Assignments

English 2130: American Literature, Fall 2016

TR 12:30-1:45PM, Arts & Sciences 366

In Class Activities

1. Bradstreet's World View

We've been analyzing reports and chronicles as a large class, and we've introduced Anne Bradstreet's poetry. Let's divide into small groups of 3 or 4 to look at specific poems (and a letter). Groups should elect secretaries to report their discussions to the class so the class can synthesize Bradstreet's overal world view. Here are the poems (and a letter):

Here are the discussion questions:

2. From Colonialism to Renaissance

Today, we're going to transition from literature of the colonial period to literature of the American Renaissance by contrasting Phyllis Wheatley's attitudes toward religion, revolution, and slavery to Emerson's attitudes toward nature, spirit, and self. Divide into 5 groups of 4-5 members, discuss the following questions, and then report your conclusion to the class.

  1. Phyllis Wheatley's Poetry: What are the poet's various attitude toward Christianity, Revolution, and slavery?
  2. Ralph Waldo Emerson's Nature: How does Emerson conceive of Nature and Beauty? Select a significant quote illustrating each, Nature and Beauty.
  3. Ralph Waldo Emerson's Nature: Explain Emerson's conception of Idealism and Spirit. Select a significant passage illustrating each, Idealism and Spirit.
  4. Ralph Waldo Emerson's "The American Scholar": What is Emerson's attitude toward the past? What does he mean by Man Thinking? Select significant passages as evidence.
  5. Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Self-Reliance": What does Emerson mean by self-trust, and what is his attitude toward nonconformity? Choose passages to illustrate your points.

3. Whitman's Self, Whitman's America

Let's address Walt Whitman's poetics and world view by dividing into small groups to discuss particular issues and then sharing our conclusions with the larger class.

4. Huck's (and America's) Moral Journey

For our first day of discussion of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, let's focus on Huck's identity quest and moral development. First, let's count off; your number is the chapter number. Next, spend 5-10 minutes writing down your thoughts to the following questions:

  1. Do a general character sketch of Huck Finn, including his key characteristics, attitudes, and conflicts.
  2. What is the main conflict or plot issue in your assigned chapter? Does it have an ethical or moral component? What is Huck's role in the conflict; or, how does he respond to the conflict?
  3. Bonus: Does Huck assume an alternate identity in your chapter? If so, why does he do it and what is the connection between the character he's playing and his real identity?

Finally, let's share our responses to the individual chapters with the class; and, as a class, let's interpret what the novel is suggesting about America's moral systems.

 

As you read the second half of the novel, consider the following questions:

5. Daisy Miller: An In Class Activity

Let's break into groups to look closely at the significant characters and then report our findings to the class. Each group should discuss the character's key traits and core conflicts as well as select a significant passage that highlights the character.

  1. Annie "Daisy" Miller:
  2. Frederick Winterbourne:
  3. Mrs. Costello and Mrs. Walker
  4. Randolf Miller and Mrs. Miller:
  5. the narrator and Giovanelli

6. Pynchon's Counter-Cultural Satire

Let's follow up on Hallye Lee's response questions about Thomas Pynchon's 1960s mock detective story qua social satire. As a class, we'll do a character sketch of Oedipa Maas, and then we'll break into groups of two and

  1. do brief character sketches of the minor characters,
  2. determine what parts of society the portrayals are criticizing and/or mocking, and
  3. discuss why the plot of the novel is so convoluted and whether or not everything is an elaborate hoax.

Here are the character groups:

  1. Mucho Maas
  2. Pierce Inverarity
  3. Metzger
  4. The Paranoids
  5. Mke Fallopian
  6. Manny di Presso
  7. Randolph Driblette
  8. Clayton Chiclitz
  9. Dr. Hilarius
  10. John Nefastis

7. Pynchon's Plowshares

For our final day of discussing The Crying of Lot 49, let's use the following significant passages to determine the novel's themes.

  1. Metaphor and Truth
    • You never get to any of the underlying truth. (36)
    • You could waste your life that way and never touch the truth. (63)
    • Behind the initials was a metaphor, a delirium tremens, a trembling unfurrowing of the mind’s plowshare. The saint whose water can light lamps, the clairvoyant whose lapse in recall is the breath of God, the true paranoid for whom all is organized in spheres joyful or threatening about the central pulse of himself, the dreamer whose puns probe ancient fetid shafts and tunnels of truth all act in the same special relevance to the word, or whatever it is the word is there, buffering, to protect us from. The act of metaphor then was a thrust at truth and a lie, depending where you were: inside, safe, or outside, lost. (105)
  2. Communication and Entropy
    • "Entropy is a figure of speech, then," sighed Nefastis, "a metaphor. It connects the world of thermo-dynamics to the world of information flow. The Machine uses both. The Demon makes the metaphor not only verbally graceful, but also objectively true." (85)
    • But whoever could control the lines of communication, among all these princes, would control them. (135)
  3. Psychological Disintegration and Paranoia
    • Either way, they’ll call it paranoia. They. Either you have stumbled indeed, without the aid of LSD or other indole alkaloids, onto a secret richness and concealed density of dream; onto a network by which X number of Americans are truly communicating whilst reserving their lies, recitations of routine, arid betrayals of spiritual poverty, for the official government delivery system; maybe even onto a real alternative to the exitlessness, to the absence of surprise to life, that harrows the head of everybody American you know, and you too, sweetie. Or you are hallucinating it. Or a plot has been mounted against you, so expensive and elaborate . . . so labyrinthine that it must have meaning beyond just a practical joke. Or you are fantasying some such plot, in which case you are a nut, Oedipa, out of your skull. (140-1)
  4. Systems and Conspiracies
    • She had heard all about excluded middles; they were bad shit, to be avoided; and how had it ever happened here, with the chances once so good for diversity? For it was now like walking among matrices of a great digital computer, the zeroes and ones twinned above, hanging like balanced mobiles right and left, ahead, thick, maybe endless. Behind the hieroglyphic streets there would either be a transcendent meaning, or only the earth. (150)

Response

GeorgiaVIEW Post

You will write an informal response to a work of literature and post it to GeorgiaVIEW > Course Work > Assignments > Response the day before we discuss the text in class.

 

The response should

Informal Presentation

You will also be responsible for a brief, informal presentation. The response presentation should summarize the work, share your impressions, and broach questions for class discussion.

Due Dates

  1. Your written assignment will be due in GeorgiaVIEW > Course Work > Assignments > Response the day before we are scheduled to discuss the work. (Note: Summaries will be penalized one letter grade for each day, not class period, that they are turned in late. It is your responsibility to check the sign up schedule and complete the assignment on time.)
  2. Your brief, informal presentation will be due on the day we discuss the essay in class. This date is approximate for we will sometimes fall a day behind. (Note: Failing to present the article to the class without providing a valid absence excuse will result in a one letter grade penalty.)
  3. I will return your graded assignment to you in GeorgiaVIEW > Course Work > Assignments > Response approximately one week after we discuss the article in class. Due to GeorgiaVIEW limitations, I am unable to return graded assignments to you unless and until you submit them to the Assignment dropbox.
  4. For example, we are scheduled to discuss Jonathan Edwards's narratives and sermons on Tuesday, 8-30. Therefore, someone's response to a particular Edwards text of her choice will be due in GeorgiaVIEW by Monday, 8-29. In class on Tuesday, 8-30, that student will informally present the main ideas and issues of Edwards's piece. I will return the graded response to her the following week in GeorgiaVIEW > Course Work > Assignments > Response. Due to GeorgiaVIEW limitations, I cannot return your graded paper unless and until you upload it to the Dropbox. Here's how to calculate your course grade.

Sign Up

Written

Due Date

Oral

Due Date

Reading

Student

M, 8-22

T, 8-23

Bradford or Bradstreet

1 Gloria Briscoe

W, 8-24

R, 8-25

Rowlandson or Mather

2 Brittney Schwind

M, 8-29

T, 8-30

Edwards

3 Caroline Olesen

W, 8-31

R, 9-1

Franklin, "The Way to Wealth," "The Speech of Polly Baker," or "Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America"

4 Caroline Karnatz

M, 9-5

T, 9-6

Franklin, from The Autobiography

5 Skyler Wilkes

W, 9-7

R, 9-8

Paine or Wheatley

6 Emily Moore

W, 9-14

R, 9-15

Hawthorne

7 Matthew Cornelison

M, 9-19

T, 9-20

Douglass

8 Brianna Watson

W, 9-21

R, 9-22

Whitman

9 Ross Cudmore

M, 9-26

T, 9-27

Dickinson

10 Heather Waldron

M, 10-3

T, 10-4

Twain (1289-1384)

11 Madeline Benford

W, 10-5

R, 10-6

Twain (1384-1465)

12 Bailey Freeman

W, 10-12

R, 10-13

James or Jewett

13 Taylor Crisp

M, 10-17

T, 10-18

Chesnutt

14 Alex Kennedy

W, 10-19

R, 10-20

Washington or Du Bois

15 Analyn McVay

M, 10-24

T, 10-25

Williams, poems

16 Emily Newberry

W, 10-26

R, 10-27

Stein or Pound

17 Victoria Lara

M, 10-31

T, 11-1

McKay or Cullen

18 Jessie Douglass

M, 11-7

T, 11-8

 

19

W, 11-9

R, 11-10

Williams, Streetcar

20 Sam Perryman

M, 11-14

T, 11-15

Cheever or Baldwin

21 Alexis Smith

W, 11-16

R, 11-17

Pynchon (1-79)

22 Hallye Lee

M, 11-21

T, 11-22

Pynchon (80-152)

23 Meg Oberholtzer

M, 11-28

T, 11-29

Ginsberg

24 Gideon Smith

W, 11-30

R, 12-1

Brooks

25 Madelyn Rueter

Close Reading

While the informal response teaches you to actively read and reflect on a work of literature, the formal close reading essay gives you the opportunity to rigorously analyze a work of literature. For the this formal paper, write a 4-6 page essay that either 1) explicates, line-by-line, a short poem or section of a long poem assigned on the syllabus, being sure to illuminate, through nuanced reading of figurative language, diction, connotation, and symbol, how the central tensions, ambiguities, and contradictions constitute a cohesive theme or 2) examines the most important passage in one of the prose works we have read so far, interpreting it sentence-by-sentence through nuanced reading of figurative language, diction, connotation, and symbol, and arguing its centrality to the core conflicts, character, and overall theme of the story. In other words, using either this short poem or this short story key passage, you should write a paper that interprets the universal theme of the work by explicating the fundamental conflicts within the particular lines of text. Your essay should be driven by a thesis that argues the work's theme and logically organized by close reading of the text: unpack the tension and conflict, connotation and diction, idea and theme.

 

Note: There are four possible due dates for this paper. Each due date covers a different range of texts from the syllabus on which you may perform a close reading.

Parameters

Group Panel

While the response and close reading papers compel you to actively read and rigorously analyze literature, respectively, and the essay exams necessitate making connections and distinctions among texts in the literary periods of American literature, the group panel obliges you to research a literary work and present your findings to the class.

 

Groups will select a text from their current literary period that is in the anthology but not on the syllabus, subject to professor approval at least two weeks before the presentation, read and discuss the work on their own, and assign research topics to individual members.

 

Individual group members will research their topic and compose a 10 source annotated bibliography of scholarly journal articles and books/book chapters on their particular topic, and then summarize their findings in a 2 page essay. The Purdue OWL provides an overview of annotated bibliographies.

 

Groups will present on their work of literature in a 15-20 minute panel. Each member will present her specific research topic for 5 minutes by providing an overview of the scholarly discussion and highlighting significant sources. Groups will then respond to class queries in a 10-15 question and answer session.

Parameters

Sign Up

Due Date

Reading

Student

R, 9-22

Group Panel 1

American Literature 1820-1865

Poe, "The Raven"

1 Emily Newberry

2 Sam Perryman

3 Gideon Smith

4 Heather Waldron

T, 10-18

Group Panel 2

American Literature 1865-1914

Gilman, "The Yellow Wall-Paper"

5 Caroline Olesen

6 Alexis Smith

7 Madelyn Rueter

R, 10-20

Group Panel 3

American Literature 1865-1914

Chopin, "The Storm"

8 Alex Kennedy

9 Madeline Benford

10 Brianna Watson

11 Skyler Wilkes

T, 11-8

Group Panel 4

American Literature 1914-1945

Hemingway, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro"

12 Bailey Freeman

13 Gloria Briscoe

14 Matthew Cornelison

T, 11-8

Group Panel 5

American Literature 1914-1945

Faulkner, "A Rose for Emily" and "Barn Burning"

15 Caroline Karnatz

16 Victoria Lara

17 Meg Oberholtzer

18 Brittney Schwind

T, 11-29

Group Panel 6

American Literature since 1945

Plath, poetry

19 Emily Moore

20 Ross Cudmore

21 Taylor Crisp

R, 12-1

Group Panel 7

American Literature since 1945

Miller, Death of a Salesman

22

23 Hallye Lee

24 Analyn McVay

25 Jessie Douglass

Midterm Exam

While the response and close reading papers compel you to actively read and rigorously analyze literature, respectively, and the group panel obliges you to research a literary work, the in class, closed book essay exam necessitates making connections and distinctions among texts in the literary periods of American literature in a timed test of knowledge. You will write two comparison/contrast essays selected by you from a list of 5-6 questions generated from topics suggested by the class on Tuesday, September 20.

Texts

Topics

Preparation

In order to prepare for the exam, I strongly recommend that you create a study guide based upon your annotations of the reading and your class notes. For each creative literary text (poems and short stories), note the key characters and their traits, core conflicts, themes, and pertinent quotations. For each nonfiction text (journals, diaries, reports, etc.), note the key issues and ideas as well as pertinent quotations. This guide will look very similar to an annotated bibliography.

 

After creating the study guide with its key ideas, conflicts, themes, and multiple quotations, I suggest creating a list of the most significant quotations (one passage per author, see parameters below for more specifications), which you will be able to reference during the exam.

 

I suggest applying various readings into the comparative topics, noting that not every reading will be appropriate for every topic, and constructing potential comparative thesis statements. Although you will not know the exact questions, you can practice putting different readings into comparison and contrast, and this will help you prepare for the actual essay exam.

Parameters

Although the in class essay exam is closed book, you may bring a print out of significant quotations. This one-page, single-sided sheet may contain one passage per author appearing on the exam. Poetry quotations are limited to 4 lines; prose quotations are limited to 2 sentences. Quotations must be typed in 10-12 pt font and single-spaced. Do not use an author or text in more than one essay (in other words, if you discuss Bradstreet in one essay, you may not analyze her in another essay). Not all works are appropriate for all essays. Choose works which afford adequate material to address the question at hand. Have a controlling idea, an interpretation, a thesis that bridges the works. Organize essays by argument and analysis. Make connections and distinctions among the works; compare and contrast the works' key ideas. Support your points with textual evidence; avoid plot summary. You will be graded on your interpretive understanding of the texts as well as your ability to compare and contrast meanings and issues.

Final Exam

While the in class, closed book midterm exam necessitated making connections and distinctions among texts in the literary periods of American literature in a closed book, 75 minute test of knowledge of questions you had not seen before, and with no word count because you were handwriting in class and not following MLA style, the take home, open book final exam allows you more time and resources to compose comparative thesis statements and prove your analysis with appropriate textual evidence. Because it's a typewritten, take-home exam that follows MLA style, there is a page count. You will write two comparison/contrast essays selected by you from a list of 5-6 questions generated from topics suggested by the class on Tuesday, November 29.

Preparation and Writing

To prepare for the exam, I suggest you spend about 30 minutes choosing two questions to answer, brainstorming works to compare, and writing two working theses. If you want, do some mapping or outlining. A couple of days later, block out three hours of time to write without distractions. If you're the type of writer who becomes stalled looking for textual evidence and formatting your paper (I empathize), then write the comparative analysis first, then go back afterward and insert pertinent passages to illustrate your points and check your MLA style. If you're the type of writer who obsesses over page counts, write in a blue book, then type your answers into an MLA formatted file. While a formal paper requires you to invent your own topic, draft, and revise over the course of one to two weeks (double that if the paper includes research), an essay exam compels you to respond to questions in a set time, and a take-home exam affords you extra time if you need it. Although I want you to follow MLA style and use textual evidence because it's a typewritten, open book exam, I neither assume nor want you to invent, draft, and revise this exam for a week. Papers craft ideas, exams reveal knowledge.

 

Do not write about a work you previously wrote about in a response, close reading, or group panel (if you responded to Twain, researched Twain, or closely read Twain, then you may not write about him on the exam). Do not use an author or work in more than one essay (if you discuss Stein in one essay, you may not analyze her in another essay). Not all works are appropriate for all essays. Choose works which afford adequate material to address the question at hand. Have a controlling idea, an interpretation, a thesis that bridges the works. Organize essays by argument and analysis. Make connections and distinctions among the works and their poems; compare and contrast the works' key ideas. Support your points with textual evidence and quotations; avoid plot summary. You will be graded on your interpretive understanding of the works as well as your ability to compare and contrast meanings and issues.

Texts

Topics

Here are the topics generated by the class on Tuesday, November 22 and 29.

Questions

Using works from the second half of the course, answer two of the following questions, created by the professor from the class's topics:

Parameters