Category Archives: Syllabus

Wednesday, 01 Aug 2012


    1. What is “American Literature 1800-1915” about?
    2. Where and when does it meet
    3. How do I contact Dr. Jerz?
  1. About the Course
    1. What are the learning objectives?
    2. How does this course contribute to a liberal arts education?
    3. What kinds of assignments are involved?
    4. What are the assigned texts and required materials?
    5. Where is the detailed course outline?
  2. Course Policies
    1. What does Dr. Jerz expect of  me in this class?
    2. What does Dr. Jerz promise in return…
      1. about assignments?
      2. about common courtesy?
      3. about communication?
    3. What are the assignment submission policies?
    4. What is the attendance/absence policy?
      1. What should I do if I have to miss class?
      2. How should I prepare for a planned absence?
      3. What should I do about an emergency absence?
    5. What is the policy for making up missed work?
    6. What is the “Late Pass” extension policy?
    7. What is the policy for late work / extra credit?
  3. University Policies
    1. What is Seton Hill’s academic integrity policy?
    2. What is Seton Hill’s disability services statement?
    3. What is Seton Hill’s information literacy policy?

1) Basic Course Information

1.1) What is “American Literature 1800-1915″ about?

According to the official catalog description:

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. Prerequisite: LA101. Fall semester. Satisfies the U.S. Cultures requirement of the Liberal Arts Curriculum.

1.2) Where and when does it meet?

  • EL266 (75): Online

1.3) How do I contact Dr. Jerz?

Book appointments via Google Calendar
  • Mon 10:30-noon (St Joe 403)
  • Tue: 9:30-1oam  (St Joe 403)
  • Wed: 10:30-noon  (St Joe 403)
  • Thu: 2-3:30 (Maura 332)
  • Other times by appointment

2) About the Course

2.1) What are the learning objectives?

  1. Deeply and critically read culturally significant texts
    1. demonstrate familiarity with the social and political forces shaping American culture during the time period
    2. organize and develop your initial reactions to assigned texts, through discussion, drafting, peer critiquing, and revision
  2. Support your claims textually, without oversimplifying or ignoring views which differ from yours.

To help you reach those goals, you will need to:

  • read all assigned texts and reflect meaningfully on them (a process that includes re-reading parts of large texts or the whole of shorter texts) before online class discussions
  • participate via online class  activities, and various graded and ungraded homework
  • write two college-level papers (one supported by primary sources, another supported by both primary sources and secondary academic research) as well as other, more informal exercises
  • contribute actively to a positive learning environment

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

  1. Awareness of the literary techniques authors use in order to express and develop their ideas
  2. Awareness of the historical, cultural, and formal issues that influence your developing responses to texts on the syllabus
  3. Competence in interpretive, critical reading of complex texts (beyond summarizing the plot)
  4. Evidence of intellectual engagement with your peers and the course content
  5. Ability to plan, research, draft, revise, and polish college-level essays

2.2) How does this course contribute to a liberal arts education?

Every single course you take at Seton Hill is another opportunity for you to develop your mind by wrestling with the challenging, enduring, and won’t-fit-on-a-bumper-sticker issues that make the world go round.

As a survey course, EL266 has particular relevance as a liberal arts core requirement, education certification requirement, and/or elective.

Since classical times, a liberal arts education has been the set of skills that each individual needs to master in order to fully participate in a free, democratic society.

In ancient times, three of these skills were always taught first: grammar, logic and rhetoric (the ability to persuade), so that students would then be ready for more advanced study in specific subject areas (arithmetic, astronomy, music, and geometry).

In a similar way, a liberal arts education at Seton Hill University includes general courses that all students take, so that they will learn the basic skills that professors in every discipline agree students will need to develop in order to be a well-rounded, broadly educated person.

A statue of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton holds an iPad.

Whether you hope to use your writing skills every day after you graduate, or your future plans include as little writing as possible, I hope you’ll consider the effort you put into EL266 as investment that will not only prepare you for future courses, but  also “fit you for that world in which you are destined to live” (as Elizabeth Ann Seton said).

According to Seton Hill’s catalog, when you graduate, you will have demonstrated a great number of skills. In the list that follows I have bolded those key skills that are central to the work we do in an American literature course.

I have [underlined and bracketed] skills that we touch on in one or two activities, or that might apply to your work in this course, depending on choices that you make.

At the reception of a baccalaureate degree from Seton Hill University, a graduate will be able to demonstrate the following skills:

  1. Communication and Problem Solving
    1. Use the expressive arts as a mode of inquiry or expression.
    2. Demonstrate leadership, negotiation, relational, and consensus skills.
    3. Use technological skills to access information, organize knowledge, and communicate.
    4. Propose [new solutions to current issues].
    5. Express arguments or main points clearly, in written and oral communication.
    6. Transfer knowledge and values into sound decision-making.
  2. Historical, Cultural, and Global Awareness
    1. Communicate in a second language at the intermediate level.
    2. Analyze the impact of history, geography, and socio-cultural dynamics on [global] interactions from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.
    3. Analyze current and historical events through the [lens of spirituality and faith].
    4. Assess privilege and oppression from the perspective of culture, race, class, and gender.
  3. Multiple Modes of Inquiry
    1. Generate and analyze numerical and scientific data.
    2. Locate and analyze expressive media to gain information or comprehend the significance of an issue or an event.
    3. Organize and manage resources in a creative way to achieve impact.
    4. Find, evaluate, and apply information.
    5. Interpret [quantitative] and qualitative information to present a logical argument based on supporting data.
  4. Self Reflection and Assessment
    1. Demonstrate ethical decision-making grounded in philosophical inquiry.
    2. Apply [Catholic social teaching] to the analysis of contemporary social issues.
    3. Recognize the [value of diverse spiritual and religious perspectives].
    4. Integrate the practice of [charity with justice].
    5. Exercise responsible freedom and civic engagement based on an informed value system.

Seton Hill University Learning Objectives

While this course is not designed to make you an expert in every skill that a liberal arts education offers, as you can see, it plays an important role in laying a foundation, not just for upcoming courses, but a lifetime of intellectually engaged thinking and learning.

According to a survey published in 2009 by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), here are the skills employers say they want in their new hires:

  1. Communication skills (verbal and written)
  2. Strong work ethic
  3. Teamwork skills (works well with others)
  4. Initiative
  5. Analytical skills

(See also this brief NACE video, Job Outlook 2010)

A literature survey course has an additional meaning for English majors and minors, because a 200-level survey course introduces important scholarly techniques (how to read and write about a literary text) and exposes you to the primary subject matter (the works themselves).

These goals of the English program all apply directly to EL 266:

  1. Examine a wide range of genres, styles and cultural literatures.
  2. Examine the traditional canon and innovative nontraditional writers and writing.
  3. Demonstrate analytical skills of reading literature.
  4. Demonstrate a high level of research and writing skills.
  5. Write and speak in a wide range of formats appropriate to major emphasis: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, critical essay, oral presentation.
  6. Speak and write about issues in the discipline and how they interact with the culture at large.
  7. Articulate the ongoing relation between personal habits of reading and writing and the evolving study of English.

2.3) What kinds of assignments are involved?

I will calculate your grade on a basis of 1000 points. Thus, an assignment worth 100 points is 10% of your grade.

  • Exercises: 300pts
    (6 exercises, some of them completed in stages, carefully designed to develop the skills you will need to succeed in the course)
  • Term Paper: 200pts
    • Research Question: (2-3 sentences) 20 points
    • Bibliography Exercise: 30 points
    • Draft: (4-5pg) 50 points
    • Revision: (8-10pg) 100 points
  • Participation Portfolios: 500pts
    • 5 @ 100 points each (includes online reading responses and peer-to-peer interaction; about every 3 weeks)

General Tips

  • Keep up with the readings. You’ll need to demonstrate familiarity with the readings before you can participate meaningfully in the online discussions where most of the intellectual work of the course takes place.
  • Engage actively with the material and with your peers. Materials that I provide (in lectures, podcasts, handouts, etc.) are only the starting point, intended to set up and amplify the peer learning experience, not replace it.
  • Think positive. Patience and optimism will help you make the most of your learning environment. Some of the readings might not appeal to you at first — or at all; our technology won’t work 100% of the time; we all have various obligations outside this course. College is a great place to practice the coping skills that you’ll put to good use on the j0b and in your community.

2.4) What are the assigned texts and required materials?

Required, Print or Digital Format

  • Foster, How to Read Literature Like a Professor 006000942X (purchase)
  • Your LA101 (STW) textbook (or any college handbook that covers MLA style)

Required, Electronic 

All the literary works we will study are out of copyright, which means multiple versions are readily (and legally) available on the internet. However, the free editions are often worth what you pay for — that is, they are full of typographical errors, pages are missing, etc. For this reason, the syllabus does specify which required etexts are required reading.

An early assignment will step you through the process of installing some texts to your iPad, but most readings will be available in multiple formats.

  • Aiken, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (dramatization of the Harriet Beecher Stowe novel) (the University of Virginia hosts the full text)
  • Baum, L. Frank. The Wizard of Oz. (iBooks or Project Gutenberg)
  • Bierce, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (iBooks or Project Gutenberg)
  • Dickinson, Poems by Emily Dickinson, Three Series, Complete (iBooks or Project Gutenberg) (selections)
  • Emerson, Nature (iBooks or Project Gutenberg) (selections)
  • Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper” (iBooks or Project Gutenberg)
  • London, Jack. “To Build a Fire.” (Project Gutenberg)
  • Harris, Nights with Uncle Remus (iBooks or Project Gutenberg)  (selections)
  • Hawthorne, Mosses from an Old Manse and Other Stories (iBooks or Project Gutenberg)  (selections)
  • Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (iBooks or Project Gutenberg)
  • Irving, The Sketch-Book of Geoffrey Crayon (for iBooks; or in multiple formats from Project Gutenberg)  (selections)
  • Melville, “Bartleby, The Scrivener” (iBooks or Project Gutenberg)
  • Poe, The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 1 (iBooks or Project Gutenberg) and Volume 2 (iBooks or Project Gutenberg)  (selections)
  • Twain, Mark. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (World Classics; Amazon ISN B004G08RIC)

2.5) Where is the detailed course outline?

You will find all deadlines and assignment descriptions on the course website, which includes the official course outline and syllabus. Point your web browser to:

That page has a list of current and upcoming assignments and activities.

A full course outline is available at

3) Course Policies

A syllabus is a contract. By enrolling in this course, you agree to read this syllabus so that you will know what I expect of you, and what you can expect of me.

3.1) What are Students Expected to Do?

  • attend every class (we have to interpret this appropriately for an online class… let’s say “meet every deadline”)
  • complete all assignments
  • show good manners and common courtesy in interactions with peers and with me.
  • contribute actively to a positive learning environment, by
    • giving full attention to whoever has the floor in our classroom
    • preparing adequately for and participating respectfully in class activities
    • seeking out help when necessary (this means consulting any of the many resources available to help you succeed, such as this syllabus, the textbooks, my office hours, the writing center, the librarians, and counseling & tutoring services)
    • building confidence by working carefully through each stage of a sequence of assignments, from short reflections to a researched term paper.
  • read and comply with this syllabus

3.2) What does Dr. Jerz Promise in Return?

I promise my students that, as their instructor, I, too, will stick to the policies described in this syllabus. See below for details.

3.2.1) My Promises to Students about Assignments

  • I will be thorough, helpful, and fair when I evaluate your work. (If you ever want more feedback than I give, please feel free to ask.)
  • I will post all assignments and due dates on the course outline, by the first day of classes. (If I need to move a deadline up for any reason at all, I will tell you about it at least two weeks in advance.)
  • I will, in at least a week, mark and return to you any assignment that you submit on time. (Exception:  some longer assignments, such as full drafts of papers, may take up to 10 days.)
  • For all submissions that are part of multi-stage assignments, I will grade and return your work at least a week before the next stage of the assignment is due. (Again, this applies to assignments that are submitted on time.)
  • I will remind you, either in person or by e-mail, of upcoming assignments at least two class periods in advance of the due date.
  • While respecting the official course outline for all published due dates, I will aim to keep the course relevant to your lives by maintaining some flexibility, so that we can make use of unexpected current events. So, for instance, if Seton Hill suddenly finds itself in the national news, I might, as part of the “Participation” grade, ask you to submit a short paper on the issue, or I might ask everyone to bring an an advertisement that illustrates a point we discussed in class. Such assignments will be announced in class on the day they are given.
    • I will clearly describe my expectations
    • I will explain how the assignment is intended to help you meet a specific learning goal
    • I won’t assign more than four or five of these current-event assignments

3.2.2) My Promises to Students about Common Courtesy

  • When you have the floor, in class, in my office, or an in online forum, I will honor you with my full attention.
  • I will not email you when I am angry, nor let any other kind of inappropriate behavior (in the classroom or outside it) interfere with our academic relationship.
  • If I have to cancel an assignment or appointment, I will notify you as soon as possible, and propose a back-up plan.
  • If you tell me you would prefer to handle a matter in person, rather than by email or phone, I will happily make an appointment.
  • I expect all members of a learning community to practice ethical behavior, and to work out their differences respectfully (following policies stated in this syllabus, as well as behavior determined by good manners and common sense).

3.2.3) My Promises to Students about Communication

  • I will make myself available for appointments during my posted office hours; feel free to call me or arrange a videoconference (I am available on Skype, FaceTime and Google+); if those times fill up, or the slots are not convenient for you, I will set up an appointment for another time.
  • I will generally keep my office door open for walk-in visits (except when I am unavailable, which typically means I’m marking papers or doing some other time-sensitive work).
  • When I get an email from you , I will respond within 24 hours (usually much faster than that).
  • I will respond quickly to short, specific emails that don’t depend on attachments.
    • Thus, instead of attaching a full draft and asking me what I think, I’d prefer that you paste a brief writing sample directly into the body of your email, asking a specific question such as, “Dr. Jerz, I’ve pasted below two versions of my thesis statement. I think the second version does a better job using academic language. Am I on the right track?”
    • That’s the sort of message I can answer while walking in from the parking lot; in fact — and I hope this isn’t revealing too much about myself — I get a little jolt of professional joy when I get such a message from a student. It’s something like how I feel when I get a “Like” from a Facebook friend, so please don’t be shy about reaching out in this manner.
  • If you email me an attachment, I am more likely to wait and read it during the next block of time I’ve set aside for marking papers. At that time, instead of writing out a full response, I might instead ask you to come to my office hours so that we can discuss it in person.
  • When I send an email, I will be clear and thorough,
    • Messages from me to the whole class will have a subject line that starts with a course-specific label (so you can find them easily) and the rest of the subject will clearly state what the message is about (so that you’ll know whether it’s something to act on immediately, something you will need to act on before the next class, or something that’s just FYI). I will use  your SHU-registered address, which can be set to forward wherever you prefer.
    • Messages from me to individual students will have a clear subject line that will help you determine the importance of the message.
  • If reading and writing email is not your thing, I would be happy to have a telephone conference, or email you a voice memo from my iPad, or use Twitter, or whatever.

3.3) What Are the Assignment Submission Policies?

Required Formats: The course syllabus clearly labels each assignment with a label such as “Upload in the requested format,” “Print and bring to class,” or “Do during class.”  An assignment is not complete until it is submitted in the requested format.

Alternate Formats: If you have problems submitting it in the requested format, you may “stop the late clock” by submitting it to me in an alternate form (that is, you may hand me a printout of something I asked to be uploaded, or you may email something I asked to be printed), but your work remains incomplete until it arrives in the requested format.

3.4) What Is the Attendance/Absence Policy?

Because this is an online class, I would expect that something like a doctor’s appointment or an away game would NOT impact your ability to meet a submission deadline.

Note: An excused absence does not automatically grant an extension or promise make-up participation points.

Seton Hill University recognizes that extra-curricular activities of all sorts are important components of a liberal arts education. At the same time, your instructors expect you to take an active role in reducing the impact of unavoidable absences.

  • Students are expected to attend every class. (See SHU Catalog… but in an online environment I’m interpreting this as “students are expected to meet every deadline.”)
  • Students are responsible for all material collected, covered, and/or assigned during an absence — whether excused or unexcused.
  • When a student misses a full week of deadlines, I will presume the student has withdrawn from the course, and report a final grade based on work completed. (To rejoin the class, submit a detailed plan that proposes how you will make up the work. Please note that even if you do make up the work, late penalties may still apply.)
  • If you are permitted to rejoin the class, then each additional missed deadline lowers your grade by a third of a letter grade (unless we have, at least a week before the due date, negotiated a late acceptance plan). This absence penalty is applied after all grades are calculated — including the grade for class participation.
  • Frequent late / incomplete submissions may add up to count as absences.

3.4.1) What should I do if I have to miss a deadline?

Being slightly late once or twice probably won’t be a big deal — I probably won’t bother to penalize you if you’re five minutes late, but if you’re five hours late, and I’ve finished marking the whole set of papers before yours arrives, that’s a different matter. (See the “Free Pass” section for my policy on due date extensions.)

Contact me directly, after you have consulted the online syllabus to find out what you missed. After you have informed yourself about what you missed, I will be happy to answer any specific questions.

Note: It may not be possible to arrange make-up assignments for some due dates or class activities.

I welcome the chance to help you get caught up. Before you contact me, make sure you know exactly what work has been affected; consult the course syllabus and a classmate’s notes. After you’ve done that, we’ll both be ready to discuss the next step.

3.4.2) How should students prepare for a planned absence?

Those who miss class due to a scheduled activity must plan to complete all make-up assignments before you leave. The planning process begins when you submit (by email) a completed “Absence Form” (available at“), at least a week before the due date for the work that’s affected.

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 the usual late penalties will apply.

3.4.3) What should students do about an emergency absence?

In the event of extended absences due to prolonged  illness that prevents you from doing classwork, I am willing to be flexible. But see below: “Late Pass” Stress-relief Policy.

3.5) What is the policy for making up missed  work?

Online assignments are due in the requested format, on the given due date.

Printouts, when requested, are to be brought to class, and held until I ask for them, or until the class period ends (at which time you may submit them by turning them in on your way out).

Late work submitted before midnight on the due date receives a 1/3 letter grade penalty. (Thus, a B paper submitted at 10pm would drop to a B-).

Late work submitted after that loses a letter grade per day. (Thus, a B paper submitted at 1am the next day would drop to a C.)

No late work will be accepted two weeks after the due date. (Note that an F can be as high as a 59, and earning a 59 on an assignment is much better than not turning it in at all and earning a zero.)

No late or make-up work will be accepted after the last day of classes, unless you are using a “Late Pass” (see below).

3.6) What is the “Late Pass” Extension Policy?

For any reason, you may take a brief extension on any two assignments. I’m offering “Late Passes” so that, if you fall ill or get swamped during a crunch time, you won’t have to jump through any hoops to get a doctor’s note, but you’ll have the peace of mind that comes from knowing you can relieve the pressure a bit.

There are, however, some important limits on this policy.

For Moodle activities that close after a certain time, it may not be possible for me to re-open the activity or change the deadline without disrupting the activity the rest of the class is carrying out.  In such cases, the late pass extension policy does not apply.

  1. For a single assignment during the course, you may email me before the deadline to claim a no-penalty, one-day “Late Pass” for that assignment.
  2. For a single assignment during the course, you may email me before the deadline to claim a no-penalty, three-day “Late Pass” for that assignment.
  3. If you miss a deadline without requesting a late pass, or if you use up both of your passes, the regular late penalties will apply.
    1. Late passes are not transferrable. That is, you can’t apply a “Late Pass” on one assignment, then later say you really want to use it on a different assignment. (So think carefully before using a pass on an assignment worth just  2% or 5% of your grade.)
    2. Late passes are not changeable. That is, once you’ve claimed a one-day pass for an assignment, you can’t later say you really want it to be a three-day pass. Neither can you add both passes to create a four-day pass.
  4. The “Late Pass” system is completely separate from the absence policy.
  5. Late passes do not apply to exams, pop quizzes, or certain other time-sensitive activities.
  6. If you want a late pass for any reason, go ahead and use it.

3.7) What is the policy for make-up work / extra credit?

Make-up Work: For some time-sensitive assignments, such as responding to readings before a class discussion, participating in peer-review workshops, or attending peer presentations, there are no possible replacement assignments. Otherwise, make-up assignments should be part of our discussion of your Absence Form (see above).

Extra Credit: The best way to affect your final grade in the last week of term is to bring an extra draft of your final research paper to my office hours, where we can strategize to make the best use of the time you can commit to your revision assignment. I do not create or accept extra-credit assignments in order to alter your grade.

4) University Policies

4.1) What is Seton Hill University’s Academic Integrity Policy?

Seton Hill University expects that all its students will practice academic honesty and ethical conduct.  The University regards plagiarism, cheating on examinations, falsification of papers, non-sanctioned collaboration, and misuse of library material, computer material, or any other material, published or unpublished, as violations of academic honesty.  Violators of the code may expect disciplinary sanctions, which are discussed in the Seton Hill University Catalog.

Any unreferenced use of the written or spoken material of another, or of previously submitted work of the student’s own, constitutes plagiarism.  Paraphrasing the thoughts or written work of another without reference is also plagiarism.  For additional information see “Academic Integrity Materials” in Griffin Gate and your textbook’s section on plagiarism. Any plagiarism on a draft will result in a zero as the final grade on that assignment. Any plagiarism on an informal essay will also result in a zero.

4.2) What is Seton Hill University’s Disability Services Policy?

If you have a disability that requires instructor consideration, please contact the Director of Disability Services at 724-838-4295.  It is recommended that this be accomplished by the second week of class.  If you need accommodations for successful participation in class activities prior to your appointment at the Disability Services Office, you should offer information in writing that includes suggestions for assistance in participating in and completing class assignments.  It is not necessary to disclose the nature of your disability.

4.3) What is Seton Hill University’s Information Literacy Policy?

Seton Hill University defines information literate students as those who make intelligent choices when gathering information in support of a chosen topic. Students who develop information literacy skills will successfully:

  • Select an appropriate topic
  • Determine the parameters of the topic
  • Locate and access relevant information
  • Critically evaluate information
  • Synthesize diverse types of information into a comprehensive and coherent work
  • Understand economic, legal, and social issues related to the information
  • Interact with faculty and staff in a manner conducive to developing acceptable research skills
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