English 221 – Survey of American Literature II

Spring Semester, 2008

Grant T. Smith, Ph. D.

Office: MC 446                                                         Office Hours: T TH 9-12 noon; by appointment
Class: MWF 10 – 10:50 a.m.                                             MC 446
Phone: 796-3485

E-mail: gtsmith@viterbo.edu

Course Texts:  http://www.viterbo.edu/personalpages/faculty/GSmith/Books.gif

“Americanism in Literature” by Thomas Wentworth Higginson (on reserve in the library)

Emily Dickinson:  The Complete Works

Henry James:  Daisy Miller

Kate Chopin:  The Awakening

Ernest Hemingway:  In Our Time

Richard Wright: Black Boy

Robert Frost:  The Complete Works

Ken Kesey:  One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Flanner O'Connor:  "A Good Man Is Hard to Find

Annie Proulx: “Brokeback Mountain

Alexie Sherman:  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Gene Luen Yang:  American Born Chinese

Helena Maria Viramontes: Under the Feet of Jesus

Course Description: http://www.viterbo.edu/personalpages/faculty/GSmith/Books.gif

English 221 will provide a chronological overview of American literature from the American Civil War to the present. The content of the course will be presented through lecture, class discussion, film, group work, and individual projects.

Core Abilities: http://www.viterbo.edu/personalpages/faculty/GSmith/Books.gif


·         Thinking—Students engage in the critical and creative thinking

·         Life Values—Students respond to ethical issues

·         Communication—Students communicate effectively orally and in writing

·         Aesthetic Sensitivity—Students engage in artistic experiences and reflect critically upon them

·         Cultural Sensitivity—Students demonstrate a respect for the diversity of the human experience

·         Community Involvement—Students demonstrate responsible citizenship

Student Learning Outcomeshttp://www.viterbo.edu/personalpages/faculty/GSmith/Books.gif

·         Thinking—The students will engage in critical thinking whey they explicate or “close read” literary texts; when they identify formal elements such as point of view, literary language, symbolism, imagery; when they consider texts and authors in relation to historical, cultural, ideological, and theoretical contexts; when they compare what they are reading with what they have read previously; when they relate what they are reading to the wider world and to universal issues of human life.   Click here for the Viterbo Critical Thinking Home Page.

·         Communication—The students will articulate in class and in assigned writing assignments their interpretations, insights, analyses, and evaluations of the assigned literature.  Click here for the English Department’s Home Page on Writing a Critical Analysis of Literature . 

·         Aesthetic—The students will articulate in class and in assigned writing assignments their understanding of the elements of a “masterpiece” of young adult literature.  The students will evaluate the lasting quality of literature from the formal and contextual elements embedded in the literature.

·         Ethics—The students will articulate in class and in assigned writing assignments their responses to the ethical questions and dilemmas posed in the assigned readings.  Ethics is generally defined as the principles of conduct governing an individual or group; concerns for what is right or wrong, good or bad.  The students will not plagiarize.  Click here for the Viterbo University plagiarism statement.  Click here for the Viterbo University Institute of Ethics in Leadership.

·         Cultural Sensitivity—The students will read various texts by diverse authors.  The students will articulate in class and in assigned writing assignments their understanding of life values represented in different texts in relation to their own.  Individual projects are designed to give the students an opportunity to move outside of their own culture and to study and interact with a new culture.  Click here for the university’s statement on sexual harassment.


Course Requirements and Grading Policy: http://www.viterbo.edu/personalpages/faculty/GSmith/Books.gif

I am trying something different this year.  I have only three requirements of you this semester, if you do all of them, you will receive an A, if you don’t, then you will receive something less than an A.  The first requirement is steady attendance.  If you have three or fewer unexcused absences during the semester, then you will satisfy the “A” component for attendance.  If you have four or five unexcused absences, then you will satisfy the “B” component.  If you have six or more unexcused absences, then you will satisfy the “D” component.  The second requirement is a bi-weekly electronic journal.  Now, I must admit that I am deceiving you a bit here, because included in the bi-weekly journal will be occasional formal writings.  But as long as you keep your journal current and “interesting,” then you will satisfy the “A” component for the journal.  If you don’t keep the journal current and interesting, then you may have to be satisfied with something less than an A.  How will you know if the journal is “interesting?”  I will tell you when I return your journal to you.  If the entry isn’t acceptable, I will ask you specific questions and give you a deadline for the response; and, I will direct you to descriptions of good college writing.  Click here for suggested journal topics.  However, most of your journal assignments will be specific to the reading assignments.  The last requirement is to read the assigned texts.  Of course you will have to read in order to write.   Occasionally you will be asked to read material not on the course text list.  This may seem like a lot of reading, but you are college students and you are expected to be well read!  Also, you should leave Viterbo with a liberal arts education, and you can’t do that if you don’t read—a lot!  And remember, you don’t have any exams, quizzes or any term papers for this class!

To make this assignment experiment work, all of you will have to keep up with the syllabus because it may change from day to day.  The syllabus is a narrative.  I am talking to you through the syllabus, and so I want you to talk back to me and your peers.

Self-Evaluation http://www.viterbo.edu/personalpages/faculty/GSmith/Books.gif

Click here for a rubric for evaluating your participation in the class.  You will complete this rubric during the final exam.  I will use it to determine your grade for the semester.  I will also keep a record of your attendance and your journal entries.  Please note that attendance, reading, and journaling are included in the self-evaluation. 

Click here for a rubric for a formal essay.  Look at this rubric often, especially when you are asked to write a formal essay for a journal assignment.  We shall go over this rubric and others in class.

January 14

Welcome to English 221, a survey of American literature published after 1865!  I hope this semester will be a rewarding one for you and for me.  Throughout this semester we will be reading a variety of works from several periods in American literature and American history.  As we read these works, we will constantly be asking ourselves these three questions:  How is this piece of literature peculiarly “American”?  What have I learned about being an American from reading this work?  What is the role of the "misfit" in American literature and in American history?  For you to be able to answer these questions, you must first make two lists:  (1) List the “themes” you expect to see in American literature.  (2)  List the characteristics you expect to see in an American "misfit."  This is the first part of your first journal assignment!  Click here to see the second part of your first journal assignment.

Reading Assignment:  Americanism in Literature by Thomas Wentworth Higginson.  You can find Higginson’s essay on line or on reserve in the library. 

To participate in the discussion this week, you will need to read the poems by Williams, Dickinson, and Bryant and be familiar with the concept of “Realism” in American Literature.  


 By the time we finish the semester, we should be able to answer these questions:  Is an American today significantly different from the “Americans” who lived here in the 19th century?  How?  How are today’s American citizens similar to earlier readers and writers of American literature?  In what ways have we changed?  What is your definition of American literature, especially literature since the 19th century?  How does American literature differ from European literature or African or South American literature?  What makes our literature “American”?  And of course--the misfit--who is he or she?  Why is the misfit important in literature and in society?  Indeed, for the Final Exam, we shall answer these questions in a class discussion.


Let’s think about it:

·         Are there identifiable an

·         Why should we take a literature course?   What is the difference between Venus de Milo and Corporate Rape Simulator?  

·         Are there shifting dominant cultural norms or practices in America?  If so, what are they?  How are they created?

·         How do you define an American misfit?  Look again at the trailer for the latest Rambo movie.  What is there about this character that appeals to the American psyche--at least enough to make another film about him?



·         January 21

Your first journal assignment is due any time the week of February 4-8.

Reading Assignment:  The Complete Works of Emily Dickinson  Some scholars argue that modern American poetry begins with Emily Dickinson.  Certainly Dickinson and Walt Whitman departed radically from poetic forms used by most American poets prior to the Civil War.  To participate in the discussion this week, you should do some research on Emily Dickinson and read the following poems: 106, 156, 199, 203, 211, 214, 216, 219, 249, 251, 254, 258, 271, 280, 288, 303, 311, 313, 324, 328, 341, 369, 375, 389, 408, 410, 435, 465,505, 507, 593, 597, 639, 640, 712, 722, 732, 754, 919, 986, 1053, 1072, 1100, 1129, 1212, 1317, 1377, 1397, 1463, 1487, 1510, 1624.

Dickinson is not always an easy poet to read and enjoy.  You may want to do some research on her poetry to gain a fuller understanding of different meanings.  For example, check out this web site on poem 185.  

The following students (all senior-level students) will be responsible to lead the discussion of Dickinson’s poetry beginning Wednesday.  To lead a discussion effectively, you should do a lot of reading and thinking, and a bit of research.

January 28

Reading Assignment:  Continuation of the reading of Emily Dickinson.  Do you like Dickinson’s poetry?  Come to class prepared to discuss how you feel about her poetry.

Reading Assignment:  Read Flannery O'Connor's short story, "A Good Man Is Hard to Find."  We will spend Friday, February 1, discussing this short story that has a character named the "Misfit."  Consider how this evil man fits with our definition of the American Misfit, and how the villain differs from our definition.  Click here for a brief criticism of the story.

Flannery O'Connor:  "Heaven Suffereth Violence"

Bainard Cowan:  "The Tradition of Violence in American Literature"

Let’s think about it:  How does Emily Dickinson challenge the status quo?

February 4

On February 4, Viterbo University begins a humanities symposium: "Friendship:  The Other Family."  For this symposium, we will as a class depart from the chronological study of American literature and look at a contemporary piece of American letters, Annie Proulx's "Brokeback Mountain."  This short story is an account of a deep friendship between two "cowboys."

Click here for discussion questions for “Brokeback Mountain

Click here for links to the movie Brokeback Mountain.

Let’s talk about it:  What meaning and significance does “Brokeback Mountain” have to yourself?

To prepare for "Brokeback Mountain" and the symposium, you should attend one of the following symposium events: 

Film, A River Runs Through It, RC 127, 3 p.m. Monday, February 4.  To prepare for the film, you should look at the discussion questions on the novella.

Keynote Speaker:  Paul Wadell, Monday, 11 a.m., FAC Main Theatre

Speaker:  Mary Garman, Monday 7 p.m., FAC Main Theatre

Film:  Midnight Cowboy, Tuesday, RC 127, 3:30 p.m.

Your first journal entry is due before the end of the week. Here are your options:

·         A response to any of Emily Dickinson's poems.

·         A response to either "Brokeback Mountain" or "A Good Man Is Hard to Find"

·         A response to any of the Humanities Symposium activities.

February 11:

Reading AssignmentDaisy Miller by Henry James

Click here for a Study Guide to Daisy Miller

Let's talk about it:  Is Daisy only a 19th century version of MadonnaA "Re-inventing" Madonna?  The Infamous Kiss!  Courtship Rules, 19th Century  Courting in the Victorian Age

Anders Shafer Art Exhibit: January 23-February 19, FAC Art Gallery.  Working Demonstration, February 19, 9 a.m. to noon, FAC 301.  Slide Demonstration, February 19, 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., FAC Hospitality Suite.   

February 18

To understand what Kate Chopin, you must understand what is happening in American history and in American letters in the late 1800s and early 1900s.   Click here for a guide to Naturalism; click here for historical events and figures that contributed to the development of American letters at the end of the nineteenth century.  As you read The Awakening, think of how the book is really a book about the 21st century.

Reading Assignment: The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Reading Assignment:  “The Story of an Hour”

Let’s talk about it:  Can you identify the missing or silent voices in society? 

February 25

Reading Assignment:  In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway

Let's talk about it:  Existentialism

March 3  (Spring Break)

March 10

Reading AssignmentBlack Boy by Richard Wright

In The Awakening we looked at gender and class in America.  In Wright’s book we shall look at the role race plays in America.  In both books the authors challenge the readers’ assumptions of what it means to be an American and the myths that we call American themes.  Think back to how you defined “American.”  Would your definition apply to minority groups?  Before you read Peggy McIntosh’s essay, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” ask yourself the following questions:

·         What is racism?

·         Is racism a problem in America today?

·         Am I a racist?  Have I ever behaved in a racist way?  Have I ever spoken in a racist way

·         Have I witnessed racism?

·         Let’s talk about it:  How are you considering ways of addressing and overcoming racism? 

·         Are you able to identify and address stereotyping, labeling, and other unjust practices?

 Second Journal Assignment Due March 14

Journal Options:  Daisy Miller, The Awakening, In Our Time, Black Boy

March 17  Good Friday, March 21

Reading Assignment:  One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

March 24  Easter Vacation, March 24)

Continued discussion of Ken Kesey

March 31

Reading Assignment:  Sula by Toni Morrison and Selected Poems from the Harlem Renaissance

To understand fully early 20th century Black poets, you should do some research on The Harlem Renaissance.  As you read about the writers of this period in American letters, compare their style, themes, and contributions to what you saw in Dickinson, Chopin, James, and Hemingway.  The following students (Novak through Zinn) will be responsible for leading the discussion on The Harlem Renaissance.

The Talented Tenth Debate

“Color” Images:  Halle Berry, Michael Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, Toni Morrison

Was Bill Cosby Right?

April 7

Reading Assignment:  Robert Frost’s The Complete Works

Click here for the assigned poems by Frost.  Click here for class notes on Frost’s poetry.

The following students will be responsible to lead the discussion of Frost’s poems (all junior-level students)

Your fifth Journal Assignment is a reflection paper on any of the poems by Robert Frost.

April 14

Reading Assignment:  Born on the Fourth of July by Ron Kovic

Click here for Discussion Questions on Fourth of July

April 21

Reading Assignment: 

April 28

Reading Assignment: American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang or Under the Feet of Jesus by Helena Maria Viramontes

Read this summary of Literary Journalism and John Hellman’s “Post-modern Journalism” (on reserve in the library) to get an idea of the new genre Capote is credited with creating.

For our discussion of this book, we shall use the discussion questions posted on the syllabus.  You will work in groups of two or three to prepare for the discussion of each question.  

May 5  (Final Exam Week)

Reading Assignment:  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Click here for a definition of Post-modern Literature

Click here for discussion questions for Part-Time Indian

Let’s talk about it: How does one assume a position of “power” and “control” in America?  How do “Brokeback Mountain,Sula, and Under the Feet of Jesus challenge or reinforce your current knowledge or feelings about sexual orientation?

Sixth and Final Journal Assignment:  Respond in a “Formal Essay” to any of the discussion questions for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, American Born Chinese or Under the Feet of Jesus.  This journal response is due the last day of finals week.

Click here for the Final Exam Questions

Policies:  http://www.viterbo.edu/personalpages/faculty/GSmith/Books.gif

·         Click here for the university definitions of an excused and unexcused absence

·         Click here for the university policy on sexual harassment

·         Click here for the university policy on plagiarism


If you are a person with a disability and require any auxiliary aids, services or other accommodations for this class, please see Wayne Wojciechowski in Murphy Center room 320 (796-3085) within ten days to discuss your accommodation needs.  If there other accommodations that need to be made for you to succeed in the class, please indicate those needs to the instructor.  Click here for a link to the Learning Center.