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


American Literary Consciousness

English 311-75: American Literature I

Fall 2005, TR: 7:00-8:15PM, Bingham Humanities Bldg 103


Professor: Alex E. Blazer Office: Bingham Humanities Bldg 335A
Mailbox: Bingham Humanities Bldg 315 Office Hours: MW 2:00-3:30PM
Email: alex.blazer@louisville.edu Office Phone: 852-2185
Web: www.louisville.edu/~a0blaz01/ Departmental Phone: 852-6801


Course Description


I celebrate myself,

And what I assume you shall assume,

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

—Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself" (1855)


English 311 is an introductory course for American literature from its origins to the Civil War. Besides fulfilling requirements for the English major and minor, it also fulfills a General Education Arts and Humanities requirement. As a survey course, we'll engage a multitude of writers and literary movements from various time periods. For practicality's sake, we'll approach the literature according to three time tendencies: the literature leading up to the American Revolution, the initial struggle to create a national literature in the nineteenth century, and the first major American literary movement, Transcendentalism. Of course, we'll only catch a glimpse of these writers and these movements; however, through encounters with recurrent themes and issues among various authors, by the end of the course we'll attempt to build a general understanding of the motion of American literature up to 1865. Among our methods for accomplishing this formidable, but nonetheless achievable, task will be extensive reading, class discussion, in-class group work, a discussion board response, a research paper, and two exams. The main goal of this course is for students to gain an overview of the American literary consciousness before the Civil War.


Course Materials


required (UofL Bookstore)

Baym, et al, The Norton Anthology of American Literature, 6th ed., Vols A and B


Assignments and Grade Distribution


1 discussion board response, 5%

In 2-3 pages, you will respond to one of the works of literature by discussing theme and raising issues for class discussion.

2 exams, 25% and 35%, sequentially

Essay exams will test your knowledge of the evolving American literary consciousness. Questions will ask you to make connections and distinctions among authors, texts, and periods. The first exam will be taken in class while the second exam will be taken at home.

1 paper, 35%

Your research paper will analyze a topic, text, or set of texts more closely and deeply than we had time to cover in class.


Course Policies


Class Participation

We're going to be working with challenging works of literature; therefore, we'll all benefit from sharing our questions and ideas. To facilitate that process, I ask that you come to class prepared with tentative answers to the study questions as well as a list of issues you wish to discuss about the day's reading. If I feel that the majority of the class isn't participating because students are not keeping up with the reading, I will give pop quizzes that will force me to reweight the grade distribution.

Office Hours and Instructor Email

I encourage you to stop by my office hours to discuss any aspect of the course, literature, or life. I'm happy to answer small questions such as due dates over email, but I prefer face-to-face conversations for more substantive topics like papers and exams. I do not regularly check my email on weekends, and I do not use Blackboard's messages feature.

Blackboard and Student Email

We will be using Blackboard for assignment submission and retrieval, and Netmail for class communication. It is your responsibility to update your passwords so you can use Blackboard and check your email in case you receive course related messages. I suggest that you forward your university email to your private email account (or vice versa) and review my Blackboard Basics handout.


There will be a one letter final grade deduction for every absence beyond four days. Therefore, missing five class periods will result in a one letter final grade deduction and missing eight classes will result in automatic failure of the course. I do not excuse any class missed beyond the four days, even if you are ill or participating in extracurricular activities. Therefore, I suggest you use your four days both cautiously and wisely; and make sure you sign the attendance sheets. Habitual tardies or consistently leaving class early will be treated as absences.

Late Assignments

There will be a one letter assignment grade deduction per day, not class period, for any assignment that is turned in late. I sparingly give short extensions if you request one for a valid need; however you must make the request at least one day before the assignment is due. I will inform you via email if I cannot open an electronically submitted assignment; however, your assignment will be considered late until you submit it in a file I can open. I neither read nor grade assignments that are turned in more than five days late for whatever reason, be it extension or computer error. Failing to submit (or resubmit) an assignment that is worth 15% or more of the course grade within five days, not class periods, of its due date will result in automatic failure of the course. Failing to submit (or resubmit) a final exam or final paper within two days of its due date will result in automatic failure of the course.

MLA Style

Formal papers and take-home exams require Modern Language Association (MLA) style while in-class exams and discussion board responses may be informally formatted. One-third of a letter grade will be deducted from a formal paper or take-home exams 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.


Do not 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. See the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities, Sections 5 and 6 on page 17 of the 2004-2006 Undergraduate Catalog for further information. Proven plagiarism can result in a failing grade for the assignment or the course and will be reported to the College of Arts & Sciences for further action, which can include notice in the permanent record, dismissal, or expulsion. Last year, I caught four plagiarists: all four failed their respective courses, two did not graduate with their class, and one no longer attends UofL. Do not plagiarize.

Failure of the Course

There are three ways to fail the course: 1) failing to regularly attend class, 2) plagiarizing, 3) failing an assignment that is worth 15% or more of the course grade, be it from poor quality, lateness of submission, or a combination of poor quality and lateness.

Disabilities Resource Center

If you have any specific needs or concerns, please feel free to discuss the issue with me outside of class. Contact the Disabilities Resource Center (Robbins Hall, 852-6938) for information and auxiliary aid.

Writing Center

The Writing Center (Ekstrom Library Room 312, writing@louisville.edu, 852-2173) provides drop-in assistance for planning, drafting, revising, and editing papers.


Course Schedule


This schedule is subject to change, so listen in class and check online for possible revisions.


Week 1
M, 8-22
First Day Questionnaire
W, 8-24

Unit 1: Origins to the American Revolution

Introduction and Timeline (3-18)

Stories of the Beginning of the World (19-33)

Columbus, from letters (34-7)

Cabeza de Vaca, from The Relation of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (58-70)

Week 2
M, 8-29
Bradstreet, poems (238-75)
W, 8-31

Bradstreet, continued

In Class Activity: Bradstreet: Faith and Family

Week 3
M, 9-5

No Class: Labor Day

W, 9-7

Introduction and Timeline (425-35)

Paine, from Common Sense (706-11)

"The Crisis, No. 1" (712-7)

from The Age of Reason (718-25)

In Class Activity: Paine: Common Sensical Positions

Week 4
M, 9-12

Stockton, poems (699-703)

W, 9-14

Wheatley, poems (808-24)

Week 5
M, 9-19

Unit 2: The Creation of a National Literature

Emerson, Nature (1106-34)

"The American Scholar" (1135-47)

"Self-Reliance" (1160-76)

"The Poet" (1177-91)

W, 9-21

Emerson, continued

Week 6

M, 9-26

Hawthorne, "Young Goodman Brown" (1263-72)

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

"The Birth-Mark" (1289-99)

Exam 1 Review

W, 9-28

Hawthorne, continued

Week 7
M, 10-3

Exam 1

W, 10-5

Exam 1

Week 8
M, 10-10
No Class: Mid-term Break
W, 10-12

Longfellow, poetry (1476-85)

Whittier, poetry (1485-1506)

Paper Prompt

Week 9
M, 10-17

Longfellow and Whittier, continued

W, 10-19

Unit 3: American Transcendentalism

Poe, poetry (1507-1524)

Week 10
M, 10-24
Poe, "The Fall of the House of Usher" (1534-46)

"The Purloined Letter" (1575-87)

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

W, 10-26

Melville, "Billy Budd, Sailor" (2431-86)

Week 11
M, 10-31
Melville, "Bartleby, the Scrivener" (2330-54)
W, 11-2

film screening: Bartleby (Jonathan Parker, 2001; 82min)

Week 12
M, 11-7

Bartleby film discussion

Thoreau, "Resistance to Civil Government" (1788-1806)

Walden, or Life in the Woods (1807-1982; selections)

"Life without Principle" (1788-2028)

W, 11-9

Thoreau, continued

Paper Due

Week 13
M, 11-14

Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (2029-97)

W, 11-16

Whitman, poems (2127-2274; selections)

"I Sing the Body Electric" (online)

Week 14
M, 11-21
Whitman, continued
W, 11-23
No Class: Thanksgiving Break
Week 15
M, 11-28
Dickinson, poems and letters (2499-544)
W, 11-30
Dickinson, continued
Week 16
W, 12-7
Exam 2 Due