Dr. Alex E. Blazer Course Site Syllabus
First Day Questionnaire Selected Reading In Class Activities
Study Questions Discussion Board Response  
In Class Exam Review Research Paper Take-Home Exam


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 the roster?

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?

Selected Reading

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 selections.


Stories of the Beginning of the World

all (19-33)

Christopher Columbus

all (34-7)

Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca

all (58-70)

Anne Bradstreet

"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 Employment"

"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"

Thomas Paine

all (706-25)

Annis Boudinot Stockton

all (699-703)

Phillis Wheatley

all (808-24)

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nature (1106-34)

"The American Scholar" (1135-47)

"Self-Reliance" (1160-76)

"The Poet" (1177-91)

Nathaniel Hawthorne

"Young Goodman Brown" (1263-72)

"The Minister's Black Veil" (1280-8)

"The Birth-Mark" (1289-99)

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

all (1476-85)

John Greenleaf Whittier

all (1485-1506)

Edgar Allan Poe

poetry (1507-24)

"The Fall of the House of Usher" (1534-46)

"The Purloined Letter" (1575-87)

"The Imp of the Perverse" (1588-92)

Herman Melville

"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)

Frederick Douglass

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself (2029-97)

Walt Whitman

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)

Emily Dickinson

read all poems, but these are the ones we'll most likely discuss

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.

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 assigned essay.

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.

  1. Narrative: What happens in the poem?
  2. Theme: What does the poem mean?
  3. Quote: What is the most important passage of the poem that demonstrates the main idea?

Here are the five poems, numbered according to group.

  1. "A Psalm of Life"
  2. "Excelsior"
  3. "The Slave's Dream"
  4. "My Lost Youth"
  5. "The Fire of Drift-wood"

Study Questions

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.

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:

  1. to actively engage you in these texts,
  2. to help your peers understand these texts even as they're reading them,
  3. to broach issues for class discussion.

Spend approximately 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 style template, 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 Due Reading Student
Week 1 W, 8-24 Bradstreet Kim Baker
Week 2 W, 8-31

Paine, from Common Sense, "The Crisis, No. 1," or from The Age of Reason

Patrick DeSpain
Week 3 W, 9-7

Stockton, poetry

Brandi Settle
Wheatley, poetry Rebecca Yarberry
Week 4 W, 9-14

Emerson, Nature

Sabrina Carlisle

Emerson, "The American Scholar or "The Poet"

Eric Butler
Week 5 W, 9-21

Hawthorne, "Young Goodman Brown"

Heather Owens
Hawthorne, "The Minister's Black Veil" or "The Birth-Mark" Zachary Simpson

Week 6

W, 9-28 none none
Week 7 W, 10-5

Longfellow, poetry

Justin Leibegott
Whittier, poetry none
Week 8 W, 10-12 Poe, poetry April Adams
Tryson Brindley
Week 9 W, 10-19 Poe, "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Purloined Letter," or "The Imp of the Perverse" Zack Smith
Melville, "Billy Budd, Sailor" (2431-86) Rochelle Stringer
Week 11 W, 10-26

Melville, "Bartleby, the Scrivener" (2330-54)

Shelby Dogan
Week 12 W, 11-2

Thoreau, Walden, or Life in the Woods

Jesse Houk
Thoreau, "Resistance to Civil Government" or "Life without Principle" Jeff Harris
Week 13 W, 11-9 Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Andre Freeman
Solomon Johnson

Whitman, poetry

Maggie Coursey
Terquiesa Perkins
Week 14 W, 11-16


Week 15 W, 11-23 Dickinson, poetry Katie Gordon
Week 16 none none none
Week 17 none none none

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:

I would also create and review a page of notes for each author consisting of the following:

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.

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 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.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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 machine,” albeit 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.
  3. 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.