HU 382D American Literature

Instructor: Mrs. Darby Whealy

Semester: Spring

Course Description

We undertake this course together, as a dialog that seeks to engage the work of American writers and poets. The course will consist of readings and responses that facilitate our comprehension and analysis of American Literature. Discussion questions will center on issues such as faith, social contexts, and the human condition. You will often be asked to compare and contrast different readings, and analyze various themes and images.  The course will start with some of the earliest American literature and progress through twentieth- and twenty-first century texts.

Required Textbooks

·         Baym, Nina, W.W. Norton & Company, The Norton Anthology of American Literature, 6th edition; 6th Edition, November 2002 (ISBN: 0393979695)

Weekly Topic Schedule

Unit

Topic

Learning Objectives

1

Introduction; 18th Century: Jonathan Edwards

·         Given the assigned Jonathan Edwards sermons, the student will demonstrate knowledge of Puritan thought and its influence on the context and culture of early America.

·         Through the discussion question, students will reflect actively on the nature of Edwards’ arguments and their repercussions in Christian thought and American culture.

2

18th Century: Nathaniel Hawthorne

·         Given the Hawthorn short stories, students will engage major themes of guilt, paranoia, alienation and religious hysteria within selected writings of Puritan New England.

·         In the discussion question, students will interrogate possible connections between Hawthorn’s stories and Jonathan Edwards’ preaching and writing.

3

18th Century: Edgar Allen Poe

·         Utilizing the assigned Poe texts, students will extend their prior discussions of Edwards and Hawthorn to examine early American horror and suspense writing.

·         The discussion question will facilitate students’ exploration of Poe within his context, as well as evaluating Poe as a writer pioneering a new genre, horror fiction.

4

19th Century: Walt Whitman

·         Given the Walt Whitman poems, students will demonstrate knowledge of the development of a uniquely American poetic, arising in opposition to poetic traditions of Western Europe. Students will also consider Whitman’s unique forms and structures.

·         In the discussion question, students will evaluate Whitman’s departure from both earlier American ideas (as foregrounded in Edwards, Hawthorn and Poe) and from Western religious ideology (as illustrated by his interest in Transcendentalism). 

5

19th Century: Emily Dickinson

·         Utilizing the assigned poems by Emily Dickinson, students will reflect on her distinct poetic voice and her discussion of the natural world (as opposed to Whitman’s emphasis on urban life). They will also evaluate the religious philosophy manifest in Dickinson’s poetry. 

·         In the discussion question, students will demonstrate knowledge of Dickinson’s ground-breaking use of form, structure, and conventions to create a unique poetic style.

6

19th Century: Edith Wharton

·         Using the short stories by Edith Wharton, students will demonstrate comprehension of Psychological Realism in 19th Century literature, as well as observing the evolution of the short story and the novel.

·         The discussion question will facilitate student discussion of Wharton’s thematic connections to and disconnections from earlier American writers with regard to her treatment of society and the individual.

7

19th Century: Charlotte Perkins Gillman

·         Given the Gillman text, students will identify the role of social consciousness in literature and activism as a motive for storytelling. Students will also demonstrate understanding of early feminist thought in American culture. 

·         The discussion question will evaluate possible connections between Gillman’s personal context and the didactic thrust of her short story.

8

Midterm Exam

·         By completing the mid-term exam, the student will demonstrate basic comprehension of assigned texts. Beyond basic knowledge, the essay portion of the test will allow students to manifest an ability to analyze, compare, and evaluate the texts within their contexts and in relation to each other. 

9

20th Century: F. Scott Fitzgerald

·         Given F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short stories, students will identify economic forces present in early 20th century literature. They will also demonstrate understanding of the culture of the Roaring Twenties.

·         In the discussion question, students will analyze parallels between Fitzgerald’s personal experience and his short stories.

10

20th Century: Ernest Hemingway

·         Drawing from assigned texts by Ernest Hemingway, students will evaluate and contrast writers of The Lost Generation through the 1950s.

·         Using the discussion questions, students will examine Hemingway’s style and form, as well as his techniques for creating narrative tension.

11

20th Century: Eudora Welty

·         Using Eudora Welty’s short stories, students will demonstrate understanding of 20th Century regional writing and the unique characteristics of Southern literature.

·         The discussion question will facilitate student analysis of Welty’s regional writing in contrast to the writing done by early New England writers. Students will also examine the “quirks” of Welty’s writing as comedic devices.

12 

20th Century: Robert Frost; Carl Sandburg

·         Given the combined poems of Robert Frost and Carl Sandburg, students will evaluate the increasing gap (in economic prospect, cultural context, and political perspective) between urban and rural America.

·         Using the discussion question, students will analyze the differences between the two poets, focusing on formal and stylistic choices.

13

20th Century: John Updike; Philip Roth

·         Given the texts from Updike and Roth, students will assess mid-to-late 20th century fiction as an expression of modernist society and its problems.

·         The discussion question will allow students to evaluate common themes between the texts, such as isolation, displacement, and the social function of masculinity in a feminist culture.

14

20th Century: Maxine Hong Kingston; Louise Erdrich

·         Utilizing texts from Maxine Hong Kingston and Louise Erdrich, students will engage multi-culturalism and the current plurality of voices in postmodern American literature.

15

Final Exam

·         By completing the final exam, the student will demonstrate basic comprehension of assigned texts in the second half of the semester. Beyond basic knowledge, the essay portion of the test will allow students to manifest an ability to analyze, compare, and evaluate the texts within their contexts and in relation to each other.