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


Men on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, or, American Psychosis

English 367.02 (07919-1): The U.S. Experience as Reflected in Literature

Autumn 2000, M/W: 1:30 - 3:18 PM, Denney Hall 266


Instructor: Alex E. Blazer Offices: 525 Denney Hall
Mailbox: 421 Denney Hall Office Hours: M/W: 11:30-1:00
Email: Office Phone: 292-1790
Web: Departmental Phone: 292-6065


Course Description

I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is

southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw.

—Hamlet II.ii


This course will explore the conciousness of the American male through literature by American men.  We'll examine different males' feelings regarding topics as diverse as war and work, relationships and race, with particular focus placed upon how the desires and alienations engendered by the American Dream.  We'll investigate what causes some men to become disillusioned with the American Dream and, further, what provokes disenchantment to turn into neurosis, or worse, psychosis.  As we read the poetry, play, novels, and the film, we'll develop critical thinking skills that allow us to not only appreciate but also interrogate this literature and its experience of male consciousness.  The goal is not merely to understand these writings' themes and theses, but rather to question them in order to know and to (re)define ourselves.  To accomplish these important tasks, we must practice argumentation; we must articulate ourselves in open class discussion, and—perhaps more importantly—in writing.  Besides constant class participation, we'll submit short response papers to the course web-based discussion page, write weekly quizzes that explain significant passages of the literature we're reading, and delve deeply into one work in a four-page paper.  In order to further our studies and raise our own arguments' credibility, we'll incorporate what others have written about theses piece of literature—cursively in an annotated bibliography and fully in a research paper that will be shared with the class as an oral presentation.


Course Materials


required (available at SBX)

Fitgerald, F. Scott: The Great Gatsby

Rice, Elmer: The Adding Machine

Salinger, J. D.: The Catcher in the Rye

Wright, Richard: Native Son

recommended (available at SBX and Main Library Reserves)

Griffith, Kelley: Writing Essays about Literature, 5th ed.

reserved (at Main Library Reserves)

various short stories, poetry, and criticism


Assignments and Grade Distribution


2 web-discussion responses (on the web, 250 words each), 10%

The first step in writing about literature is to think critically about what you've just read. To that end, sign up to write 2 papers which respond to particular reading assignments.  These semi-formal papers should 1) report theses, issues, and contexts of the work, 2) respond critically to the work, and 3) ask two questions or identify two issues for class discussion.  One will be on a primary text (a work of literature) and one will be on a secondary text (a work of criticism).   Those for Monday's discussion must be submitted to the course web-based discussion page by noon Saturday, those for Wednesday's by noon Monday.

a four-page paper (typed, double-spaced, 1000 words), 20%

The next step in writing about literature is developing a sustained and supportable interpretation.  Drawing from class discussions and your initial response to the text as well as quoting the text itself to support your argument, in this paper you should develop a critical understanding of an assigned reading by either 1) interpreting a character, image, setting, symbol, or theme within one work or 2) comparing/contrasting one such element between two assigned readings.  More instructions to come.

a preliminary bibliography (20 sources), ungraded

The next step in a full investigation of a piece of literature is determining what scholars have said about the work. Pick any work of or issue in American literature (relevant to what we're discussing in class and subject to my approval) that you want to research and determine a topic.  The preliminary bibliography is a list of approximately 20 critical sources that might be helpful in your research paper.  If your search strategy can't find 20 secondary sources on your topic, we should work together to find more or determine an appropriate topic for the research paper.

an annotated bibliography (10 sources plus other information), 10%

The next step in the research process is the reading of the research.  From the preliminary bibliography (and the bibliographies of the secondary sources you've found), compile and evaluate about the 10 most valuable sources for your research.  Annotations should summarize theses or controlling ideas and discuss the validity of the text's argument.  See Annotated Bibliography Assignment and Format for more instructions.

a research paper presentation, 10%

Before writing the research paper, it's a good idea to formulate your thoughts and test them.  To that end, the final days of the quarter will be spent reading abstracts of and hearing presentations on individual research papers.  The abstract is a 250 word summary of your research-in-progress, submitted 2 days before your presentation.  Likewise, the 5-10 minute (no more than 10 please!) oral report should give your peers and me a good idea of what issues your final paper is going to explore.  In both, provide us with your thesis (however tentative) and what evidence (primary and secondary) you base that theory upon, and we'll provide you with some feedback about the soundness of your arguments and quality of your research.  More instructions to come.

an eight-page final research paper (typed, double-spaced, 2000 words), 30%

The final step is, of course, the research paper itself.  The paper should either 1) extend a conversation regarding an assigned reading by researching others' interpretations of the work and/or comparing it with selections of the author's other work, 2) read and research another work by an American writer (subject to my approval), or 3) research a topic or issue initiated in class conversation.  Your paper's first and foremost priority is constructing your argumentative interpretation of the text or issue, and in order to do that you need to not only use the appropriate primary texts, but also incorporate and quote at least 4-5 secondary sources.  More instructions to come.

quizzes, peer response, class participation, 20%

This grade is determined by both class participation and the peer responses for first drafts of the explanatory annotation paper and the research paper.  Peer responses, of approximately 150 words, should be critical yet sensitive in their evaluation of the form (thesis, support, style, voice, organization) and content (thesis, argument, use of evidence) of their peers' first drafts.  See Peer Response Papers for particular questions to address.  Class participation is vital in illuminating the multiple perspectives of the controversial issues and the divergent interpretations of the assigned readings that we'll be discussing.  In order to participate in class, you must have read the assignments.  To get the conversation started, approximately every other class we'll have a brief quiz and two or three students will be selected at random to read their quizzes in an effort to get the conversation started.


Course Policies


Class Participation

The best way to learn how to argue and how to analyze is by learning from others and practicing yourself.  You'll be practicing in writing, of course; however, to learn from others, you must hear their voices.  To that end, we all must raise questions and respond to issues.  There are no stupid questions; no voice is invalid.  This is your class and for you to get the most from it, we all must participate.

Drafting and Revision

We'll be completing at least two drafts of the two major papers.  The first will be responded to by your peers and I; the second will receive a grade.  You may do a third draft of Paper 1 for a chance to improve your grade if and only if you meet with me to discuss revision strategies.  Each draft of Paper 1 and the Research Paper must be turned in on time and meet the word limit, otherwise the final grade on the paper will be reduced one-letter grade for each day any and all of the drafts are turned in late as well as one-letter grade for any and all drafts that do not meet the word limit.


Come to class on time.  Any unexcused absence beyond two will reduce your final grade by two-thirds of a letter for each day.  Five unexcused absences mandates your failure of the course.  Bring valid written excuses in writing within one week of your return or the excuse will be considered invalid.  Two tardies count as an absence; arriving more than 15 minutes late or leaving more than 15 minutes early counts as an absence.


After you receive your grade on the second draft of the first paper, we will have an individual conference to talk about your work.  Attendance will be mandatory and the attendance policy will be in effect.  Though no more individual conferences are required, I encourage you to see me during my office hours or by appointment to talk about your progress in the course.

Late Assignments

Turn in all assignments on time.  There will be a one letter grade deduction per day (24 hours, not class period) for all major assignments (drafts of the 4-page paper, the annotated bibliography, drafts of the research paper) that are turned in late, and there will be a two letter grade deduction per day for web-based discussion responses.  An extension may be given if absolutely necessary and warranted.


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.


The Ombud is a resource for students and teachers of English 110 and 367.  If you have any concerns about the course but feel you cannot speak with me, please feel free to consult with the Ombud.  All conversations are confidential.

Ombud: Keith Manecke  Office Hours: M/W 12:00-3:30
Office: Denney Hall 363     T/R 8:30-1:00 and by appt. 
Office Phone: 292-5778 Email:

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.

Online Resources

The following websites have information and handouts valuable for students of first-year writing in a computer section: Center for the Study and Teaching of Writing, Computers in Composition and Literature, and Modern Language Association

Student Work

On the Monday after finals week, I will have your final papers ready for you to pick up.  Make arrangements 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 Concerns

Bukowski Poems

Writing Topic: Effective Reading Strategies

Strategies for Reading and Writing

Week 2

Hemingway, "The End of Something"

"Soldier's Home" from In Our Time

Salinger, "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" from Nine Stories

(short stories available at Main Library Reserves)

Writing Topic: Effective Reading Strategies — continued

Griffith, Ch 2 (4th ed.) or Ch 1 (5th ed.)


Rice, The Adding Machine

Writing Topic: Effective Reading Strategies — continued

Griffith, Ch 3 (4th ed.) or Ch 2 (5th ed.)

Week 3

Rice — continued

Writing Topic: Reading and Writing about Drama

Griffith, Ch5 (4th ed.) or Ch4 (5th ed.)


Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Writing Topic: Writing an Interpretive Essay

Griffith, Ch10 (both 4th and 5th eds.)

Paper 1 Prompt

Week 4

Fitzgerald — continued

Writing Topic: Writing an Interpretive Essay — continued

Formal Paper Format


Fitgerald — continued

Fitgerald criticism (at Main Library Reserves; see Schedule)

Writing Topic: Writing a Peer Response Paper

Peer Response Questions

Paper 1, Draft 1 Due

Week 5

Wright, Native Son

Writing Topic: Peer Response Discussions

Written Peer Response Due


Wright — continued

Writing Topic: Reading and Writing about Fiction

Griffith, Ch4 (4th ed.) or Ch3 (5th ed.)

Week 6

Wright — continued

Wright criticism (at Main Library Reserves; see Schedule)

Writing Topic: Evaluating Secondary Sources

Paper 1, Draft 2 Due


poems by Andrews, Baraka, Berryman, Eliot, Ginsberg, Lowell,

McKay, and Watten (at Main Library Reserves)

Writing Topic: Reading and Writing about Poetry

Griffith, Ch6 (4th ed.) or Ch5 (5th ed.)

Week 7
No Class (class to select makeup day for T, W, or R night)

Annotated Bibliography Prompt

***meet in Denney Hall 316

Writing Topic: Finding Sources for a Research Paper

Handout: Annotated Bibliography

CCL Handout: On-Line Resources

Preliminary Bibliography Due
Week 8

Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Writing Topic: Writing a Research Paper

Griffith, Ch 11 (both 4th and 5th ed.)

Handout: Works Cited

CSTW Handouts: MLA Documentation Style: References

MLA Documentation Style: In-Text Citations

MLA Style Quoting

Mechanics of Quoting


Salinger — continued

Salinger criticism (at Main Library Reserves; see Schedule)

Writing an Abstract

Week 9

Film: American Psycho

***meet in Lord Hall 19

Annotated Bibliography Due

Research Paper Presentations
Week 10
Research Paper Presentations — continued
No Class: Thanksgiving
Week 11

Research Paper Presentations — continued

Research Paper, Draft 1 Due


Conclusions, Evaluations

Writeen Peer Response Due

Research Paper, Draft 2 Due by 5 PM