American Lit, 1915-Present (2005)

Course Syllabus

1. Where and When

L 138, 6pm Thursdays.

2. Instructor


Dennis G. Jerz ( 403 St. Joseph, Box 461 Phone: 724-830-1909 (but I prefer to be contacted by e-mail)

Office Visits: I usually leave my door open. If you should happen to drop by when my door is closed, please come back later or send me an e-mail.

Office Hours: Mon 2-3, Tue 10-11, Wed 1-2; and by appointment.

Occasionally I step out of my office to run errands, so if you want to be sure to catch me, send me an e-mail in advance.

3. Course Description

Explores a diverse body of twentieth-century literature, including fiction, poetry, narrative, and essays, written in different regions of the United States by men and women of various cultural groups.

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 familiarity with assigned readings, 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 -- perhaps because you stayed up all night working on a paper and are too tired to attend class -- the assignment will be counted an extra day late. (You might as well go to bed without finishing the paper, come to class so you don't fall farther behind, and then turn in the paper the next morning.)

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 whether or what kind of 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.) For some classroom activities, such as listening to peer oral presentations, there may be no appropriate make-up assignment. (See 5.2 Participation.)

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 one week 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. Students who dislike public speaking may wish to invest more effort in their online writing, and vice-versa.

Common sense and common courtesy dictates that absences, late arrivals and early departures, inconsiderate behavior, lack of preparation, and inattentiveness will impact your participation grade.

Those who participate above and beyond the call of duty will 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

6. Assignments

All assignments are marked on a standard four-point scale.

Thus, if a particular exercise is worth 8% of your final grade, and I mark a "3.5" on it, don't panic -- you got a 3.5 out of 4, not a 3.5 out of 8.

Participation and Blogging Portfolios (20%)

This component of your grade evaluates your level of engagement with the subject matter, including preparation and meaningful contributions to the class discussion (both in person and online)

Portfolio 1 (10%)
Portfolio 2 (10%)

The most important components of the portofolio are your blogged agenda items for each assigned reading, as well as a limited number of additional blog entries that ask you to read and reflect upon your peers' blog entries. (I might ask you to write a blog entry that links to conflicting opinions offered by your peers; your blog entry would examine the situation, evaluate the best evidence in favor of the opposing viewpoints, and render a judgment.)

Since classroom discussion of the assigned texts is where most of the learning in this class will take place, the portfolios will also include participation self-assessment worksheets, and a brief reflective essay.

Papers (25%)

Paper 1 Worksheet (2%)
Paper 1 Draft (0%) (Optional, but highly recommended. Bring to my office hours [Mon-Wed] or visit the writing center. I won't be able to look at this on the day your paper is due.)
Paper 1 (8%)

Exercise 2-2 is designed to get you started on Paper 2 (the term paper).
Exercise 2-3 is designed to get you farther into Paper 2.
Paper 2 Final Draft (15%)

Informal Oral Presentations (10%)

Informal 10-15 Min Discussion (3-4 students sign up to present each week. Post your notes on your blog. Present for 5 minutes. Lead class in discussion for 10 minutes. Submit printed documentation of your research -- 1-2 pages.) (5%)

Literary Interpretation (5%)