American Literature, 1800-1915 (EL 266)

30 July 2005

1. When and Where

Section 2: Wed    6:00 -  8:30 PM  A207
Section 3: Tu/Th  9:30 - 10:45 AM  A403

Both sections will cover the same material, and use the same online syllabus. (See: Wednesday Night Section.)

See section the attendance section of the syllabus for my policy on attending the section in which you're not registered.

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2. Instructor

Dennis G. Jerz (

Contact Information:

  • 403 St. Joseph (Box 461)
  • 724-830-1909

Office Hours: Tue 2-3, Wed 1-2, Thu 11-12; and by appointment.

If you want to be sure to catch me during office hours, send me an e-mail to let me know you're coming.

Office Visits: I usually leave my door open. When my door isn't open, please come back later, or send me an e-mail so we can find a time when we're both free.

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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.

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4. Course Objectives

EL 266 has been designated a writing-intensive course. (In the past, it was taught as a lecture in a class capped at 35.)

Your objectives for this course are 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. Organize and develop your initial reactions to assigned texts, through informal writing, peer critiques, and discussion
  5. Write a college-level research paper that appropriately uses primary and secondary sources (including basic literary theory)
  6. Contribute actively to a positive learning environment
To that end, you will:
  • read all assigned texts and reflect on them before class,
  • complete quizzes and exercises to ensure that you are keeping up with the readings and to evaluate your progress,
  • participate regularly in classroom and web-based discussions, and
  • write and revise three formal papers (minimum 4, 6, and 10 pages).

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

  1. Competence in the critical reading of complex literary texts
  2. Intellectual engagement with your peers (in person and online)
  3. Awarness of the historical, cultural, and formal issues that influence your developing responses to texts on the syllabus
  4. Ability to plan, draft, revise, and polish a high-quality collegiate researched essay, appropriately usesing primary and secondary sources to defend a non-obvious claim (without minimizing or neglecting opposing or alternative views)

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5. Course Requirements

The class format will be a seminar, with lots of discussion and some lecture. Your job is not to walk into the classroom as a blank slate, ready to write down everything I say so that you can spit it back in an exam. Rather, you will be asked to develop the capacity to present and defend your own original thoughts about the assigned readings.

That being the case, it goes without saying that students are expected to keep up with the readings, to reflect on them before coming to class, and to contribute actively to creating an active, positive learning environment.

Please keep copies of rough drafts of papers. You may be asked to meet with the instructor for an informal conversation before a grade for an assignment is recorded.

I will often send out bulk e-mails to the address on file for you in the J-Web system. If you check a different address more regularly, please use SHU's e-mail forwaring service so that you don't miss important updates.

Students in both sections will have some online assignments due by 4pm Monday, and noon Wednesday. These assignments are designed to reward those students who finish the readings and reflect on them before class starts.

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). Participation can affect your final mark in a similar way.

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5.1 Attendance

Students are expected to attend every class. (See Seton Hill University Catalog, p. 28-29, “Class Attendance” and “Excused Absences”.) Because a large percentage of your course grade depends on your familiarity with the assigned readings, falling behind or procrastinating can lead to big trouble.

Students with legitimate excuses, and students who don't have good excuses but who want to keep from falling even farther behind, should follow the procedure described below. Seton Hill University recognizes that extra-curricular activities of all sorts are important components of a liberal arts education. Nevertheless:

  • 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.
If you must miss a class, I don't mind if you come to the other section's repeat of the same material, but I will still record an unexcused absence from your assigned section -- unless you follow my absence reporting procedure, which I think is really quite reasonable (see below).
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 can discuss when or whether it will be possible for you to make up the work that you missed. Before you contact me, please consult the syllabus and/or a classmate's notes to determine what you missed. (If you ask me to e-mail you a summary of what you missed in class, I will refer you to this document.) 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 typically means that you must submit an acceptable “Absence Form” (see above) before the date you plan to be absent.

If there is insufficient time for us to agree upon an acceptable plan for making up missed work, or if an approved make-up assignment is late or unsatisfactory, I reserve the right to record the absence as unexcused.

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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 dictate that absences, late arrivals and early departures, use of telephones or headphones, lack of preparation, and inattentiveness will impact your participation grade.

Those who consistently participate above and beyond the call of duty will receive a bonus.

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5.3 Late Penalties

Any work that is submitted on time and in the proper format receives a 1/3 letter grade bonus. (This grade is factored into the mark I put on the paper -- you won't see a "+1/3" on it.)

Work that is unstapled, crumpled, or otherwise not ready when I collect it forfeits the bonus. Further, if your paper isn't in the stack with all the others, I will put it at the bottom of my "to do" list. (This might mean that I don't comment on it in as much detail, or, if the assignment is a draft, you might not get it back in time to submit the revision.)

Note: If you feel you want more rapid or more detailed feedback on an assignment, regardless of whether it was late or on time, make an appointment with me during my office hours, and I will go over the work with you in detail.

Getting Credit for Late Work
If your assignment is not ready when I collect all the others, and thus doesn't make it into the stack, I will record a zero for that assignment.

In order to remove that zero, and get partial credit for your late work, follow this two-step process.

  1. Paste a copy of your work into an e-mail (please do not send an attachment) with your last name, the course name, the assignment name, and the word "Late" in the subject line. Example:

    "Smith EL266 Ex 1-2 Late"
  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.

Exercises earn only a maximum of half credit (2.0 out of 4) when they are submitted later than midnight on the day they were due.

If you miss an exercise or response paper, you should still complete it in order to get credit for it in your class participation portfolio.

Unless I grant you an extension in advance, all other assignments are penalized one letter grade for each day they are late (including Saturdays, but not counting Sundays or SHU holidays).

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5.4 Texts


Clemens, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (039598078X)

Roberts, Writing about Literature (0130978019)

In addition to the texts listed above, readings also include handouts and online texts. When we are scheduled to discuss an online text, bring a complete printout to class with you.

If you prefer to read from a book rather than from an e-text, you may wish to purchase any inexpensive paperback version of The Scarlet Letter. Here's one:

Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (0553210092)

Continue reading...

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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.

When submitting exercises or major papers, your submission must include a printout from, as well as a "submission note" (We will go over this very clearly in class.)

Papers (40%) -- Three revised formal papers
Portfolios (25%) -- Reflective assessment of informal writing
Exercises & Quizzes (20%)
Final Exam (15%)

Participation & Attendance (percentage)

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Papers (40%)

Numerous online, homework, and in-class assignments are part of the sequence that leads up to writing a successful paper.

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Portfolios (25%)

Portfolios are collected three times.

The most important component of the portfolio is your reflection on your online participation.

The portfolio asks you to choose several agenda items and follow up -- that is, write out and post a well-thought-out response to some of the most interesting agenda items -- your own, or ones that your peers posted. If you post about one well-thought-out follow-up a week, including brief quotations from the literary works and supplemental materials we have been studying, then the portfolio assignment will be easy. If you fall behind, you'll have to do a lot of writing to catch up, and the activity won't be as rewarding. (More details will be announced after everyone in the class has had some time to learn and adjust to the online environment where we'll be working.)

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Exercises & Quizzes (20%)

Homework assignments, usually about 2-3 pages. Generally designed to prepare you for later, larger assignments.

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Exams (15%)

Final (15%) (Date TBA)

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