English 201 – American Literature I
Spring 2008      Dr. Virginia Crank

Office: Wimberly 431B       Office Phone: 785-6933
E-mail: crank.virg@uwlax.edu  or  dengin3@charter.net
Office Hours: MW 2:15-3:15, TTh 11:30-12:30 or by appointment.

Course Reading Schedule

Section 003: 12:05-1:00, MWF Wimberly 207
Section 004: 1:10-2:05, MWF, Wimberly 207

Course Description: This course explores the literature of the United States from before it was the United States to just after the Civil War (roughly, the 1490’s-1880’s). This course falls under the “Humanistic Studies” area of your General Education requirements, which means that, in addition to studying the literature for it’s aesthetic and historical interest, we will also be using the literature to discuss questions such as, “What does it mean to be human?” and “What have/do/should humans value?”. An extension of that question in this course will be, “What does it mean to be American?” and “What have/do/should Americans value?”. Early American literature gives us great insight into the history and cultures of the people who have contributed to “America.”

Required Text:
--Perkins and Perkins. The American Tradition in Literature, Vol. 1. 11th Edition.  Available from textbook rental.

Course Requirements:
Weekly Journal Writing (35%): For each week’s assigned readings, you will submit a one-page, single-spaced, typed journal entry (see attached example). These journal responses allow you to write honestly about your reactions to and questions about the literature and to begin to formulate your own ideas and interpretations. The journal should usually be done before class, used during class discussion, and then submitted, although I will, on most Fridays, offer an in-class writing prompt for those students who haven’t yet done their weekly journal. You may submit your weekly journal on any class day during the week; your goal is to submit 14 journals total, one reflecting on and engaging with the literature for each week of class. I’ll read, respond, and return these journals, and I’ll use them to inform our class discussions.

Your journal will be evaluated only on the quality of your thinking and your effort to understand and interpret the stories, not on your writing ability or grammatical correctness. I will not accept late journal entries. Journals may be submitted electronically at any time during the week BEFORE class time on Friday; no journals received physically or electronically after class time on Friday will be accepted.

In-class Writings/Quizzes ( 15% ): The second type of writing you’ll do will be occasional in-class writings. These will be freewrite/responses to prompts given by me either at the beginning or end of the class. They may be used during class discussion and then will be collected. These writings also will be evaluated only on the quality of your thinking and your effort to examine the literature in light of the prompt, not on your writing ability or grammatical correctness. In-class writings may not be made up and must be turned in during the class period.

            In addition to short in-class writings, I may give occasional reading quizzes over the day’s assigned material. These quizzes will be short and (mostly) objective in nature. The quizzes complement the writing assignments in that they require a more precise and objective interaction with the text, whereas the writings encourage a more subjective and interpretive interaction with it. Quizzes cannot be made up.

Although the number of in-class writings/quizzes is not yet set, at the end of the semester, you’ll be allowed to drop your lowest score in this category.
Exams (40%):You’ll have four short, in-class exams during the semester as well as a comprehensive final exam which will include both a take-home and an in-class portion. The exams will be a combination of quote identification and essay questions. EXAMS CANNOT BE MADE UP.

Discussion/Participation (10%): You are expected to come to class with the assignments read, ready to participate in class discussion. THIS IS NOT A LECTURE-BASED CLASS!!   I do not see it as my role in this class to tell you what to think about each piece of literature, to tell you what it “means.” I see it as my job to guide YOUR discussions of the various meanings and interpretations of each text. We will not always agree; intelligent discussion will be based on each of us supporting our interpretations with evidence from the text as well as from our own experience and knowledge. Discussion cannot take place unless you speak up. Therefore, I will be “grading” your participation in class. Your reading journal can be an aid to you here, as it can offer you some ideas of what to add to our discussion.

            You’ll be placed into at least two smaller groups for discussion during the semester, to help you feel more comfortable asking questions and discussing the literature. The first type of group will be a “daily group” of 3-5 students that you will interact with as you come into class each day, to prepare for the day’s discussion. The members of this group may change throughout the semester, and each member will be responsible for offering insights, interpretations, and ideas about the readings that will make that day’s large-group discussion more fruitful and engaging.

            The second type of group will be your “half-class group.” Because discussion with 35 students can sometimes be unwieldy and many questions can go unanswered, we’ll take most Fridays as an opportunity for half the class to meet for discussion of more specific issues, questions, and ideas that didn’t get covered in the larger group. You’ll see on your course schedule which Fridays your group will meet for discussion; on the Fridays you’re not scheduled to meet, you have a study day.

            On your half-class days, you must come to the discussion prepared, with a copy of your weekly journal, your textbooks and notes, and at least three discussion questions or ideas written out on note cards or half-sheets of paper to be submitted at the beginning of class. I’ll use this pool of questions to get us started for the day.

            Your participation grade, then, will be determined by how actively you join in the discussions at all three levels, how regularly you contribute ideas, questions, interpretations, etc.

Your final grade will be figured accordingly:

                        Weekly Journal                                   350

                        Exam 1                                                  50

                        Exam 2                                                  50

                        Exam 3                                                  50

                        Exam 4                                                  50

                        Final Exam                                          200

                        Quizzes/In-class writings                    150

                        Participation                                        100


The total of 1000 points will be converted to a percentage, to which the following letter-grade scale will be applied:

A  100-94
A/B  93-90
B  89-84
B/C  83-80
C  79-70
D  69-62
F  61-0

Attendance: As adults and experienced college students, you should be well aware of the benefits of regular class attendance. In addition to the need to be present to turn in assignments, your participation in each class discussion of the literature will certainly improve your chances of doing well on the exams. That said, I will expect you to attend class each time we meet, ready to talk and learn, but I will not be rewarding or penalizing attendance with a point system, other than the participation grade.


FYI: Any student with a documented disability (e.g., physical, learning, psychiatric, vision, or hearing, etc.) who needs to arrange reasonable accommodations must contact the instructor and Disability Resource Services, 165 Murphy Library at the beginning of the semester. Students currently using Disability Resource Services will have a copy of a contract that verifies they are qualified students with disabilities who have documentation on file in the Disability Resource Service office.

Notes from Am Lit I, Sept. 4, 2001
Notes from Am Lit I, Sept. 6, 2001
Notes on Mary Rowlandson
Salem Witch Web Project
Notes on Douglass
Notes on Irving
Notes on Emerson

Emerson Web Project
Study Questions for Thoreau
Study Questions for The Scarlet Letter, "Custom-House" - Ch. 14
Study Questions for The Scarlet Letter, Ch. 15 - end

Questions for Discussing Whitman's "Song of Myself"
Study Questions for Emily Dickinson