Alex E. Blazer Course Site Assignments Description
Materials Assignments Policies Schedule


American Literary Consciousness

English 291 (07968-2): U.S. Literature: 1865 to Present

Winter 2001, M/W: 3:30 - 5:18 P.M., Denney Hall 207


Instructor: Alex E. Blazer Offices: 525 Denney Hall
Mailbox: 421 Denney Hall Office Hours: M/W: 1:30-3:18
Email: Office Phone: 292-1790
Web: Departmental Phone: 292-6065


Course Description


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.

—Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49


English 291 is an introductory survey course for American literature since 1865.  As such, we'll engage a multitude of writers and literary movements from various time periods.  For practicality's sake, we'll approach the literature according to three time periods: writing at the turn of the century, writing between the wars (modernism), and writing post-World War II (postmodernism).  Of course, we'll only catch a glimpse of these writers and these movements; however, through encounters with recurrent themes and issues among various authors, by the end of the course we'll attempt to build a general (very general) understanding of the motion of American literature over the last century.  Among our methods for accomplishing this formidable, but achievable, task will be extensive reading, quizzes, a response paper, two short formal papers, and two essay exams.

Course Materials



The Norton Anthology of American Literature, 5th ed., Vol. 2 (available at SBX)

Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (available at SBX)


Assignments and Grade Distribution


2 papers, 1000 words each, 20% each

In each of the two papers, interpet a text or analyze an issue more deeply than we had time for in class.  Though you must write two papers, you may choose subjects from the three units of the course—turn of the century, modernism, and postmodernism.  For example, if you don't write on any text or issue from the turn of the century unit, you must write your two papers on modernism and postmodernism.  You can turn papers in at any point in the unit, but you must turn them in by the last day due date, the end of the unit.

midterm, 20%

Essay questions will prompt you to make connections between texts in order to obtain an understanding of the issues of the age and the movement between time periods.

final exam, 20%

Essay format as the midterm; some questions will be cumulative.

response paper, 500 words, 5%

Sign up for a text or set of texts to react to, tentatively interpret, and broach issues for class discussion.  This paper is informal, thus need not be polished, just fully engaged with the ideas and themes of the text.  Please submit it to the course listservice, <>, by noon two days before the text is scheduled to be discussed, Saturday for a Monday class or Monday for a Wednesday class.  A response will be penalized one letter grade if turned in late; a response submitted on the day of discussion or after will receive no credit.

quizzes, 15%

We'll take short answer, fill in the blank, and multiple choice quizzes at the beginning of class approximately every class period in order to make ourselves keep up with the reading, prepare for class discussion, and come to class on time.


Course Policies



Come to class on time.  Any unexcused absence beyond two will reduce your final grade by one letter per day.  Two tardies count as an absence; arriving to class 15 minutes or more late or leaving 15 or more minutes early counts as an absence.

Late Assignments

Turn in assignments on time.  There will be a one letter grade deduction per day (24 hours, not class period) for all assignments that are turned in late.


Don't do it.  Using someone else's words, ideas, or work without proper citation and representing it as your own is the most serious of academic offenses.  All cases of suspected plagiarism will be reported to the Committee on Academic Misconduct.

Office of Disability Services

If you have any specific needs or concerns, please feel free to discuss the issue with me during office hours.  Students with disabilities who need accommodations should be registered at the Office for Disability Services (292-3307).

Writing Center

The staff of the Writing Center serve as readers and responders to writing for English 110, English 367 and other university disciplines.  Besides giving feedback, these English graduate students can help with other writing issues such as topic development, organization, coherence, clarity, and self-editing.  To make an appointment, call 292-5607 or stop by 485 Mendenhall Labs M/W 8:30-5:30, T/R 8:30-7:30, and F 8:30-1:30.

Student Work

On the Monday after finals week, I will have your final research papers ready for you to pick up.  Make an appointment with me to retrieve your work, or I will discard it after two quarters.


Course Schedule


This schedule is subject to change, so listen in class and check online for possible revisions.

Week 1

Introductions, Syllabus

In Class Reading: Dickinson and Whitman Poems

Week 2

Unit 1: Turn of the Century 

American Literature 1865-1914, Introduction (1-17)

Clemens, Norton introduction (18-21 *please read bios for all authors)

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Norton 28-216)

1-10: Clemens, continued
Week 3
No class — Martin Luther King Day observed

Washington, Up from Slavery (579-614)

Chestnutt, "The Goophered Grapevine" and

     "The Wife of His Youth" (615-631)

Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (711-35)

Week 4
1-22: Chopin, "The Storm," and The Awakening (464-558)

Chopin, continued

Jewett, "A White Heron" and "The Foreigner" (430-54)

Perkins, "The Yellow Wall-Paper" and

    "Why I Wrote The Yellow Wall-Paper" (656-70)

Week 5

Unit 2: Modernism

American Literature between the Wars, 1914-1945, Introduction (911-23)

Robinson (941-6) (***read all poems for all poets, but focus on ones specified in class)

Frost (1115-42)

Sandburg (1160-3)

last day to turn in paper on topics/texts from Turn of Century unit


Faulkner, As I Lay Dying and "Barn Burning" (1532-642)

William Faulkner on the Web

Week 6

McKay (1406-10)

Toomer, from Cane (1489-94)

Hughes (1730-9)

Cullen (1751-5) [25]

Harlem: 1900-1940, An African-American Community

Midterm Exam
Week 7

Pound (1232-52)

Eliot (1368-1400)


optional viewing of Long Day's Journey into Night

7:00-10:00 in Lord Hall 19

O'Neill, Long Day's Journey into Night (1287-367)
Week 8

Unit 3: Postmodernism

Lowell (2523-40)

Ginsberg (2632-45)

last day to turn in Modernism papers


Ellison, from Invisible Man (1883-1900)

Baraka, "Dutchman," et al (2124-46)

Reed, from The Last Days of Louisiana Red

    "Neo-HooDoo Manifesto" (2209-18)

Week 9

Rich (2711-30)

Plath (2742-54)


optional viewing of A Streetcar Named Desire

7:30-10:00 in Lord Hall 19

Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire (1794-859)
Week 10

Pynchon, "Entropy" (2179-2189)

The Crying of Lot 49 (1-152)

Thomas R. Pynchon: Spermatikos Logos


Pynchon, continued

Conclusions, Evaluations


Final Exam 3:30-5:18

last day to turn in Postmodernism papers