listed. This syllabus may also be subject to change during the semester. I will announce any changes via email.
*Asterisks mark major grading events –any medically excused absences on these days require official documentation from a health care provider verifying that you are unable to meet your academic responsibilities for this date.
Poetry & Narrative in Colonial America
Th. Sept. 1 - Introductions: What is Close Reading? What is American Literature?

Tu. Sept. 6-John Winthrop’s “A Model of Christian Charity” in Norton(pg147-158) and Anne

Bradstreet’s “The Prologue”; “The Author to Her Book”; “A Letter to Her Husband”; “Here Follows Some Verses upon the Burning of Our House” in Norton(pg187-217); “Introduction to American Literature Beginnings to 1700” in Norton(pg1-15)

Th. Sept. 8 - Mary Rowlandson’s A True History in Norton(pg235-267)

Tu. Sept. 13 - Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography in Norton (pg472-505); “Introduction to

American Literature 1700-1820” in Norton(pg357-366)

Th. Sept. 15-Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography in Norton (pg505-534)

Tu. Sept. 20 -OlaudahEquiano’sThe Interesting Narrativein Norton (pg674-705)

*Th. Sept. 22 -Phillis Wheatley’s “On Being Brought from Africa to America”; “To the University of Cambridge, in New England” in Norton (pg 751-763); Paper 1 due at start of class

Early American Fictions
Tu. Sept. 27 - Hannah Foster’s The Coquette in Norton (pg806-861)

Th. Sept. 29 - Hannah Foster’s The Coquette in Norton (pg861-904)

Tu. Oct. 4 - Washington Irving (elms) “Rip Van Winkle” “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”

Th. Oct. 6 –Catharine Sedgwick’s Hope Leslie Preface – Vol. 1 Chap. VII (pg 1-98)

Tu. Oct. 11 - Catharine Sedgwick’s Hope Leslie finish Vol. 1 (pg 99-177)

Th. Oct. 13 - Catharine Sedgwick’s Hope Leslie Vol. 2 Chap. I-VII (pg 181-276)

Tu. Oct. 18 - Catharine Sedgwick’s Hope Leslie finish novel

Th. Oct. 20 - James Fenimore Cooper (elms)The Last of the Mohicans, Chap. 3; Ralph Waldo

Emerson (elms) Nature Chaps. I - IV

*Tu. Oct. 25 - Nathaniel Hawthorne (elms) “Young Goodman Brown” “The Birth-Mark”;Paper 2 due at start of class

Visions of Antebellum America
Th. Oct. 27 - Frederick Douglass’s “The Heroic Slave” (elms)

Tu. Nov. 1 - Herman Melville’s Benito Cereno (pg 1-25)

Th. Nov. 3 - Herman Melville’s Benito Cereno (finish novella)

Tu. Nov. 8 - Fanny Fern’s Ruth Hall Preface – Chap. XXXIV (pg 1-81)

Th. Nov. 10 - Fanny Fern’s Ruth Hall Chap. XXXV – Chap. LIV (pg 82-141)

Tu. Nov. 15 - Fanny Fern’s Ruth Hall Chap. LV – Chap. LXXV (pg 142-214)

Th. Nov. 17 - Fanny Fern’s Ruth Hall(finish novel)

Tu. Nov. 21 - Reading Day

Th. Nov. 23 - Thanksgiving Break

*Tu. Nov. 29 - Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”; Paper 3 due at start of class

Th. Dec. 1 - Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”&“Out of the Cradle, Endlessly Rocking”

Tu. Dec. 6 –Emily Dickinson (elms) Selected Poems

Th. Dec. 8 –Rebecca Harding Davis’s (elms) “Life in the Iron-Mills”

Tu. Dec. 13 - Exam Review

*Final Exam: Tuesday, Dec. 20th 1:30-3:30 pm (in our normal classroom)

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