American Literature (200-level)

English 204

American Literature

Spring 2013

Instructor: Lara Southgate

Course Days and Time: Tuesday/Thursday, 9:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.

Course Location: Sharp Lab 120

Office Location: Memorial Hall 116

Office Hours: Monday 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.; Tuesday 1:00-3:00 p.m.

Email: (I will usually respond within 24 hours, excepting weekends)

All information on this syllabus is subject to change and is available on the course website.


Course Description

In our increasingly globalized world, national boundaries have become, in many ways, extremely permeable. We can communicate with friends, family members, colleagues, and even complete strangers in other countries and on other continents with the push of a “Send” button or the click of a mouse. With the use of the internet and social networking sites, people are able to conduct business, meet new people, and form alliances across national and international lines in ways that they never could have ten or even five years ago.

However, the concept of the “nation” has never been especially stable, especially in the United States, where the definition of what constitutes “The United States” and “American” has constantly evolved with the development of federalism as well as the influx of new populations. In this course, students will examine the construction of “The United States of America” and what it means to be “American” alongside ideas of regionalism and transnationalism as conveyed in the course texts for the semester.

Course Outcomes

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Read and respond analytically to a variety of texts in a variety of genres
  •  Perform close readings of seminal texts in American literature by paying attention to both language and context
  •  Identify the ways in which a text’s material context affects how it is read
  •  Compose written arguments about and analyses of these texts
  •  Support arguments with quotations, paraphrases, and summaries accurately using current MLA citation conventions
  •  Use technology to enhance academic communication and composition, as well as to examine the ways in which texts circulate in our own society

Course Texts

  1. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer [online]
  2. Federalist 10 [online]
  3. Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano
  4. Excerpts from David Walker’s Appeal [online]
  5. Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
  6. Willa Cather, My Antonía
  7. Nella Larsen, Quicksand
  8. Modernist and Harlem Renaissance poetry: selections from Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Ezra Pound, and Marianne Moore [online]
  9. William Faulkner, “The Bear,” in Go Down Moses
  10. Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior
  11. Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street

Other Required Supplies

  • Course notebook, preferably with perforated pages. Bring this and pens/pencils to every class period.
  • A reliable Word processor, preferably Microsoft Word, but others are fine as long as you can convert documents to a .doc or .docx file.
  • Access to paper and/or printing supplies
  • Reliable internet access outside of class, both to submit work and access certain readings online. Our campus has multiple computer labs and wi-fi spots; so this should not be a problem.

In addition, a flash drive, digital drop box, or other means of backing up your course materials is highly recommended. If you do not have a flash drive, I would at least recommend emailing copies of your papers to yourself so that a computer crash will not fully erase your work.

Numeric Grading Conversions

A 93-100; A- 90-92; B+ 87-89; B 83-86; B- 82-80; C+ 79-77; C 73-76; C- 70-72; D+ 67-69; D 63-66; D- 60-62; F below 60

If you are unhappy with a grade that you have received on an assignment, I ask that you wait 24 hours before discussing it with me. Letting time pass generally allows for more perspective. Discussing a grade is not a negotiation, but it does allow you to better understand how and why I came to give you the grade, and it can help you learn how to improve your efforts in the future.


Journal entries and small writing assignments            20%

Participation (including reading quizzes)                      15%

Essay 1                                                                                    15%

Essay 2                                                                                   20%

Midterm                                                                                 10%

Final Exam                                                                            20%

Small Writing Assignments

All students will create a Tumblr account for this class, on which they will post responses to weekly prompts about the course readings. Some of these prompts will call for close readings; others will call for students to develop their own critical questions about the texts; others will ask students to consider the original contexts in which certain course texts were published and imagine how this would have impacted how the texts were read. Because for some assignments, you will be responding to your fellow classmates’ work, submit all journal entries promptly. More information on creating a Tumblr account and using Tumblr to post and reply to journal entries will be distributed later this week.


Students will also hand in, in hard copy, two 1,500-word essays on the topics of their choice. These essays must be thesis-driven and involve close readings of American literary texts; topics must be approved by the instructor. More information regarding expectations for these essays will be distributed later in the semester.

All essays should be submitted in black ink, printed double-spaced (on one side only) in 12-point Times New Roman font with your name, instructor, class, and date at top left, a centered title, and your last name and page number at top right (use the header function). Indent your paragraphs ½” with the Tab key; do not put spaces between paragraphs. These are the MLA [Modern Language Association] guidelines for submitting essays; using them makes each paper easy to read and grade.


While the majority of this course will be spent analyzing the texts we need, students will still be expected to know some of the context surrounding both the historical periods in which our class texts were created and circulated, as well as of literary conventions that the analyzed texts exhibit. The midterm and final exam will act as a way of assessing student knowledge in these areas.



Your full participation in all class work is expected—and graded. Participation includes observable, active engagement in class discussions, peer groups, and class writing. It also includes your scores on reading quizzes—you can’t participate fully in class discussions if you haven’t read the texts for the day.

Respectful listening to faculty and classmates is expected at all times: no sleeping in class, no wearing of headphones, no working on homework for other classes, no reading materials not related to this class. All phones should be turned off and put away. You are allowed to bring laptops to class, but if you do, I ask that you email me your notes at the end of class. Texting, checking Facebook/other unrelated Web sites, or working on other coursework in my class will hurt your participation grade.

In addition, you should check your university email account at least once daily, as it is an important resource both for this course and for college life in general. Materials for this class will also be regularly posted to the Sakai site, including this syllabus, specific writing assignments and directions, a calendar, and your current grades. Check this site for notifications prior to each class.


Attendance Policy

Attendance is necessary for your success in this course. You are expected to be on time and prepared for every class meeting, and you must stay for the duration of every class. You are allowed two absences. After your second absence, your final course grade will drop three percentage points for every missed class period. Any absence after the second, regardless of the reason, will require a conference with me. If you are absent, you are still responsible for any work due—you will be developing a network within a group of classmates for that purpose.

If you will be missing a class for religious reasons, let me know by email no later than two weeks before the class that you will be missing so that we can work out how to handle your make-up work.


Emergency Absences

If serious illness (hospitalization), family emergencies, or other crises occur during the term, one of the key things you must do is to contact the Assistant Dean of your College as soon as possible. This office can assist you in notifying faculty and in validating for your teachers what has happened. Such validation will be necessary for you to make up missed classwork and assignments.


If you enter the classroom after 9:30 a.m., you will be marked late. Every three times you are late will count as one absence. Leaving a class early will also count as a lateness.

Late Work

All final drafts of essays will be submitted in hard copy at the start of class. Final papers not in my hands five minutes into the class period will be marked late, and will lose five percentage points if turned in by the end of the day. I do not accept papers after midnight on the date they are due

Journal entries and second drafts of essays will be due online by the time specified on the syllabus or on the prompt. Late journal entries will not be accepted.

Using Technology

Computers, internet, and email are going to be integral parts of your professional lives. Technology problems are not an excuse for late work. Be sure to give yourself time to address any technological issues, and be sure to contact me immediately upon encountering an issue (especially regarding Sakai) rather than waiting until the assignment deadline. If Sakai is malfunctioning for whatever reason, then let me know in an email, and include an attachment of your work if you need to meet a deadline. If you are unable to turn in an assignment for emergency reasons, please inform me ASAP. If for some reason class is canceled on a day that an essay is due, the essay is STILL DUE unless otherwise stated; you will need to check Sakai and your email for further instruction.

Academic Integrity

Any work that you submit at any stage of the writing process—draft, thesis and outline, bibliography, etc., through final version—must be your own; in addition, any words, ideas, or data that you borrow from other people and include in your work must be properly documented. Failure to do either of these things is plagiarism. The University of Delaware protects the rights of all students by insisting that individual students act with integrity.  Accordingly, the University severely penalizes plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty.

The Writing Center

The Writing Center in 016 Memorial Hall ((302)831-1168) provides free one-on-one instruction to students who have writing assignments in this or any course. You may go online to make an appointment: Or you may call or stop by the Center to make an appointment. Appointments are offered on a first-come, first-served basis, so you should make your appointments as far in advance as possible.

Disability and Special Needs

If you need special assistance and/or classroom accommodations because of a disability, please let me know as soon as possible.  To register and request accommodations, you will need to contact the Americans with Disabilities Act Office ((302)831-4643) for physical or emotional disabilities or the Academic Enrichment Center ((302)831-2805) for learning disabilities/ADHD.

Course Evaluations

A final expectation of the course is for you to complete the online student evaluation. this survey will be available for you to complete during the last two weeks of the semester. Apart from being an expectation of the course, your evaluation provides valuable information to me and to the English Department.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s