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


American Literary Consciousness from Huck Finn to Music for Torching

English 226B: American Literature II: from 1860

Fall 2006, MW 3:00-4:15PM, 2130 AuSable Hall

In Class Activities

1. Gilman: Character and Reality

In order to to create some class energy, commence our discussion of "The Yellow Wall-Paper," and practice drawing the kinds of connections we'll be making in the essay exam, we'll begin today by working in groups. Break into groups of three or four, elect a secretary and a speaker (the speaker cannot be someone who regularly participates in class discussion), and answer the three questions of your assigned group. Group speakers will report their group's discussion to the rest of the class.

2. Washington and Du Bois Debate

Divide into groups of three or four, discuss the following four issues based upon the writer (Washington or Du Bois) that your group is assigned, and elect a secretary who will write down and report the results of your group's discussion to the rest of the class.

  1. Define the writer's worldview, in other words, the main theme of piece.
  2. What is the writer's political stance?
  3. What is the writer's view on education?
  4. What is the writer's view on civil rights, specifically regarding relationship between races?

3. Faulkner: The Bundren Family

In order to get back on schedule as well as to generate participation, you will work in seven groups to create a character sketch of Bundrens:

Three Questions

  1. What is the character's place within the Bundren family?
  2. What is the character's core conflict? What happens to her in the course of the story?
  3. What is the most significant quote that illuminates her issue?

Seven Groups

  1. Addie
  2. Anse
  3. Darl
  4. Cash
  5. Jewel
  6. Dewey Dell
  7. Vardaman

4. Ginsberg: Culture/Counter-Culture

Today we are going to discuss the attitudes of the Beat Generation in general and Allen Ginsberg in particular toward American culture of the fifties and sixties. Break into five groups and answer some of the following questions for the Ginsberg poem your group is assigned.

  1. Howl, Section 1
  2. Howl, Section 2
  3. Howl, Section 3
  4. "A Supermarket in California"
  5. "Sunflower Sutra"

Selected Reading

The Norton Anthology offers over 150 pages of writing by Whitman. I encourage you to read all of these poems, but we'll only have time to examine a limited number of them in class. Please be prepared to discuss the following texts.


Walt Whitman

Preface to Leaves of Grass (1855)

"Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"

"Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking"

"Song of Myself" (1881) [note: not the 1855 version]

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. 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 Wednesday 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 Friday of the week we discussed the article in class.
  4. For example, we are scheduled to discuss James on Monday, 9-11. Therefore, John Doe's summary will be due in Blackboard > Discussion Board by Wednesday, 9-6. In class on Monday, 9-11, John 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, 9-15.

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



Due Date


Due Date


Reading Student
M, 9-4 W, 9-6 Twain Sarah Vanuffelen
W, 9-6 M, 9-11 James Shelly Mumah
W, 9-13 Jewett

Mitchell Rowland

W, 9-13 M, 9-18 Gilman Shareeda Terry
Chopin Katie Aasland
Wendy Lamberts
W, 9-20 M, 9-25


Du Bois Angela Lang
W, 9-27


Ashley Stewart
W, 9-27 W, 10-4


Carrie Palmer
Crane Amanda Brzezicki
W, 10-4 M, 10-9 McKay Ryan Nystuen
W, 10-11 Fitzgerald Gary Nye
Hemingway Kate Geskus
W, 10-11 M, 10-16 Faulkner Kristina Boes
Joni Roach
W, 10-18 M, 10-23 O'Neill Tim Rasler
W, 10-25 M, 10-30 Berryman Amanda Brower
W, 11-1 M, 11-6 Plath  
W, 11-8 Ginsberg Megan Bowen
W, 11-8 M, 11-13 Mamet Claire Walsh
W, 11-15 Baraka Julia Grandy
W, 11-15 M, 11-20


Danielle Engle
Silko Mike Schmit
W, 11-22 M, 11-27 Barth  
W, 11-29 Coover  
W, 11-29 M, 4-17 Homes Matt Chicola

In-Class Exam

The first exam will consist of two essays answered in one 75 minute class period. One essay will ask you to discuss two authors with respect to their literary period; another essay will pose a thematic question. The goal of the exam is for you show your understanding of literary periods and the transition between periods 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:

  1. Walt Whitman, poetry
  2. Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  3. Sarah Orne Jewett, "A White Heron"
  4. Henry James, "Daisy Miller: A Study"
  5. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, "The Yellow Wall-paper"
  6. Kate Chopin, The Awakening
  7. Booker T. Washington, from Up from Slavery
  8. W. E. B. Du Bois, from The Souls of Black Folk

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.

Short Paper

While the midterm exam tested your ability to make thematic connections and distinction within an in-class, timed setting, the short paper asks you to continue that process—but at home and with less authors to juggle. Choose two modernist authors (Frost through O'Neill) who share a common theme or issue and write a short paper that 1) defines modernism through their writing while 2) also comparing and contrasting their theme, issue, or conflict. This paper is part exam in that it requires you to define the period and make comparisons and part paper in that it expects a certain specificity of thesis and level of analysis not afforded by timed exams. Moreover, as this is an SWS course, you will be given feedback on your first draft and allowed to revise.

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 realist and regionalist period in the first exam; and you've worked with two modernist authors in the short paper. Now, you can devote an entire paper to one author, to one work. Select a work of literature (or two or three closely related poems, or short stories) that we've read in class, but not one on which your your short paper focused. 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.

Take-Home Exam

Although our class has some writing issues with constructing theses and working with research, it nonetheless has done very well with comparing and contrasting ideas and themes. Therefore, the take-home exam will be optional. To help you decide if you wish to take the exam, regular and alternate grade distributions follow. For my part, I will grade the second draft of all research papers by Thursday night, December 7 and inform you what your final grade in the course would be if you decided not to take the final exam. Go to Blackboard > My Grades > Research Paper Final Grade.


Grade Distribution with Exam Grade Distribution without Exam

discussion board response, 5%

peer response, 5%

in-class exam, 20%

take-home exam, 25%

short paper, 20%

research paper, 25%

discussion board response, 5%

peer response, 5%

in-class exam, 30%

short paper, 30%

research paper, 30%



While the first exam required you to examine authors in a timed, closed book setting, the take-home final exam allows you one week to formulate your comparative discussion of four authors using the textual evidence an open book exam affords. Answer either two essay questions from Group A or just one essay question from Group B. Use an individual author only once in the exam. Organize essays by argument and analysis. Have a controlling idea, an interpretation, a thesis that bridges the 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.