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
Sign up for one slot. Please submit your response to <firstname.lastname@example.org>
no later than noon on the Saturday or Monday before the reading will be discussed. For example, Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 will be discussed
on Monday, March 5, but the listserv response will be due Saturday, March 3.
This is especially important for your peers and I (who base class discussion
on your responses) need time to read your responses. Responses will be
penalized one letter grade if they’re turned in late; those submitted on the
day of discussion or after will receive no credit.
| Week 1
| Week 2
| 1-10: Clemens, continued
| Week 3
| 1-17: Washington
| 1-17: Chestnutt
| 1-17: Du Bois
| Week 4
| 1-24: Chopin, continued
| 1-24: Jewett
| 1-24: Gilman
| Week 5
|| 1-29: Robinson
| 1-29: Frost
| 1-29: Sandburg
| Week 6
|| 2-5: McKay
| 2-5: Toomer
| 2-5: Hughes
| 2-5: Cullen
| Week 7
|| 2-12: Pound
| 2-12: Eliot
| 2-14: O'Neill
| Week 8
|| 2-19 Lowell
| 2-19 Ginsberg
| 2-21 Ellison
| 2-21 Baraka
||J. D. Bates
| 2-21 Reed
| Week 9
|| 2-26 Rich
| 2-26 Plath
| 2-28 Williams
Lea Ann Chambers
| Week 10
Kendra D. Baker
Take-Home Midterm Exam
- Ground Rules: This an essay exam whose two goals are, first and foremost,
textual analysis in the service of interpretation and, secondly, making connections
and distinctions between texts in order to sense the historical/literary period.
Plot summary is unnecessary; that's what the quizzes tested for. Use an individual
author only once in all three of your answers even if she's a possible answer
for all three. Write on three of the five issues in approximately 500 words
- Due: I prefer it be typed and turned into my mailbox in Denney 421
by 5 P.M. Friday, February 9 (my box is below my name in the GTA section)
so we don't have to worry about legibility issues or email snafues. However,
if that's absolutely impossible, you may send it to my email address, email@example.com,
by 5 P.M. Friday, February 9, sans attachments, that is, with the essays written
in the message body. If I don't receive your exam Friday by either method,
it will be penalized one letter grade for each dayincluding Saturday
and Sundaythat it's late. No extensions.
- Advice: If I were taking this exam, I would mull over, brainstorm,
and/or outline the answers on Monday and Tuesday, set aside a 2 hour block
of time to actually write it on Wednesday or Thursday (hey, class is canceled
Wednesday . . . how serendipitous!), sleep on it, then review and revise your
answers before turning the exam in on Friday.
- Welcome to the Machine: Individualism is a mainstay of the American
character; consequently, when the individual in conflict with society's rage
to conform is a major theme in American literature. Compare and contrast the
machinations of two individual character's (or poetic speaker's) ethical struggles
within the morality of their particular social system. How do they feel constrained?
How do they (or do they even) transcend the system? Choose from Twain, Chestnut,
Chopin, and Robinson, Frost, and Hughes.
- Gender Trouble: From what we've read, gender issues don't seem to
be on the radar until women bring them up at the turn of the century; further,
it could be argued that they recede afterward, at least inasmuch as we read
writing by men. Compare and contrast a turn of the century women writer's
conception of patriarchy, the status of woman, and gender relations with a
modernist male writer's. Choose from Chopin, Jewett, and Gilman for female
writers and Frost, Faulkner, and Hughes for male writers.
- Dysfunctional Family Bonding: We haven't read many family portraits
thus far, perhaps because authors are so focused on issues of the individual's
relationship to society. However, we should take note when we do see a family.
Compare and contrast family dynamics in the work of two authors. What drives
these families into dysfunction? What compels them to create a more perfect
union? How do issues of individualism and social standards play into family
discord? Choose from Twain, Chopin, Perkins, and Faulkner.
- Race Relations and the Harlem Renaissance: Discuss the ways that
the Washington/Du Bois debate from the turn of the century was carried out
in the poetry of the Harlem Renaissance. How do (or just do) the poets reconcile
their double-consciousness? On what basis do some poems offer conciliation
or radical critique? Use Washington and Du Bois as well as two poets of the
Harlem Renaissance McKay, Toomer, Hughes, and Cullen.
- Regionalism and Renaissance vs/and Nationalism: Even while building
a national literature, the rugged individualism of America shines in regionalism
and the Harlem Renaissance. How are the two goals mutually exclusive and
how are they compatible? Compare and contrast the ways in which a regionalist
and a Harlemite writer strives to celebrate and preserve her particular
community while simultaneously tapping into the general American worldview.
Among regionalists, choose from Chopin, Jewett, and Frost and Faulkner;
among Harlemites, choose from McKay, Toomer, Hughes, and Cullen.