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


American Transcendentalism: Beyond and Beneath the I

English 319-75: American Literature from 1830 to 1865

Fall 2004, MW 4:00-5:15PM, Bingham Humanities Bldg 113


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


Course Description


I become a transparent eye-ball. I am nothing. I see all. The currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or participle of God.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature


What is Transcendentalism? What does one transcend from, and where does one transcend to? Why is the transcendent moment often negative, a descent into blackness? How does the American ethos transform British Romanticism? Our class will attempt to answer these questions by looking at theories of transcendence, individuality, the imagination, and the sublime in American essays, poetry, and fiction from the American Renaissance, 1830-1865. From Emerson's prophetic idea of "The Poet" to Whitman's priestly enactment of the poet in "Song of Myself," from Thoreau's civil disobedience to Douglass's taking of the ell, from the blackness of Ahab's mind to the scarlet of Hester's letter, from Poe's self-destructive imp of the perverse to Dickinson's funeral in the brain, we will analyze how American Transcendentalists tarry with both the "positive" transcendence of the individual over against social constrictions through moral divinity and the "negative" transcendence of the downward spiral into a self-absorbed hell. To aid us in our task, we (really, you) will write essay summaries, a take-home exam, a short paper, an annotated bibliography, a research paper, and a final portfolio cover letter analyzing what you've learned about the period. Note that this course fulfills a General Education Writing (WR) requirement and is graded on a plus and minus letter grade scale. The prerequisites for this course include both English 102/105 and English 310.


Course Materials



Baym, et al, The Norton Anthology of American Literature, 6th ed., Vol. B

Emerson, Emerson's Poetry and Prose, Norton Critical Edition

Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, Norton Critical Edition

Melville, Moby-Dick, 2nd ed., Norton Critical Edition

online course packet


critical articles in Blackboard and Minerva Electronic Reserve


Assignments and Grade Distribution


quizzes, 5%

To compel you to keep up with the reading, you will take pop quizzes. If you miss a quiz and do provide a valid excuse, that quiz will not be counted in your quiz average. If you miss a quiz and do not provide a valid excuse, you will receive an F for that quiz.

2 article summaries, 5% each

You will write two essay summaries that outline a critical article on a work we're reading for class. The first essay summary should summarizes the critic's interpretation while the second should interrogate the critic's position.

take-home essay exam, 25%

You will discuss the major tenets of American Romanticism in a take-home exam that is part test and part paper.

short paper, 25%

You will analyze a work we've read in class in the first formal paper of 5-6 pages (1250-1500 words) in length.

annotated bibliography, 10%

You will create an annotated bibliography of 10 critical sources for possible use in the final paper.

research paper / final portfolio, 25%

You will write a a 8-10 page (2000-2500 words) research paper, which must reference at least 4 sources, on a Transcendentalist author, text, or issue of your choosing. The paper will be turned in along with all previous graded assignments (as well as revisions of the take-home exam and short paper if you choose to revise them) in a final portfolio. Introduce your portfolio with a cover letter explaining what you've learned about postmodern literature and the progress of your writing in the course (and the revision rationale for the exam and short paper, if you chose to revise them).


Course Policies


Office Hours

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 don't regularly check my email on weekends.

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 a list of questions and issues to discuss about the day's reading.


There will be a one letter final grade deduction for every absence beyond four days. If you miss five days, you can only earn a B, at best, in the course; if you miss eight days, you will automatically fail the course.

Late Assignments

There will be a one-letter grade deduction per day (not class period) for any assignment that is turned in late unless a valid excuse (university athletic competion, jury duty, illness with doctor's note, and so forth) is provided.


Don't 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 Dean of the College for further action, which can include notice in the permanent record, dismissal, or expulsion.

Blackboard and Netmail

We'll be using Blackboard and email to collect and return assignments. You can review the Blackboard student manual and student login instructions for Blackboard and Netmail at Blackboard @ UofL.

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, 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, 8-23


Emerson poems

W, 8-25

Introduction and Timeline (Baym 957-77)

Emerson, Nature (Emerson 27-55)

"The American Scholar" (Emerson 56-69)

"The Divinity School Address" (Emerson 69-81)

"The Transcendentalist" (Emerson 93-104)

Week 2
M, 8-30

Emerson, "The Over-Soul" (Emerson 163-74)

"The Poet" (Emerson 183-98)

"Experience" (Emerson 198-213)

from "Poetry and Imagination" (Emerson 297-319)

In Class Activity: Emerson: Defining Key Terms

W, 9-1

Emerson, selected poetry (Emerson 429-83; selections)

Week 3
M, 9-6
No Class: Labor Day
W, 9-8

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

Week 4
M, 9-13

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

"Life without Principle" (Baym 1788-2028)

W, 9-15

Fuller, "The Great Lawsuit"

"Unfinished Sketch of Youth" (Baym 1618-70)

Take-Home Essay Exam Assigned

Week 5
M, 9-20

Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

from My Bondage and My Freedom

"The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro" (Baym 2029-127)

W, 9-22

No Class: Take-Home Exam

Take-Home Essay Exam Due

Week 6

M, 9-27

Jacobs, from Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Baym 1757-79)

W, 9-29

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

Melville, "Hawthorne and His Mosses" (Baym 2292-304 or Melville 517-32)

In Class Activity: Hawthorne's "Blackness" and "Young Goodman Brown"

Week 7
M, 10-4

Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (Hawthorne 1-178)

In Class Activity: Hawthorne's Troubling Transcendence in The Scarlet Letter

W, 10-6

Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, concluded

Week 8
M, 10-11
No Class: Mid-term Break
W, 10-13

Melville, biography (Baym 2287-92)

Moby-Dick (Melville 1-214)

In Class Activity: Melville's Relationship to Nature in Moby-Dick

MLA Style: Quoting

Short Paper Prompt

Week 9
M, 10-18
Melville, Moby-Dick, continued
W, 10-20

Melville, "Bartleby, The Scrivener" (Baym 2330-54)

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

Week 10
M, 10-25

Melville, "Bartleby"/Bartleby, concluded

W, 10-27

Melville, Moby-Dick (Melville 215-427, 439-70)

Week 11
M, 11-1

Melville, Moby-Dick (concluded)

Annotated Bibliography and Final Paper Prompts

Short Paper Due

W, 11-3

Poe, poetry (Baym 1507-1524)

Literary Research Methods

MLA Style: Works Cited

Week 12
M, 11-8

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

"The Purloined Letter" (Baym 1575-87)

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

W, 11-10

Poe, concluded

In Class Activity: Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher"

Week 13
M, 11-15

Whitman, poems (Baym 2127-274; selections)

"I Sing the Body Electric" (online)

W, 11-17

Whitman, concluded

In Class Activity: Whitman's Poetry

Week 14
M, 11-22

Dickinson, poems and letters (Baym 2499-544; selections)

W, 11-24
No Class: Thanksgiving Break
Week 15
M, 11-29

Dickinson, continued

Annotated Bibliography Due

W, 12-1

Dickinson, concluded

Roundtable of Final Paper Topics


Week 16
M, 12-6
No Class: Reading Day / Last Day of Class
W, 12-8
No Class: Reading Day
M, 12-13

Final Paper/Porfolio Due by 8:00PM