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
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.
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.
The Norton Anthology of American Literature,
5th ed., Vol. 2 (available at SBX)
Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (available at
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.
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
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, <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
This schedule is subject to change, so listen in class and check online for possible revisions.
In Class Reading: Dickinson and Whitman Poems
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
|| 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)
||1-22: Chopin, "The Storm," and The Awakening (464-558)
Jewett, "A White Heron" and "The Foreigner" (430-54)
Perkins, "The Yellow Wall-Paper" and
"Why I Wrote The Yellow Wall-Paper"
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)
last day to turn in paper on topics/texts from Turn of Century unit
Faulkner, As I Lay Dying and "Barn Burning" (1532-642)
Faulkner on the Web
Toomer, from Cane (1489-94)
Cullen (1751-5) 
1900-1940, An African-American Community
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)
Unit 3: Postmodernism
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)
optional viewing of A Streetcar Named Desire
7:30-10:00 in Lord Hall 19
||Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire (1794-859)
Pynchon, "Entropy" (2179-2189)
The Crying of Lot 49 (1-152)
R. Pynchon: Spermatikos Logos
Final Exam 3:30-5:18
last day to turn in Postmodernism papers