American Literary Consciousness
English 311-75: American Literature I
Fall 2005, TR: 7:00-8:15PM, Bingham Humanities Bldg 103
First Day Questionnaire
I would greatly appreciate it if you would
complete the following questionnaire in Blackboard > Assignments > Questionnaire by
Tuesday, August 23. This survey
is completely optional. I simply want to get a sense of the class's literary
interests, and this questionnaire will give you practice with Blackboard if
you need it.
1. What is your name?
2. If it is not apparent from the roster, how do you pronounce your name?
3. Do you prefer to be called something other than the name which appears on
4. What is and/or what are your favorite work(s) of literature (poem, play,
film, television show, novel, or short story)?
5. What is your favorite literary period or movement?
6. What is your prior experience
with American literature before 1865?
The Norton Anthology 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
Stories of the Beginning of the World
Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca
"A Dialogue between Old England and New"
"To Her Father with Some Verses"
"The Flesh and the Spirt"
"A Letter to Her Husband, Absent upon Public
"In Memory of My Dear Grandchild Elizabeth Bradstreet"
"In Memory of My Dear Grandchild Anne Bradstreet"
"On My Dear Grandchild Simon Bradstreet"
"In Reference to Her Children, 23 June, 1659"
"To My Dear Children"
Annis Boudinot Stockton
Ralph Waldo Emerson
"The American Scholar" (1135-47)
"Young Goodman Brown" (1263-72)
"The Minister's Black Veil" (1280-8)
"The Birth-Mark" (1289-99)
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
John Greenleaf Whittier
Edgar Allan Poe
"The Fall of the House of Usher" (1534-46)
"The Purloined Letter" (1575-87)
"The Imp of the Perverse" (1588-92)
"Bartleby, the Scrivener" (2330-54)
"Billy Budd, Sailor" (2431-86)
Henry David Thoreau
"Resistance to Civil Government" (1788-1806)
Walden, or Life in the Wood, Chapters 1-3,
5, and 18 only (1807-66, 1875-81, 1974-82)
"Life without Principle" (1788-2028)
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass,
an American Slave, Written by Himself (2029-97)
Preface to Leaves of Grass (1855)
"Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"
Letter to Ralph Waldo Emerson [Whitman's 1856 Manifesto]
"From Pent-up Aching Rivers"
"Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking"
"When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd"
"Song of Myself" (1881) [note: not the 1855 version]
"I Sing the Body Electric" (online)
read all poems, but these are the ones we'll most
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 Class Activities
1. Anne Bradstreet: Faith and Family
Divide into four groups. 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.
- Group 1: Based on "To Her Father with Some Verses" and "A Letter
to Her Husband, Absent upon Public Employment," how does Bradstreet feel
about the men (her father and her husband) in her life? Define her relationships
and the nature of her love.
- Group 2: In "The Flesh and the Spirt," what does
the flesh say to the spirit and vice versa? How does the worldliness fit
into Bradstreet's religion?
- Group 3: Tease out Bradstreet's ambivalent
feelings toward God and faith in her 'dead grandkid' trilogy ("In Memory
of My Dear Grandchild Elizabeth Bradstreet," "In Memory of My Dear Grandchild
Anne Bradstreet," and "On My Dear Grandchild Simon Bradstreet").
- Group 4:
Based on "In Reference to Her Children, 23 June, 1659" and "To My Dear
Children," discuss Bradstreet's feelings toward and relationship with her
children. What are the lessons of faith and religion that she imparts to
2. Thomas Paine: Common Sensical Positions
Divide into six groups. For 15 minutes, groups should develop
out and discuss the political or religious position that Paine defines in their
- Group 1: In Common Sense, what reasons does Paine offer for revolt
- Group 2: In Common Sense, what reasons does Paine offer for reconciliation
- Group 3: What is the tory position as described in The Crisis?
- Group 4: What is the whig position as described in The Crisis?
- Group 5: According to The Age of Reason, what does Paine believe
- Group 6: According to The Age of Reason, what does Paine not believe
3. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Divide into five groups. Each group
will be responsible for teaching a Longfellow poem to the class based on the
following criteria. Groups should select a notetaker, for we probably will
not be able to discuss all of the poems in today's class.
- Narrative: What happens in the poem?
- Theme: What does the poem mean?
- Quote: What is the most important passage of the poem that demonstrates
the main idea?
Here are the five poems, numbered according to group.
- "A Psalm of Life"
- "The Slave's Dream"
- "My Lost Youth"
- "The Fire of Drift-wood"
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. Actively keeping up with the reading in this manner will serve
you well on the exams and the research paper.
- Stories of the Beginning of the World
- Compare and contrast the Native American creation and flood myths with
the Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman myths. In what ways are they similar?
In what ways are they different?
- Christopher Columbus, from letters
- Contrast the tone of the letter to de Santangel with that of the letter
to Ferdinant and Isabella. Why does Columbus have a chip on his shoulder
in the second? Do you think it's justified?
- Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca,
from The Relation of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca
- What was Cabeza de Vaca's goal in the New World? How did that goal change
as his station and relations with its inhabitant's developed?
- Anne Bradstreet, poetry
- How does Bradstreet feel about being a wife and mother?
- Thomas Paine
- Common Sense: List the pros and cons of reconciling with Britain,
according to Paine.
- Crisis: Define the tory position, according to Paine.
- The Age of Reason: Explain Paine's conception of religion, organized
- Annis Boudinot Stockton, poetry
- Describe Stockton's relationship with her female friends. How do they
figure in her writing?
- Phillis Wheatley, poetry
- How does Wheatley feel about her origins? How does she feel about America
religion? American freedom?
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Nature: Describe the relation between Nature and Spirit.
- "The American Scholar": Define "Man Thinking." What
is creative reading?
- "Self-Reliance": Why does Emerson believe we should trust
in ourselves more than in our society? What kind of society does he envision
for America's future?
- "The Poet": What is the function of the poet? What is to be
the function of the poet in American society?
- Nathaniel Hawthorne
- "Young Goodman Brown": Why does Goodman Brown lose his faith?
- "The Minister's Black Veil": What does the veil represent?
What is being veiled and, perhaps more importantly, from whom is it being
- "The Birth-Mark": Compare Hawthorne's understanding of religion
in previous stories to his use of science here.
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, poetry
- How might "A Psalm of Life" and "Excelsior" constitute
a Transcendentalist ethic?
- John Greenleaf Whittier, poetry
- What is an idyll? How do Whittier in "Snow Bound: A Winter Idyl"
and Longfellow in "My Lost Youth" regard the past? How does
the past relate to the present?
- Edgar Allan Poe, poetry and short stories
- In "The Imp of the Perverse," Poe suggests that excessive
Thought breaks from reason and logic and becomes Perverse. How does Perversity
run through all of Poe's works, poems as well as stories? How do Poe's
other works enact the dichotomy between rationality and irrationality?
- Herman Melville
- "Bartleby, the Scrivener": Bartleby prefers not to. What does
he prefer to do? Perhaps more importantly, what does the narrator prefer
Bartleby to do? What, if anything, does Bartleby force the narrator to
confront about himself and his preferences?
- "Billy Budd, Sailor": Why does Billy Budd aver "God Bless
Captain Vere!" as his last words?
- Henry David Thoreau
- "Resistance to Civil Government": Why does Thoreau argue
for civil disobedience? What is "the machine"? What is the difference
in Thoreau's mind between governmental law and justice?
- Walden, or Life in the Woods: Why did Thoreau go into the woods?
What does he wish to simplify? Why did he leave?
- "Life without Principle": Define Thoreau's critique of work
- Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life .
- Although Douglass is writing autobiography (more specifically a slave
narrative), how might some of his messages correspond with some of the
Transcendentalists we've read? What's his belief regarding education,
and how might it relate to Emerson's "Man Thinking"? What's
his attitude toward slaveholding society, and how might it relate to Thoreau's
resistance to government? What's His attitude toward religion, and how
might it relate to Melville's in "Billy Budd"?
- Walt Whitman, poetry
- 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, poetry
- 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
Discussion Board Response
Each student in the course will respond to one work of literature.
Consequently, with fifty students in the course, the class should have
two responses for most texts we read. These discussion board responses
serve three goals:
- to actively engage you in these texts,
- to help your peers understand these texts even as they're reading them,
- to broach issues for class discussion.
1/3 of your response summarizing the text and 2/3 tentatively analyzing, interpreting,
and determining the meaning of the text. If you've signed up for a poet, feel
free to closely read just one poem or two. Conclude your response with some
issues for class discussion.
Your discussion board response, of 2-3 double-spaced
pages with 1" margins and 12pt Times New Roman font according the MLA
will be due the Wednesday before we
discuss a reading in class.
Sign up for one slot. Post your 2-3 page response, attached in Microsoft Word
or Rich-Text Format only and following the MLA
style template (12pt Times
New Roman font, 1" margins, and double-spacing) to Blackboard > Assignments
> Discussion Board Responses on the due date, usually the Wednesday before
the work will be discussed in class. I'll return your graded response to you
in Blackboard >
My Grades > Discussion Board Response approximately one week
after you post your response.
Note: It is your job to remember to post your response;
so bookmark this web page. If you forget to post your response, you won't receive
a second chance.
| Week 1
| Week 2
Paine, from Common Sense, "The
Crisis, No. 1," or from The Age of Reason
| Week 3
| Week 4
Emerson, "The American Scholar or "The
| Week 5
Hawthorne, "Young Goodman Brown"
|Hawthorne, "The Minister's Black Veil" or "The
| Week 7
| Week 8
| Week 9
||Poe, "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The
Purloined Letter," or "The Imp of the Perverse"
|Melville, "Billy Budd, Sailor" (2431-86)
| Week 11
Melville, "Bartleby, the Scrivener" (2330-54)
| Week 12
Thoreau, Walden, or Life in the Woods
|Thoreau, "Resistance to Civil Government" or "Life without
| Week 13
||Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
| Week 14
| Week 15
| Week 16
In-Class Exam Review
The first exam will consist of two to four essays taken over the course of
two 75 minute class periods. Each of the essays will ask you to discuss a literary
period or theme by using authors and texts from the course. The goal of the
exam is for you to show your understanding of thematic issues and literary
concerns of the period by being able to make comparisons and contrasts among
works of literature. Although you will not have to write about every author
we have covered, you should be prepared to effectively discuss most of them.
If I were preparing for this exam, I would create and review a separate
page of notes for each period and movement consisting of the following:
- lists the time period's major socio-cultural concerns
- notes how the literature reacts to its time period in terms of its own
- chart the paramount literary style as well as the intent or reasoning
for that approach
I would also create and review a page of notes for each author
consisting of the following:
- for stories, chart the main characters' core conflicts and actions; for
poems, note the core conflicts
- note the key conflicts and themes
- determine how the author/text complements and transgresses the period or
- select signicant passages that represent the core conflicts and theme (if
you cannot memorize them, being able to paraphrase will be of invaluable
help on the exam)
Although you could simply review your original class notes, I advise composing these set of notes for doing so attunes your thinking and writing process to the cause of the exam in a much more active way than using old notes. Constructing notes is prewriting for the essay exam.
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 the in-class midterm
exam; and you will do so again in the take-home final exam. 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. In a focused, thesis-driven
paper, rigorously interpret and analyze that piece using specific textual evidence,
i.e., quotes, and 3-4 scholarly journal articles, books, or book chapters
to support your interpretation (Click here to learn how to conduct literary
research at UofL).
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: 6-8 pages
- Your paper will be penalized one-third of a letter grade if it does
not end at least halfway down on the sixth page while implementing
proper font, spacing, and margins. If it does not end at least halfway
down on the fifth page, it will be penalized two-thirds of a letter grade.
- Style: MLA style
- One-third of a letter grade will be deducted
for problems in each of the following
two categories: 1) margins and 2) font and line-spacing. Before you turn
in a formal paper, make sure your work follows MLA style by referring
to my FAQ on papers and using the checklist
on the MLA style handout.
- You may turn in your paper either as a paper copy in class or electronically to Blackboard > Assignments > Paper.
If you submit your paper electronically, it must be formatted in either
Corel WordPerfect, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Works, OpenOffice, or Rich-Text
- Due Date
- Wednesday, November 9
- If you do not submit a paper copy to me in class, you must submit
an accessible electronic copy to me in Blackboard > Assignments > Short
Paper by 11:59PM Wednesday, November 9, otherwise your paper will be
considered late until you submit it to Blackboard and a late penalty will
be applied to your paper grade
Take-Home Final Exam
In the previous in-class exam, you made connections among
the texts without the aid of notes or books. For the last exam,
you will be given time to contemplate your responses and support
your analyses with material from our textbook.
Answer two essay questions of the following three.
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 three authors. Support your points with textual evidence
(explanation, paraphrase, and/or quotes) but avoid plot summary. Make connections
and distinctions between the texts; in other words, compare and contrast the
authors and their world views.
- Life and Death: Compare and contrast how three authors that we’ve
read approach the subject of life and death. How do they feel about death?
How do they feel about life? You could, for instance, discuss Poe, Dickinson,
and another writer’s differing fascinations with death, their distinct
understandings of life. Choose at least two authors that we've read since
the first exam (Longfellow, Whittier, Poe, Melville, Thoreau, Douglass,
Whitman, Dickinson); one author may be from any period of the course.
- Welcome to the Machine: We talked a lot about Thoreau and Douglass’ views
of America as system. It could be said that both “rage against the
different machines. Using three authors (at least two must be from after
the first exam, i.e., Longfellow, Whittier, Poe, Melville, Thoreau, Douglass,
Whitman, Dickinson; one may be from any period of the course) compare
and contrast how those three writers react to the American society in terms
of culture, economy, law, or government.
- You: Using three authors, discuss the primary theme and concern
of American literature before 1865 as YOU see it, unless of course it coincides
with the other two questions. Possible issues include, but are not limited
to, race, religion, revolution, gender, nature, Transcendentalism, materialism,
morality and humanity, and the American brand of individualism. Be sure to
compare and contrast the authors’ ideas about the issue. Choose at
least two authors from the current unit (Longfellow, Whittier, Poe, Melville,
Thoreau, Douglass, Whitman, Dickinson); one author may be from any period
of the course.
- Due: Wednesday, December 7
- Late Penalty: Exams will be penalized one letter grade for
each day they are turned in late. However, if I cannot read your exam
by Friday, December 9, for whatever reason, you will fail the exam
and the course.
- Length: 3-4 pages per essay, 6-8 pages
for the entire exam
- Your paper will be penalized one-third of a letter grade if
it does not end at least halfway down on the sixth page while
implementing proper font, spacing, and margins. If it does not
end at least halfway down on the fifth page, it will be penalized
two-thirds of a letter grade.
- Style: MLA
- One-third of a letter grade will be deducted for problems in each
of the following two categories: 1) margins and 2) font and line-spacing.
Before you turn in a formal paper, make sure your work follows MLA
style by referring to my FAQ on papers and
using the checklist on the MLA style
- You may turn in your paper either as a paper copy in class or electronically
to Blackboard > Assignments > Paper.
If you submit your paper electronically, it must be formatted in
either Corel WordPerfect, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Works, OpenOffice,
or Rich-Text Format.
- Format: I'll accept take-home exams in hard copy or electronic
- Turn in by 5:00PM to my mailbox in Bingham Humanities
Bldg 315 or by 8:00PM to me in my office in Bingham Humanities
Bldg 335A (I'll be in my office from 4:30-8:00PM).
- Note: I will not accept hard copies of assignments submitted
after 8:00PM. If you turn in your assignment after this
time, you must do so via Blackboard. I will use the time
and date stamp to determine if late penalties are warranted.
- Use WordPerfect, Word, Works, OpenOffice, or Rich-Text
Format. I do not read assignments submitted in Acrobat,
html, Notepad, Publisher, Writepad, or other formats; consequently,
your assignment will be considered late until you turn
it in in the appropriate format. Turn in via Blackboard.
(Click here for
- Note: If you have problems with Blackboard, you
may email your assignment to me as
- I will post course grades to Ulink by Sunday, December 11
- If you would like your exam returned to you with comments,
you must specifically ask for it to be returned to you with comments.
- If you turned it in on paper, see me at the beginning
of Spring semester.
- If you turned it in electronically, you can retrieve it in Blackboard after
Sunday, December 11. (Click here for