21:352:223 Survey of American Literature

H. Ehrlich
Office: Hill 521

Class web page is http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~ehrlich/223


Course Procedures

Course Aims: What is American literature? To what extent does American literature reflect life in the United States? What are some of the major American authors and works? What can we learn from minor authors and movements? What are the effects of changing public literacy, the nature of reading and writing, and the technology of publication?

How does American literature differ from other Anglophone literatures, such as those of Britain, Ireland, Canada, India, South Africa, and other countries? How is it influenced by other languages within the U.S. borders?

Readings: Ultimately the work of each student begins with close readings of particular texts. Please read intelligently. Take notes of your readings and responses as you go. Summaries and paraphrases are for your own use, not for papers or exams. Papers require the enlargement of some critical reaction or idea supported with evidence from the texts. Try to separate common knowledge based on class discussions, reference knowledge based on background materials, and your own responses. Be ready to make a positive contribution to the class as you would to a conversation. Keep up with the readings and participate in class meetings

Writing: Good papers are interesting, sane, disciplined, informative, and engaged. They entail work; they entail risk; they communicate discovery. The writer's tone of voice springs from arguments and evidence. Bad papers, on the other hand, are boring, patchwork, self-indulgent, wandering, fake. The worst are desperate attempts to "please the teacher." Avoid makework -- papers designed to do little more than to show some time and effort went into an assignment. If the student learns nothing while writing such papers, what can the teacher learn by reading them? A good paper is the sharing of a discovery.

Papers: There will be several papers of short to medium length (2-4 pages). Library research is not expected. Downloading from Wikipedia, Cliff's notes, Spark Notes and the like, produces a disappointing sameless repeated throughout the class. Please type or use a computer printer, using standard typefaces, double spacing, 1" margins, with left justification only. Save the time and effort you might put into ornamental typefaces, right justification and elaborate cover pages and invest it instead in proofreading, correcting, or even revising your papers legibly by hand.

Revision: You may revise and submit any paper punctually to attempt to raise its grade. In most cases, make changes in hand on the original sheets -- don't make another printout. Plot summaries and digests of encyclopedia articles will not be accepted.

Class participation: Use the classes as workshops to test out your ideas and responses.

Grades, Late Work, Attendance At times inflectional marks (+, doublecheck, check, ?, and -) may be used in place of letter grades, corresponding roughly to the grades A, B, C, D, F. Students whose work is incomplete or below average will receive mid-term warnings, about which they should confer as soon as possible with the instructor. Registration and attendance are not sufficient grounds for receiving a passing grade. Course grades reflect overall patterns of performance, including the quality of class participation, quizzes, papers, writing, and examinations. Occasional late work may be accepted at a reduced grade. Excessive late work may result in automatic failure in the course. More than three (3) unexused absences may result in a lowered grade. Makeup exams will be provided only with documentation of an official excuse. For below average grades on work done at home, there may be opportunities for doing additional work for an extra grade.,