Dr. Alex E. Blazer Course Site Syllabus
In Class Activities Selected Reading
Study Questions Peer Response Discussion Board
Paper 1 Paper 2 Exam


American Literary Consciousness

English 225B: American Literature I: to 1860

Winter 2007, MW 4:30-5:45PM, 121 Lake Huron Hall

In Class Activities

1. Anne Bradstreet: Faith and Family

In order to introduce ourselves to one another and commence our discussion of Bradstreet, I've designed an short activity. Divide into groups of 4 or 5. For 25 minutes, each group should discuss the main issues of their assigned poem(s) and then report their findings to the class as a whole.

  1. Based on "The Flesh and the Spirt," "[On Deliverance] from Another Sore Fit," and "Upon the Burning of Our House, July 10th, 1666," describe the relationship between worldly flesh and metaphysical spirit in Bradstreet's poetry. How do worldliness and the body fit into Bradstreet's religion?
  2. Based on "To My Dear and Loving Husband" and "A Letter to Her Husband, Absent upon Public Employment," how does Bradstreet feel about her husband? Define their relationship and the nature of her love.
  3. Based on "Before the Birth of One of Her Children" and "In Reference to Her Children, 23 June, 1659," discuss Bradstreet's feelings toward and relationship with her children. What are the lessons of faith and religion that she imparts to her children?
  4. Tease out Bradstreet's ambivalent feelings toward God and faith in her 'dead grandkid' poems, "In Memory of My Dear Grandchild Elizabeth Bradstreet" and "On My Dear Grandchild Simon Bradstreet."

2. Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson: Revolutionary Positions

Divide into six groups. For 15 minutes, groups should develop out and discuss the political or religious position that Paine defines in their assigned essay.

3. Peer Response and Nathaniel Hawthorne

1. Peer Response


In the peer response meeting, group members will share their responses in verbal form. Writers take turns listening to their group members review their work. Specifically, the group should go around the circle and address the issues below. The process should take 7-10 minutes per writer and last 35-50 minutes depending on the size of the group.

  1. Thesis: What is the paper's thesis? Does it make a defendable claim, control the argument, and structure the paper?
  2. Comparison: Does the paper effectively compare and contrast the two works?
  3. Anything Else: What other revisionary comments do peers have about the paper?

2. Nathaniel Hawthorne


After completing the peer response session, the group should discuss Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Artist of the Beautiful" by answering the following questions, which will jump start our large class discussion of Hawthorne after the peer response.

  1. What are five key conflicts or issues in the story?
  2. What is the overall theme or idea of the story?
  3. How do the ideas conveyed by "The Artist of the Beautiful" correspond with "Young Goodman Brown" and "The Minister's Black Veil"? How are they similar to Emerson's worldview?

Selected Reading

The Anthology of American Literature offers much more writing by most of the authors that we're going to read than we can possibly examine in a survey course. I encourage you to read all of these texts, but we'll only have time to examine a limited number of them in class. Please be prepared to discuss the following selections.


Ralph Waldo Emerson


"The American Scholar"

"The Divinity School Address"


"The Poet"

Henry David Thoreau

"Civil Disobedience"

Walden, or Life in the Wood, Chapters 1-3, 5, and 18 only

"They Who Prepare My Evening Meal Below"

"On Fields o'er Which the Reaper's Hand Hass Passed"



"My Life Has Been the Poem"

Frederick Douglass

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

"Letter to His Old Master"

"What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?"

Walt Whitman

Preface to Leaves of Grass

"Song of Myself"

"To You"

"One's-Self I Sing"

"I Hear America Singing"

"Poets to Come"

"From Pent-Up Aching Rivers"

"Once I Pass'd through a Populous City"

"Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"

"Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking"

from Democratic Vistas

Emily Dickinson

125 [For each ecastic instant]

241 [I like a look of Agony,]

249 [Wild Nights—Wild Nights!]

258 [There's a certain Slant of light,]

303 [The Soul selects her own Society—]

324 [Some keep the Sabbath going to Church—]

341 [After great pain, a formal feeling comes—]

414 ['Twas like a Maelstrom, with a notch,]

435 [Much Madness is divinest Sense—]

441 [This is my letter to the World]

448 [This was a Poet— It is That]

650 [Pain— has an Element of Blank— ]

754 [My life had stood—a Loaded Gun—]

1129 [Tell all the truth but tell it slant—]

Study Questions

It's easy to get behind in a fast-moving survey course. In order to actively keep up with the reading and prepare for class discussion, I suggest the following strategy:

  1. Read the author biographies in the Norton anthology, for they often frame the themes of the selected texts.
  2. Peruse anthology's companion website, Anthology of American Literature.
  3. Take notes while you're reading, either in the margins or in a notebook (highlighting doesn't count).
  4. Record at least three significant or favorite passages for each work.
  5. Read your peers' discussion board responses on Blackboard.
  6. Answer the study questions, which will typically be available the Friday before the work will be discussed. I suggest writing a short, informal response and citing key passages in the text that support your response.

Actively keeping up with the reading in this manner will serve you well on the papers and exams.

Peer Response

1. Peer Response Goals

As this is Supplemental Writing Skills course, you have the opportunity to revise your two formal papers based upon comments by your peers and myself. You will provide constructive criticism to 3 or 4 other members of the class as will they to you. Take this opportunity to re-see and hone your papers, not only in terms of grammar and style but analytical content.

2. Peer Response Groups

3. Written Peer Response

Answer the following questions as you formulate your one page, double-spaced response to each peer's paper. Because these peer response papers and sessions help your peers revise their papers and thus improve their grade, it is very important that you offer the best constructive criticism in the strongest possible terms, both in writing and in the group meeting. Do not simply say that a peer's paper is okay. Even if you find no problems, engage a dialogue with the paper's interpretation.

4. Verbal Peer Response

In the peer response meeting, group members will share their responses in verbal form. Writers take turns listening to their group members review their work. Specifically, the group should go around the circle and address the following issues. The process should take 7-10 minutes per writer and last 35-50 minutes depending on the size of the group.

Discussion Board Response

Blackboard Post: You will respond to a reading, and post your response to our course discussion board at Blackboard > Discussion Board. The response should

Informal Presentation: You will also be responsible for a brief, informal presentation which introduces the key issues and possible themes of the text as you see them and also broaches issues for class discussion.


Due Dates:

  1. Your discussion board response will be due in Blackboard > Discussion Board on the Thursday before we discuss an essay in class. If you do not submit your response to Blackboard before the text is discussed in class, you will fail the assignment.
  2. Your brief, informal presentation will be due on the day we discuss the reading in class. This date is approximate for we sometimes fall a day behind.
  3. I will return your graded response to you in Blackboard > My Grades > Discussion Board Response by the next class period.
  4. For example, we are scheduled to discuss Bradstreet on Monday, 1-15. Therefore, Robert Gould's summary will be due in Blackboard > Discussion Board by Wednesday, 1-0. In class on Monday, 1-15, Robert will informally present his reading of James' story and I will grade his response and return it to him Blackboard > My Grades > Discussion Board Response by Friday, 1-19.

Note: It is your responsibility to remember to post your response on time.



Due Date


Due Date


Reading Student
W, 1-10
M, 1-15


W, 1-17
Taylor Molly Cramer
W, 1-17
M, 1-22
Rowlandson Kristen Chaulk
W, 1-24
Paine Janice DeWit
Jefferson Cory Sutherby
W, 1-24
M, 1-29
Wheatley Erica Haveman
W, 1-31
Freneau Erica Robinson
W, 1-31
M, 2-5
Irving Danielle Griffin
W, 2-7
Bryant Erica Lue
W, 2-7
M, 2-12
Emerson, Nature or "The American Scholar" Melissa Batts
Emerson, "The Poet" John Nichols
W, 2-14
M, 2-19

Hawthorne, "Young Goodman Brown" or

"The Minister's Black Veil"

W, 2-21

Hawthorne, "The Artist of the Beautiful" or

"Rappaccini's Daughter"

W, 2-21
M, 2-26
Fuller Abby Schmeling
Child Stacy Souders
W, 3-7
M, 3-12
Poe, poetry or "The Imp of the Perverse" Jon Gano
W, 3-14
Poe, "The Fall of the House of Usher" Jim Munchow
W, 3-14
M, 3-19

Melville, "Bartleby, the Scrivener"

Mark Vanderklok
W, 3-21
Melville, "Benito Cereno" Chris Carver
W, 3-21
M, 3-26
Thoreau, "Civil Disobedience" Iesha Stepp
Thoreau, Walden Shanette Haynes
W, 3-28
M, 4-2
Douglass Kristin Kolehouse
W, 4-4
Jacobs Megan Roers
W, 4-4
M, 4-9
Whitman Kellie Sharp
Vincent Harriger
W, 4-11
M, 4-9
Dickinson Danielle Lewis
Robert Gould

Short Paper

The goal of the first paper is for you to articulate a general understanding of an important topic within the colonial and revolutionary period of American literature by connecting and differentiating readings. Compare and contrast two authors (Winthrop, Bradford, Bradstreet, Taylor, Rowlandson, Paine, Jefferson, Wheatley, Freneau) on a general topic like (but not limited to) religion, government and revolution, savagery and slavery, by first positing a particular, comparative yet differential and argumentative thesis and then proving that thesis with rigorous analysis of textual evidence. As this is an SWS course, you will be given feedback on your first draft and then allowed to revise if you so choose.

Research Paper

You've explored authors and their works in study questions and class discussion. You've come to general conclusions about the nature of the Puritan and colonial period through your first paper. Now, you can devote an entire paper to one Transcendentalist or mid-Nineteenth Century author, one work (Irving, Bryant, Emerson, Hawthorne, Fuller, Child, Poe, Melville, Thoreau, Douglass). Select a work of literature (or two or three closely related poems, or short stories) that we've read in class. See me if you want to pursue a text not covered. In a focused, thesis-driven paper, rigorously interpret and analyze that piece using specific textual evidence (i.e., quotes) and literary research (3-4 scholarly journal articles, books, or book chapters) to support your argument. 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.

Student Author/Topic
Melissa Batts Emerson
Chris Carver Melville
Kristen Chaulk Child
Molly Cramer Poe
Janice Dewit Thoreau
Jon Gano Poe
Robert Gould Emerson
Danielle Griffin Thoreau
Vincent Harriger Hawthorne
Erica Haveman Emerson
Shanette Haynes Child
Kristin Kolehouse Poe
Danielle Lewis Emerson
Erica Lue Poe
Jim Munchow Poe
John Nichols Melville
Erica Robinson Fuller
Megan Roers Poe
Abby Schmeling Fuller
Kellie Sharp Thoreau
Stacy Souders Poe
Iesha Stepp Melville
Cory Sutherby Poe
Mark VanderKlok Melville


Answer two essay questions, one from Group A and one from Group B. Use an individual author only once and write 3-4 pages for each essay, 6-8 pages for the entire exam.

Organize essays by argument and analysis. Have a controlling idea, an interpretation, a thesis that bridges the two authors. Support your points with textual evidence (explanation, paraphrase, and/or quotes) but avoid plot summary. Make complex connections and subtle distinctions between the texts; in other words, compare and contrast the authors and their world views.