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Course syllabus

27 Jul

ENG 295: American Literature 1865-1914

Independent Study/Online Format

Prof. Priscilla Perkins

Summer 2010

Required Text: Heath Anthology of American Literature, 5th ed., Volume C

For every reading assignment from the Heath Anthology, be sure that you first read the biographical essay on the author—check the Anthology for page numbers

Tentative Schedule (open to some revision as we go along):

Week One

–Contextual essay (pp 1-34)

–Walt Whitman, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” ( )

–Mark Twain, “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog” (pp 58-62)

–African-American Memories of Slavery and Folktales (pp 47-51)

–Frances E. W. Harper, “Aunt Chloe’s Politics” (pp 568)

Your blogging assignment: Working from the contextual essay at the beginning of the Heath Anthology, create a glossary of 15 (or more) terms that you think will be important to your understanding of literary developments and/or cultural realities of the period between 1865-1914. In your definitions of each term, try to strike a balance between precision (or detail) and succinctness, keeping in mind that you may someday need to explain these terms to an audience of high school students.

Week Two

–Ghost Dance Songs (pp 214-216; )

–Charles Alexander Eastman, “From the Deep Woods to Civilization” (547-554)

–Standing Bear, “What I Am Going to Tell You Here Will Take Me Until Dark” (538-541)

–Corridos: “Gregorio Cortez” and “Jacinto Treviño” (232-240; and )

–Henry James, “The Art of Fiction” (321-344), “Daisy Miller: A Study” (279-320)

–William Dean Howells, from “The Editor’s Study” (256-263), Letters to the Editor of the New York Tribune (259-263)

Your blogging assignments: 1) After reading texts by Native American writers, and listening to recordings of Native American and Mexican-American songs, spend some time writing about thematic and formal features of these texts that seem important to you. 2) Write a blog entry exploring how theories or claims in Henry James’s “The Art of Fiction” relate to the choices he makes in the story “Daisy Miller: A Study.”

Week Three

–William Dean Howells, “Mr. Charles W. Chesnutt’s Stories (267-269), “Editha” (269-279)

–Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, “The Revolt of ‘Mother’” (723-733)

–Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper” (578-590)

–Charles W. Chestnutt, “What is a White Man?” (120-126), “The Goophered Grapevine” (126-134)

–Abraham Cahan, from Yekl (768-775)

–Theodore Dreiser, “McEwen of the Shining Slavemakers”

Your blogging assignment: First, look at the “Basic Tenets” of literary realism listed in NCTE’s “American Realism” website ( ). Then discuss (in very specific terms!) how some of those “tenets” apply to two of the stories you read this week.

Week Four

–William Dean Howells, “Paul Laurence Dunbar” (265-267)

–Paul Laurence Dunbar, “We Wear the Mask,” “When Malindy Sings,” “Sympathy” (182-185)

–Stephen Crane, from War is Kind (521-524)

–A Sheaf of Poetry by Late Nineteenth-Century American Women (748-766)

Your blogging assignment: After reading the poems for this week, pull out a few thematic concerns that seem to be common to many of them.  Then talk about some of the formal strategies used by the poets, and speculate about which ones seem most appropriate to the concerns you have identified.  How do your previous experiences reading poetry shape your sense of effective poetic form?


“Let contradictions prevail!”

15 Jul

The first page of Whitman's "Respondez!"

“The war is completed–the price is paid….”

15 Jul

The title for this course blog–“Respondez!”–is also the title of a Walt Whitman poem that first appeared in the 1856 edition of Leaves of Grass. (Whitman originally called it “Poem of the Propositions of Nakedness,” but that’s another story.) By 1881, Whitman had decided that it didn’t belong in Leaves of Grass anymore–it’s an extremely weird poem, even by Whitmanesque standards–so he deleted it. But the issues that he confronted in “Respondez!” were far from resolved in 1881.  The failure of Reconstruction (and the emergence of racist Jim Crow laws), the growth of corporate capitalism, the explosion of immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe (and the warehousing of new Americans in dangerously crowded tenements), highly-organized political corruption: these and other problems would animate texts produced by a broad spectrum of U.S. writers in the years between 1865 (the end of the U.S. Civil War) and 1914 (the entrance of the U.S. into World War I).  In this blog, you will have the opportunity to explore how U.S. writers used the resources of American English to represent, praise, critique, and influence the world around them. Respondez!