American Literary Consciousness
English 312-01: American Literature II
Fall 2003, MWF 1:00-1:50PM, Bingham Humanities Bldg 101
The Norton Anthology offers over 150 pages of writing by Whitman
and over 40 pages by Dickinson. I encourage you to read all of these poems,
but we'll only have time to examine a limited number of them in class. Please
be prepared to discuss the following texts.
Preface to Leaves of Grass (1855)
"Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"
"Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking"
"Song of Myself" (1881) [note: not the 1855 version]
67 [Success is counted sweetest]
185 ["Faith" is a fine invention]
258 [There's a certain Slant of light]
280 [I felt a Funeral, in my Brain]
324 [Some keep the Sabbath going to Church—]
341 [After great pain, a formal feeling comes—]
448 [This was a Poet—It is that]
465 [I heard a Fly buzz—when I died—]
536 [The Heart asks Pleasure—first—]
547 [I've seen a Dying Eye]
712 [Because I could not stop for Death—]
1126 [Shall I take thee, the Poet said]
In order to actively keep up with the reading, as well as to prepare for class
discussion, answer the following study questions before class. For each question,
I suggest writing a short, informal response and citing key passages in the
text that support your response. I also strongly recommend that you annotate
your texts as you read. Actively keeping up with the reading in this manner
will serve you well on the exams and the final paper.
- Walt Whitman
- According to the Preface to Leaves of Grass (1855), what is the
role of the poet in American society? Do you think he achieves that function
in "Song of Myself"?
- Emily Dickinson
- Judging from her poetry, how do you think Dickinson lives her life?
What is Dickinson's relationship with life? According to her mindset,
how are life and death related? How does her world view contrast with
- Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
- Day 1: Do a character sketch of Huck Finn. Who is he? What kind of person
is he? What does he want out of life? Why does he do what he does? What
does he fear?
- Day 2: Compare and contrast Huck's relationship with the Widow Douglas
and with Miss Watson. Compare and contrast his relationship with Pap and
with Jim. Does this have any relationship to the identities he assumes?
- Day 3: Compare and contrast Huck's shams with the Duke and Dolphin's
and with Tom Sawyer's. What kind of morality does Huck have at the beginning
of his story as compared to the end.
- Sarah Orne Jewett, "A White Heron"
- What makes this a regional story? What are the polarities, the hierarchies,
that Jewett sets up in Sylvia's character as well as between Sylvia and
- Charlotte Perkins Gilman, "The Yellow Wall-paper"
- This story purports to be very straightforward and didactic. What is
the moral? On the other hand, In what ways does the story remain ambiguous,
irrespective of the overall lesson?
- Kate Chopin, The Awakening
- Day 1: Define Edna's awakening. What is she waking from and what is
she awakening into? Define Edna's desire. How does it compare
with Madame Ratignolle's or Mademoiselle Reisz's?
- Day 2: Why does Edna make the choice that she does? Compare her choice
with Sylvia's in "A White Heron" and the narrator's in "The
Yellow Wall-paper." What does this say about the role of women at
the turn of the century? about women's literary imagination?
- Booker T. Washington, from Up from Slavery
- How does Washington characterize the feelings of (former) slaves toward
whites? Why and how does Washington reconcile the races?
- W. E. B. Du Bois, from The Souls of Black Folk
- What are Sorrow Songs? In what three ways does Du Bois think that Washington
is wrong in his policies on race relations? If Washington's concern is
educational/financial, what is Du Bois'?
- Gertrude Stein
- Introduction, The Making of Americans: What is "loving repetition"?
Why does Stein repeat herself so much?
- from Tender Buttons: How does Stein portray these "Objects"
in her poetry? What, if anything, do we learn about these "Objects"?
- Robert Frost
- Does nature make Frost happy? What does nature inspire Frost to think
- Wallace Stevens
- What is the relationship between reality and the imagination? between
nature and culture? between physics and metaphysics? How does poetry compose
- William Carlos Williams
- What does Williams mean when he writes in "A Sort of a Song,"
"No ideas / but in things"? How do his poems approach the essence
of the thing?
- Ezra Pound
- How does Pound's regard ancient civilizations? How does he reqard his
- T. S. Eliot
- Describe your experience reading "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
and The Waste Land. How did they make you feel? Why?
- Claude McKay
- What are roots? In McKay's mind—in McKay's poetry—how does
his heritage affect his current cultural situation and vice versa?
- Langston Hughes
- What are the blues and why does Hughes have them? What is the relationship
between the blues and democracy?
- William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying
- Why is this story told from so many points of view? What is the effect
of telling the story from so many perspectives? How does this narrative
fragmentation correspond with the family disfunction? What is the significance
of the title?
- Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar
- What does Stanley mean when he says to Blanche, "We've had this
date with each other from the beginning"? What is Williams suggesting
about male and female identity? What is he suggesting about the nature
- Amiri Baraka, "Dutchman"
- What is Baraka saying about African-American male identity? What is
he suggesting about race relations?
- Robert Lowell
- How does Lowell's poetic style change from his early work to his later
work? Describe what it looks/feels like at first in a poem like "The
Quaker Graveyard at Nantucket" and later in "Memories of West
Street and Lepke" and "Skunk Hour." How does he diverge
- Allen Ginsberg
- How does Ginsberg feel about American society in such poems as "Howl"
and "A Supermarket in California"? How does he bridge Whitman
and modernists like Eliot and Pound?
- Sylvia Plath
- Would you characterize Plath's poetry as confessional? What does she
confess? Does she absolve herself, or asked another way, does she resolve
- Thomas Pynchon, "Entropy" and The
Crying of Lot 49
- What is entropy and how does it factor into the Saul's party and Calisto's
- What is Oedipa Maas really looking for and why can she not find
it? Compare and contrast Oedipa Maas' quest with Huck Finn's?
- How would you characterize Pynchon's characters and plots in general?
How do these postmodern literary conventions compare with the modernist
(say Faulkner) and realist (say Twain and Chopin)?
You've explored authors and their works in study questions and class discussion.
You've come to general conclusions about the nature of the period in exams.
Now, you can devote an entire paper to one author, to one work. Select a work
of literature (or two or three closely related essays, poems, or short stories)
that we've read in class. See me if you want to pursue a text not covered. Rigorously
interpret and analyze that piece, and use 3-4 scholarly journal articles, books,
or book chapters to support your interpretation (Click here to learn how to
conduct literary research at U of L).
Although this is a research paper, the emphasis should be on your ideas, your
way of reading the text; the research is necesary but of secondary importance:
do not let it overwhelm your voice. I'll be
glad to discuss paper topics with you at any time.
- Length: 5-7 pages, 1250-1750 words
- Format: MLA style
- Due: Monday, December 1 at 1:00PM.
- Note: Any papers received between
1:00PM Monday and 1:00PM Tuesday will be considered one day late, between Tuesday
and Wednesday two days late, and so forth.
- Format: I'll accept papers in hard copy or electronic format. Either
way, they're still due by 1:00PM.
- Turn in to me in class. If late, turn in to my mailbox in HM315.
- Use Microsoft Word or Corel WordPerfect format for Windows
only. I will not read papers submitted in other formats; consequently,
your paper will be considered late until you turn it in in the appropriate
- Turn in to me or my mailbox on PC-formatted floppy disk,
zip-100 disk, or cdr.
- Turn in via email attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org.
in via Blackboard.
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