American Literature I (Fall, 2004; Seton Hill University)

Course Syllabus

Syllabus Outline

1. When and Where
2. Instructor
3. Course Description
4. Course Objectives
5. Course Requirements
5.1. Attendance
5.2. Participation
5.3. Late Penalties
5.4. Texts
6. Assignments
7. Course Outline

Syllabus Details

1. When and Where

Mon, Wed 3:00 PM - 4:15 PM M237 (Fall 2004)

2. Instructor

Instructor: Dennis G. Jerz (
403 St. Joseph, Box 461
first_contact2003 @
Phone: 724-830-1909 (but I prefer to be contacted by e-mail)
Office Hours: Wed, 1-2; Thu, 10-11; and by appointment.

3. Course Description

From the catalog:

Explores a diverse body of nineteenth-century literature, including fiction, poetry, narrative, and essays, written in different regions of the United States by men and women of various cultural groups. Works of the American literary renaissance are studied alongside writing from other traditions, such as Native American autobiography, African American narrative, and women's fiction.

4 Course Objectives

The course is intended to help you achieve the following outcomes:

At the end of this course, you should be able to

  1. Deeply and critically read complex literary texts
  2. Demonstrate familiarity with the social and political forces shaping American culture during the time period
  3. Use textual evidence to support your claims in oral and informal written discussion of assigned texts, without dismissing or oversimplifying views which differ from yours
  4. Demonstrate the ability to engage intellectually with your peers
  5. Write a college-level research paper that appropriately uses primary and secondary sources (including basic literary theory)

5. Course Requirements

The most important requirement is that you carefully read the assigned texts. Writing the required papers will be much more difficult if you aren't familiar enough with the texts to come up with something interesting to say about them.

The class format will be discussion with some lecture. Your job is not to write down and memorize everything I say in class (or what says online) and then pour it all out during the exam. Instead, you will be asked to present your own original thoughts, and back them up with evidence from the literary works and from scholarly studies of those works.

5.1. Attendance

Students are expected to attend every class. (See Seton Hill University Catalog, p. 28-29, “Class Attendance” and “Excused Absences”.)

A student’s final grade is lowered by the proportion of unexcused absences. Thus, a student with a final grade of B+ (3.3 out of 4) with a record of 10% unexcused absences would get a B- (90% of 3.3 = 2.97).

I am happy to excuse students who have legitimate reasons, but students who miss a class period for any reason are still responsible for the material covered that day. An excused absence does not automatically grant an extension for any work collected or assigned that day.

Because a large percentage of your course grade depends on your achievement in long-term projects and group work, falling behind or procrastinating can lead to big trouble.

If you are absent from class without an excuse approved by the dean of students, on a day when a major assignment is due, the assignment will be counted an extra day late.

5.1.1. Emergency Absences
Those who miss class due to an unplanned emergency should submit an “Absence Form,” with proper documentation, as soon as possible.
For each class that you miss, print out and complete an “Absence Form” (available at . After you initiate this contact, we will start working out what kind of alternative assignments would be appropriate. (I ask that you please do not ask me to e-mail you a summary of what you missed. Find out before you contact me, by consulting the syllabus and a classmate.)

5.1.2. Scheduled Absences
Those who miss class due to a scheduled activity must plan to complete all make-up assignments before the missed class. This means that you must submit an acceptable “Absence Form” (see above) at least 3 class periods before the missed class. If there is insufficient time for us to agree upon an acceptable suggestion for making up missed work, or if an approved make-up assignment is late or unsatisfactory, then I may record the absence as unexcused.

5.2. Participation

Students are expected to contribute actively to a positive classroom environment, both in person and online.

Opportunities for participation are chiefly classroom activities such as discussions and peer review exercises. Those who participate in online activities above and beyond the call of duty will also receive a bonus.

5.3. Late Penalties

Any work that is submitted on time and in the proper format receives a 1/3 letter grade bonus.

Submitting late work is a two-step process.

  1. E-mail the work to me, with your last name, the assignment name, and the word "Late" in the subject line. Example:

    "Smith Ex 1-2 Late"
    I'd prefer that you copy and paste the text into the body of your e-mail, rather than send an attachment.
  2. Write the word "Late" on a printout of your assignment, and hand it to me at the next class period (there's no need to make an extra trip to slip it under my office door).

If the e-mail submission of late work arrives in my box by 11:59:59 pm on the due date, it forfeits the bonus but receives no other penalty.

All other assignments are penalized 1/3 of a letter grade for each day they are late.

Exercises earn only half credit when they are submitted later than midnight on the day they were due.

5.4. Texts

Since all the literature we are going to study is no longer protected by copyright, we will mostly use free e-texts from such sources as Project Gutenberg. I will make lightly-edited versions available for you to download.

When such a text is introduced as "Required," please bring a printout of the text with you to class. If the text is not identified as "Required," it is a suggestion, for you to consult as needed.

Since it is generally difficult to read e-text for long stretches of time, the two novels we will discuss are required purchases. Some very inexpensive copies should be in the bookstore, but for this class you can use any edition you can find.

Clemens, Samuel. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter.

6. Assignments

Quizzes (10%)
Portfolios (exercises and online discussions; 20%)
Researched Oral Presentations (15% -- Panel 5%; Formal 10%)
Oral Interpretation (10%)
Paper 1 (10% -- Draft 5%; Revision 5%)
Paper 2 (15% ---Draft 5%; Revision 10%)
Final Exam (20%)

See also the projects page.

7. Detailed Course Outline