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


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


Professor: Alex E. Blazer English Department: 240 Lake Huron Hall
Office and Mailbox: 123 Lake Huron Hall English Department Phone: 331-3405
Office Phone: 331-3373 Web: http://faculty.gvsu.edu/blazera/

Office Hours: MW 2:00-2:50PM,

W 4:30-5:30PM

Email: blazera@gvsu.edu


Course Description


For the moment they are their fantasies of themselves, their very best selves, the people they’d like to be, and then just a minute later they are once again their more familiar selves—petty, boring, limited.

—A. M. Homes, Music for Torching


English 226 is an introductory course of American literature since 1860. 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 periods—writing at up to the turn of the last century (regionalism and realism), writing between the wars (modernism), and writing post-World War II (postmodernism and the contemporary)—and three genres—poetry, fiction, and drama. Of course, we'll only catch a glimpse of these writers and these movements; however, through encounters with recurrent themes and issues, by the end of the course we'll build a general understanding of the motion of American literature over the last 145 years. Among our methods for accomplishing this formidable, but nonetheless achievable, task will be extensive reading (be prepared to read upwards of 1400 pages this semester), class discussion, in class group work, a discussion board, one or two exams, a short paper, and a research paper. I want you to do well in this class. I will guide class discussion, present concepts and modes of analysis, and assess assignments. I expect you to read and study the material, attend and participate in class regularly, submit assignments on time, and approach assignments with intellectual curiosity, educational investment, and academic honesty. Note that this course's prerequisite is completion of the freshman writing requirement. This course fulfills a Supplemental Writing Skills (SWS) requirement.


Course Materials



Baym, ed., The Norton Anthology of American Literature, 6th ed., Vols C-E (GVSU bookstore)

Homes, Music for Torching (GVSU bookstore)

course packet (online)


Assignments and Grade Distribution


1 discussion board response, 5%

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

peer response, 5%

Groups of 3-4 will respond to their peers' first drafts of the short paper and research paper.

2 exams, 20% and 25%, 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 short paper, 20%

In the short paper, you will thematically compare and contrast modernist literature.

1 research paper, 25%

In 6-8 pages and using 3-5 works of scholarly criticism, your MLA styled research paper will analyze a topic or text more closely and deeply than we had time to cover in class.


Course Policies


Class Preparation and Participation

I expect you to come to class having read, annotated, and reviewed the assigned reading. Moreover, you should prepare at least two comments and two questions. We're going to be working with challenging works of literature; therefore, we'll all benefit from sharing our ideas and questions. If I feel that you're not participating because you're not keeping up with the reading, I will give a pop quiz.

Office Hours and Professor 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 minor questions such as due dates over email, but I prefer face-to-face conversations for more substantive topics like papers and exams. Please use email etiquette.

Blackboard and Student Email

We will be using Blackboard for assignments and Netmail for class communication. It is your responsibility to update your passwords so you can use Blackboard and check your email for possible course related messages. I suggest that you forward your university email to your private email account (or vice versa) and review both my Blackboard Basics and IT's Blackboard Help.


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.

MLA Style

Formal assignments should adhere to the Modern Language Association (MLA) style. Formal papers and take-home exams require MLA style while in-class exams, discussion board responses, informal writing, and peer review may be informally formatted. One-third of a letter grade will be deducted from a formal paper or take-home exam for problems in each of the following four categories: 1) header, heading, and title, 2) margins, font, and line-spacing, and 3) quotation and citation format. Before you turn in a formal paper, make sure your work follows MLA style by using the checklist on the MLA style handout.

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.


Do not do it. Section 223.01 of the Student Code states: "Any ideas or material taken from another source for either written or oral presentation must be fully acknowledged. Offering the work of someone else as one's own is plagiarism. The language or ideas taken from another may range from isolated formulas, sentences, or paragraphs to entire articles copied from books, periodicals, speeches or the writings of other students. The offering of materials assembled or collected by others in the form of projects or collections without acknowledgment also is considered plagiarism. Any student who fails to give credit in written or oral work for the ideas or materials that have been taken from another is guilty of plagiarism." As a general rule, I fail plagiarized assignments, and so plagiarists usually fail the course as well.

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.


The deadline for withdrawing from a class is Friday, October 20 at 5:00PM through one of the Student Assistance Centers.

Disabilities Support Center

If there is any student in this class who has special needs because of a learning, physical, or other ability, please contact the Disabilities Support Services (DSS) Program in the Advising Resources and Special Programs Unit at 331-3588.

Center for Writing

The Fred Meijer Center for Writing and Michigan Authors provides appointment, walk-in, and instant messenger assistance for planning, drafting, revising, and editing papers.

Supplemental Writing Skills

This course is designated SWS. Completion of WRT 150 with a grade of C or better (not C-) is a prerequisite. SWS credit will not be given to a student who completes this course before completing the prerequisite. SWS courses adhere to certain guidelines. Students turn in a total of at least 3000 words of writing. Part of that total may be essay exams, but a substantial amount of it is made up of essays, reports, or research papers. The instructor works with the students on revising drafts of papers, rather than simply grading the finished piece of writing. At least four hours of class time will be devoted to writing instruction. At least one third of the final grade in the course is based on the writing assignments.


Course Schedule


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


Week 1
M, 8-28


W, 8-30

1865-1914 (Realism and Regionalism) (1-16)

Whitman (17-165, selections)

Week 2
M, 9-4
No Class: Labor Day Recess
W, 9-6

Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (219-407)

Week 3
M, 9-11

Twain, concluded

James, "Daisy Miller: A Study" (465-505)

W, 9-13

Jewett, "A White Heron" (595-603)

Week 4
M, 9-18

Gilman, "The Yellow Wall-paper" (831-44)

Chopin, The Awakening (633-722)

In Class Activity: Character and Reality Evaluation

W, 9-20
Chopin, continued
Week 5
M, 9-25

Washington, from Up from Slavery (744-79)

Du Bois, from The Souls of Black Folk (876-900)

Roberts, "Writing Examinations on Literature" (online)

In Class Activity: Washington and Du Bois Debate

W, 9-27

Washington and Du Bois, concluded

1914-1945 (Modernism) (1071-86)

Frost (1174-1201)

Week 6

M, 10-2

Exam 1

W, 10-4

Stevens (1234-50)

Crane (1801-45)

Week 7
M, 10-9

McKay (1456-61)

W, 10-11

Fitzgerald, "Babylon Revisited" (1658-72)

Hemingway, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" (1846-64)

Week 8
M, 10-16

Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (1693-1789)

In Class Activity: The Bundren Family

Paper 1 Prompt

W, 10-18

Faulkner, continued

MLA Style

Week 9
M, 10-23

O'Neill, Long Day's Journey into Night (1338-1416)

W, 10-25

O'Neill, continued

Paper 1 Draft 1 Due

Week 10
M, 10-30

Literature Since 1945 (Postmodernism) (1953-65, 2637-51)

Berryman (2749-69)

W, 11-1

Paper 1 Peer Response Due

Week 11
M, 11-6

Plath (2967-78)

Paper 2 Prompt

Literary Research

W, 11-8

Ginsberg (2863-77)

In Class Activity: Culture/Counter-Culture

Paper 1 Draft 2 Due

Week 12
M, 11-13

Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross (2508-41)

W, 11-15

Baraka, "Dutchman" (2299-320)

Week 13
M, 11-20

Morrison, "Recitatif" (2252-67)

Silko, "Lullaby" (2542-50)

Paper 2 Draft 1 Due

W, 11-22

No Class: Thanksgiving Recess

Week 14
M, 11-27

Barth, "Lost in the Funhouse" (online)

Paper 2 Peer Response

W, 11-29

Coover, "The Babysitter" (online)

Week 15
M, 12-4

Homes, Music for Torching

Paper 2 Draft 2 Due

W, 12-6
Homes, continued
Th, 12-14
Exam 2 Due