American Literary Traditions (ENGL 210) 

Annotated Syllabus

Fall 1997 
M, 8:50-10:05--ICC 105; W, 8:50-10:05--Reiss 282 

Prof. Randy Bass - 
Eric Hofmann, Collaborating Instructor - 

Syllabus Section Links:

  • Abstract
  • The Annotated Reading Schedule (Course Reflections and Reading Benchmarks)
  • Required Texts
  • Student Responsibilities
  • Traditional and Hypertext Paper Requirements
  • Abstract

    This course will examine several works of American fiction as they have shaped and been shaped by some of the most important literary traditions in the United States. This course is not a "survey" course, but it is intended to be an introductory course for the study of the multiple literatures of the United States. Our focus will be primarily how the aesthetic, rhetorical, formal, and cultural dimensions of the works are expressive of a variety of shared themes such as human and cultural memory, the meaning of national history, cultural and social construction of self-identity, and dramas of racial difference. The course will meet one day a week in a conventional classroom and one day a week in a networked computer classroom, where we will learn to use a variety of electronic tools for analyzing and seeing these literary texts in new ways, as well as writing about them in nontraditional, multimedia formats. (return to top)

    Course Online Syllabus/Web pages: 


    Wed 8/27 Introduction to course, web site, key concepts. 

    Mon 9/1 No class 
    Wed 9/3 Silko, "Language and Literature from a Pueblo Perspective" (handout); Michael Joyce, "Afternoon" (available online in any ACS public lab). 

    Mon 9/8 Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson (through p. 226) 
    Wed 9/10 Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson (finish) 

    Mon 9/15 Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson; Thomas, ed. Plessy v. Ferguson 
    Wed 9/17 Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson; Plessy readings, cont.

    Mon 9/22 Morrison, Beloved (part one, through p. 165) 
    Wed 9/24 Morrison, Beloved 

    Mon 9/29 Morrison, Beloved (parts two and three, finish) 
    Wed 10/1 Morrison, Beloved; Dori Laub, M.D., "Bearing Witness, or the Vicissitudes of Memory," and extracts from Ruins of Memory, Laurence Langer. 

    Mon 10/6 Morrison, Beloved 
    Wed 10/8 Morrison, Beloved, holocaust/memory; Melville, Moby-Dick (Intro, Etymology and Extracts) Traditional Analysis Paper Due

    Mon 10/13 Columbus Day 
    Wed 10/15 Melville, Moby-Dick (through p. 117, "The Lee Shore") 

    Mon 10/20 Melville, Moby-Dick (through p. 289, "Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales") 
    Wed 10/22 Melville, Moby-Dick (through p. 482, "The Pequod Meets the Samuel Enderby of London") 

    Begin Working on Moby-Dick Hypertext Analysis Paper

    Mon 10/27 Melville, Moby-Dick (finish) 
    Wed 10/29 Melville, Moby-Dick 

    Mon 11/3 Melville, Moby-Dick 
    Wed 11/5 Melville, Moby-Dick Hypertext Analysis Paper Due 

    Mon 11/10 Silko, Ceremony (through p. 130) 
    Wed 11/12 Silko, Ceremony; T.C. McLuhan, "Dream Tracks" 

    Mon 11/17 Silko, Ceremony (finish) 
    Wed 11/19 Silko, Ceremony; Holocaust readings 

    Mon 11/24 Spiegelman, Maus (Book I)
    Wed 11/26 Spiegelman, Maus (Book II, finish) 

    Mon 12/1 Spiegelman, Maus; Holocaust readings. 
    Wed 12/3 Spiegelman, Maus; Holocaust readings 

    Final Hypertext Projects/Papers due: Friday , December 19, at 4:00pm.

    (return to top) 

    Required Texts:

    Mark Twain: Pudd'nhead Wilson 
    Toni Morrison: Beloved 
    Herman Melville: Moby-Dick 
    Leslie Marmon Silko: Ceremony 
    Art Spiegelman: MAUS: A Survivor's Tale 
    Brook Thomas, ed. Plessy v. Ferguson: A Brief History with Documents
    plus essays and selected readings, including: Silko, "Language and Literature from a Pueblo Perspective"; Michael Joyce, "Afternoon" (hypertext fiction); selected readings on Holocaust, memory, and testimony; T. C. McLuhan, "Dream Tracks"; and a few others. We will also do a lot of work with Internet sites dealing with the authors, their works, and contexts. (return to top)

    ACADEMIC HONOR CODE: Students should be familiar with the GU honor code and are reminded that rules for plagiarism and other honor violations apply as rigorously to electronic work as printed work. 

    FOURTH CREDIT OPTION: Students who are engaged in community service are encouraged to make connections between their work and the many possible connections in this course, either in conversation or through their hypertext projects. I encourage students who are interested in the fourth credit option for applying their service work to learning to speak to me early in the semester to make arrangements for it. (return to top)

    Student Responsibilities: 

    Students are expected to attend class, keep up with the reading, and actively share in the responsibility for making knowledge in the course. Student participation in class, engagement with the materials, preparedness with reading questions and passages, participation in the course's electronic activities, including all electronic classroom activities will weigh significantly in the grading. Student responsibilities fall into three categories: 

    Reading Questions: Each week, the reading will be accompanied by reading questions, which will be distributed variously by paper, the Web site, and the listserv. You are responsible for being prepared on the reading questions (never more than 1 or 2 at a time). Sometimes, instead of specific questions, I will ask you simply to prepare a passage that you felt was important, for which you can identify key themes, issues, and connections. Sometimes you will be asked to write on a reading question when you come into class; sometimes I will use the reading questions as the basis for class discussion and call on you to speak to the questions for a minute or two; othertimes the reading questions might guide or inform our work with electronic texts and Internet archival work. The Reading Questions are not optional guides for the reading, but a critical component of the course. 

    Hypertext Journals: Every Wednesday we will be in Reiss 282, doing electronic work with electronic texts and resources. Most of these activities will be done in pairs, or groups, and will involve writing research and synthesis reflections in a Web- journal. You will use Netscape's text editor as your hypertext writing environment, enabling you to make direct electronic links to outside resources, as well as linkages to other students' work. 

    Analysis Paper: One third of the way through the course, there will be a traditional analysis paper, related to Twain, Morrison, and all other readings thus far. This paper can be built on and transformed in the next hypertext project. 

    Hypertext Projects ("papers"): There are two hypertext "papers" in this class, in the form of hypertext writing projects. I make no assumptions about technical skills so you will get training and help to write your hypertext projects. You will also be assigned to a "writing group" so that you can count on a few others for feedback and mutual assistance. The two hypertext projects will come at the two-thirds point and end of the semester. Much more information will follow about these. 

    (return to top)

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