American Literature: Celebrating Identity Formations (Spring 2006)


English 2329-012 Office Hrs: 3:30-5:00; T-TH + by appt., 405 or 203 Carlisle
Instructor: Dr. Roemer Please schedule all appointments in advance.
T/TH 2 – 3:20; Preston 100 Phone: 272-2729; please leave name and phone number.

GOALS: This course is not an "introduction" or "survey" of American Literature. (English 3340 is the survey.) Instead it introduces students to a chronological selection of significant American works that contributed to an on-going dialogue about defining American identities (individual, group, cultural). This dialogue is often a fascinating index to important American cultural and aesthetic values. Despite the selectivity of the readings, the course examines a broad range of time periods, genres (oral literature, exploration accounts, letters, essays, autobiographies, poetry, and fiction), geographical areas, and perspectives shaped by different gender, class, and ethnic backgrounds. By the end of the semester, students who have successfully completed the assignments should: (1) have a basic knowledge of seventeen significant American texts, and (2) have the ability to consider how various historical periods, literary forms, concepts of audience, environments, and personal, economic, and cultural backgrounds have influenced how Americans imagine and communicate concepts of who they are. The papers support the course goals, especially goal two, by requiring students to examine how they form their identities from landscapes and stories and by examining how personal experiences, values, and ideas shape their reading experiences. (For means of assessment, see examinations and papers below.)

REQUIRED READINGS: Pace yourself. Read ahead of schedule. The two longest books come after mid-semester.
-- Selected Readings from Course Packet: See (SR) assignments below.
-- Momaday, The Way to Rainy Mountain
-- Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
-- Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks
-- Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
-- Anaya, Bless Me, Ultima


Introduction to the course & An Identity Experiment 1/17
Identity Experiment Exercise Due 1/19
A Tribal, Multi-Cultural, Multi-Century Identity: Momaday's WTRM 1/17, 19, 24
1st Exam (WTRM) ; 1st Paper (Inventive Modeling) 1/26; 1/31
18th - 19th Century Identities in Letters, Autobiographies, Essays, and Poems
de Vaca (SR), Bradstreet (SR), Edwards (SR) 1/31
Franklin (SR); CrËvecoeur (SR) 2/2, 7
Emerson (SR) 2/9
Douglass, Jacobs (SR) 2/14, 16, 21
Thoreau (SR) 2/23
Melville (SR) 2/28; [3/2]
Whitman (SR) 3/2, 7
2nd Exam (de Vaca through Whitman) 3/9
Spring Break 3/13-19

20th-Century Identities in Autobiography and Fiction
Neihardt - Black Elk (required: Chs. 1-3, 13-25, Post Scr.) 3/21, 23
Hurston 3/28, 30; 4/4
Faulkner (SR) [no class 4/6; read Faulkner; wk. on paper.] 4/11, 13
Kingston (SR) 4/18
2nd Paper Due 4/20
Anaya 4/20,25,27;5/2
Final Exam Review 5/4
Exam (Neihardt to Anaya) ; note the time change. 5/9
QUIZZES: There will be no quizzes unless there are attendance problems. Then I will give them. They will be easy for those who keep up with the readings and have good attendance. They will be difficult for those who are behind in their reading and class attendance. The quiz grades will be averaged in with your other exam grades. Normally, there will be no make-up exams for these quizzes

EXAMINATIONS & 1st PAPER: Exams: 1/26, 3/9, 5/9. 1st Paper: 1/31. All examinations will include short-answer questions and identifications drawn from the readings and classes and one or more essay questions. The first exam and first paper focus on WTRM. In the paper you will use WTRM as a model for your own autobiographical writing (one three-part section). See handouts.
During the class before each exam, I will discuss sample questions and distribute a study sheet. Grading criteria for the essay answers include the strength and focus of your argument (e.g. how well you support your claims with relevant examples from the readings and how well you concentrate on the specific question). Although your "mechanical/editorial" writing skills will be taken into account, they will be examined more closely on the two papers than on the in-class essays.

2nd PAPER: Reader-Response Paper: Transformative Associations. (Length: 750-1000 words; Due: 4/20). Select one of the reading assignments other than WTRM. As you (re)read it, note any especially strong positive or negative responses and attempt to explain why you responded this way (e.g., personal experiences, past readings, religious or political beliefs, etc.). Then look over your notes. Are their any repeated types of influences shaping how you respond? Use these notes and discovered patterns to construct an outline or rough draft of a paper that identifies the TWO most important types of influences that shaped your reading. In each of the two sections of the paper, you should (1) define the influences, (2) indicate which part or parts of the text they affect, and, most importantly, (3) discuss how the resulting responses were shaped by the interactions of the text and what you brought to it. Conclude by briefly discussing what you learned from this reading/writing experience. Grading criteria: You are the expert on which types of influences you identify. But I expect clear definitions of each of the two influences and definite indications of the resulting responses to specific parts of the text. I also expect competent writing, which certainly includes demonstration of mechanical skills in grammar, spelling, and punctuation. It also includes the ability to construct coherent sentences and paragraphs, to support claims with relevant evidence, and to engage the reader with sensible and lively language.

IMPORTANT CLASS AND UNIVERSITY POLICIES: Attendance is important. Professors cannot drop students for excessive absences; however, in this class, for every FIVE unexcused absences, the semester grade drops by a half grade. If you must withdraw, you must follow University withdrawal policies. If you don't, the grade sheet reads F. Plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty will be handled according to University policies. (For a description of plagiarism, see Ch. 2 of the MLA Handbook, 6th edition.) Except for documented emergencies, no late papers will be accepted and no make up exams will be given.

APPROXIMATE GRADING WEIGHTS & ENCOURAGEMENT: Pass/fail assignment and first exam (15%); first paper (20%); second exam (20%); second paper (20%); final exam (25%). Improvement and class participation can help raise semester grades. Also I am very willing to work with students with disabilities. At the beginning of the semester these students should provide me with documentation authorized by the appropriate University office. Students needing academic or personal counseling should consult their Departmental Advisors and, if necessary, the Office of Student Success Programs (817-272-6107).