American Lit, 1915-Present (2005)

Due Dates

This is the list of major due dates and readings. (I may also assign informal response papers or give pop quizzes that won't be reflected on this page.)

02/01/05: Three Blog Entries

    Post three separate blog entries, containing your informal response to each of the texts we are going to talk about on Thursday: Bernice Bobs Her Hair, A Jury of Her Peers, and The Adding Machine.

02/03/05: Ex 1-1: Close Reading

    3 pages. Avoid plot summary and character description.

    Choose "Bernice Bobs Her Hair," "A Jury of Her Peers," or The Adding Machine. Choose a particular passage, scene, or recurring theme. Analyze that passage or theme in relation to the whole work.

    You may, if you wish, compare the video of Bernice to the short story, or compare the story "A Jury of Her Peers" to the one-act play Trifles. Or, you may choose to focus solely on the one work you choose.

    See also: How to do a close reading.

02/10/05: Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

    Chapters 1-6

02/17/05: Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

    Chapters 7-9.

    I realize that all copies of the text don't have the same introduction and preface, which were originally scheduled. I couldn't get them online fast enough, so we'll adjust the readings a bit.

02/17/05: Article on Fitzgerald 1

    You don't need to read this one in advance. I will distribute copies of the first article in class, and we will go over it right away.

    Kuamamoto, Chikako D. "Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby." Explicator 60.1 (2001) 32-41. Academic Search Elite. Reeves Library, Seton Hill University. <> 15 Feb 2005.

02/17/05: Article on Fitzgerald 2

    I'm not expecting you to have read this before class on the 17th, but I will ask that you blog your response by Tuesday.

    Barrett, Laura. "'Material without Being Real': Photography and the End of Reality in The Great Gatsby. Studies in the Novel 30:4 (1998) 18p. Academic Search Elite. Reeves Library, Seton Hill University. 16 Feb 2004.

02/21/05: Ex 1-2: Close Reading (delayed)

    (Delayed from 17 Feb.)

    Essentially the same assignment as Ex 1-1, except that you must choose a different text, and you may select The Great Gatsby if you wish.

    When first submitted, Ex 1-2 will recieve only As, Bs, or "Incomplete."

    An incomplete must be taken to the writing center, revised, and resubmitted, or else the grade becomes an F two weeks after the paper is returned. Resubmitted papers will receive only Bs, Cs, or "Incomplete." This incomplete must be revised and resubmitted the following week, or it will be recorded as an F.

02/24/05: Henry Adams on Mechanism and Modernism

    The Education of Henry Adams was a Pulizer Prize-winning autobiography, published in 19198 by a historian/novelist from the prominent Adams family (he was the great-grandson of U.S. President John Adams and the grandson of President John Quincy Adams).

    I'm not assigning the whole book, just asking you to consider the excerpt below.

    In this selection, from the chapter devoted to the year 1900, "The Dynamo and the Virgin," Adams recalls visiting the Great Exhibition in Paris (sort of a World's Fair) with a scientist friend.

    As a humanist and historian, Adams cannot comprehend all the scientific truths he encounters. The new powers represented by the dynamo (the part of a generator that converts revolving motion into electrical current) and being explored in the atom boggle his mind. The only thing in human history that he sees as coming close to the power of the machine is the power of The Virgin -- the symbol of feminine power, as represented in Christianity by The Virgin Mary. He is not a Catholic, and only nominally a Christian, but he still sees power in that particular feminine principle, as represented in previous cultures by the goddess Venus.

    While the Romans created temples for Venus, and medieval Christians built grand cathedrals in honor of Mary -- tremendous works of artistic and architectural beauty, which took tremendous resources to create and maintain, and were the symbols of progress and prosperity.

    But he sees nothing in contemporary American society that celebrates the power of the feminine... in its place, he feels, Americans have fallen under the spell of machines.

    The Education of Henry Adams --

    To him, the dynamo itself was but an ingenious channel for conveying somewhere the heat latent in a few tons of poor coal hidden in a dirty engine-house carefully kept out of sight; but to Adams the dynamo became a symbol of infinity. As he grew accustomed to the great gallery of machines, he began to feel the forty-foot dynamos as a moral force, much as the early Christians felt the Cross. The planet itself seemed less impressive, in its old-fashioned, deliberate, annual or daily revolution, than this huge wheel, revolving within arm's length at some vertiginous speed, and barely murmuring -- scarcely humming an audible warning to stand a hair's-breadth further for respect of power -- while it would not wake the baby lying close against its frame. Before the end, one began to pray to it; inherited instinct taught the natural expression of man before silent and infinite force. Among the thousand symbols of ultimate energy the dynamo was not so human as some, but it was the most expressive.

    Yet the dynamo, next to the steam-engine, was the most familiar of exhibits. For Adams's objects its value lay chiefly in its occult mechanism. Between the dynamo in the gallery of machines and the engine-house outside, the break of continuity amounted to abysmal fracture for a historian's objects. No more relation could he discover between the steam and the electric current than between the Cross and the cathedral. The forces were interchangeable if not reversible, but he could see only an absolute fiat in electricity as in faith. Langley could not help him. Indeed, Langley seemed to be worried by the same trouble, for he constantly repeated that the new forces were anarchical, and especially that he was not responsible for the new rays, that were little short of parricidal in their wicked spirit towards science. His own rays, with which he had doubled the solar spectrum, were altogether harmless and beneficent; but Radium denied its God -- or, what was to Langley the same thing, denied the truths of his Science. The force was wholly new.


    The historian was thus reduced to his last resources. Clearly if he was bound to reduce all these forces to a common value, this common value could have no measure but that of their attraction on his own mind. He must treat them as they had been felt; as convertible, reversible, interchangeable attractions on thought. He made up his mind to venture it; he would risk translating rays into faith. Such a reversible process would vastly amuse a chemist, but the chemist could not deny that he, or some of his fellow physicists, could feel the force of both. When Adams was a boy in Boston, the best chemist in the place had probably never heard of Venus except by way of scandal, or of the Virgin except as idolatry; neither had he heard of dynamos or automobiles or radium; yet his mind was ready to feel the force of all, though the rays were unborn and the women were dead.

    Here opened another totally new education, which promised to be by far the most hazardous of all. The knife-edge along which he must crawl, like Sir Lancelot in the twelfth century, divided two kingdoms of force which had nothing in common but attraction. They were as different as a magnet is from gravitation, supposing one knew what a magnet was, or gravitation, or love. The force of the Virgin was still felt at Lourdes, and seemed to be as potent as X-rays; but in America neither Venus nor Virgin ever had value as force -- at most as sentiment. No American had ever been truly afraid of either.

02/24/05: Jerz, Technology in American Drama (selection)

    I will hand out photocopies in class on the 17th.

03/03/05: Portfolio 1

    If you've been keeping up with the blogging homework, this assignment will be simple. Those of you who have had me in other classes, please look closely at these instructions -- I'm changing a few things. (Feel free to ask questions.) Towards the end of this posting, I answer some technical questions about trackbacks and creating links.

    If you've fallen a bit behind, this assignment gives you the chance to catch up.

    If you've fallen far behind, this assignment will be a killer. (No apologies from me -- I've said several times that weblog entries will feel like a pointless chore if you start them only after the classroom discussion is already over.)

    Your portfolio is a collection of your best blog entries, that represent your developing intellectual engagement with the concepts and skills we have examined.

    The portfolio includes certain requirements, such as "Coverage" (that is, you should demonstrate that you have done the minimum blogging that was required of you each week -- usually one blog entry per assigned text, except when we study a collection of short poems, when you may write two or three entries that cover most of the assigned readings) and "Depth" (a certain portion of your blog entries should demonstrate your ability to engage critically and at length with a difficult subject matter, far beyond a simple statement of a topic that you'd like to discuss in class).

    I don't require a blog entry for every web page handout I've included as part of an assignment description... check the course outline page and see what's marked as "Read".

    I don't require you to include every blog entry you wrote -- if you only blogged two or three lines when we first disucssed a text, but you've got much more to say about it now, I'd rather see the more detailed entry.

    For Fitzgerald, or any future text I've asked you to blog about more than once, I'm asking for a single blog entry that you feel best represents your ability to analyze/apply/react to/critique the assigned text.

    You can use the same entry for more than one text -- thus, in your cover blog entry, you might say "I comapred the religious imagery in Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find" and Shakespeare's The Tempest," (with "religious imagery" being a link to a single blog entry).

    Since blogging also involves commenting and linking, I'm asking you in your cover blog entry to link to entries in which you started or particpated in online conversations. In your cover blog, when appropriate, use the terms I've described below. (I am not giving you a magic number of entries for each category... that's for you to determine, given the "Coverage" requirement I've given you.)

    • The Cover Entry: Post a blog entry that contains links to all the entries that you plan to submit for your portfolio. For the benefit of an outside reader (that is, someone who doesn't know what a blogging portfolio is), introduce each of these links and explain why they are significant. (For example, see "Favorite Blog Entries: Journaling Mode.")
    • The Collection: Your blogging portfolio is supposed to be a collection of your best weblog entries. For the purposes of this class, a "good" blog entry is one that demonstrates your intellectual engagement with the assigned readings and student panels, and/or the questions raised by your peers. Please do not say "This blog entry fulfills portfolio requirement #1". Write for an audience that does not know or care about your homework requirements.
      1. Coverage. Ensure that you have blogged something substantial (for a C-level grade, at least a paragraph) that demonstrates your intellectual involvement with assigned readings.
      2. Depth. Some of the "coverage" entries you selected above should demonstrate your ability to examine a concept in depth. Do some original online research, and link to the precise pages where you got ideas that helped you formulate your ideas. If you prefer to use a library book, quote a passage that you found interesting. Here are a few examples of a blog entry that goes above and beyond the standard "what I thought about the book" blog entry: Fitting in in the Diamond Age and Forced Reading-- Beloved Character.
      3. Interaction. Of the "Coverage" blogs entries included above, some should demonstrate your ability to use weblogs to interact with your peers. For instance, you might disagree (politely) with something a peer has written; link to and quote from the peer's blog entry, then carefully (and respectfully) explain where you disagree. Rather than hurl accusations in order to make the other person look bad, cheerfully invite the other person to explain their perspective. Quote passages from the texts your peer has cited, or do additional research that helps unveil the truth. (These may or may not include some entries you have already included among your "Depth" entries.)
      4. Discussions. Blogging feels lonely when you aren't getting any comments; you will feel more motivated to blog if you enjoy (and learn from) the comments left by your readers. Your portfolio should include entries (which may or may not overlap with either the "Interaction" or "Depth" entries) that demonstrate that your blog sparked a conversation that furthered your intellectual examination of a literary subject.
      5. Timeliness. A timely blog entry is one that was written early enough that it sparked a good online discussion, before the class discussion. A timely blog entry might also be one written after the class discussion, if it reacts directly to something brought up in class. The blog entries that you write the night before the portfolio is due won't count in this category. And don't try to change the date in your blog entries -- I know that trick! ;)
      6. Xenoblogging. "Xeno" means "foreign," so xenoblogging (a term that I coined last term) means the work that you do that helps other people's weblogs. Your portfolio should include three entries (which may or may not overlap with the ones you have already selected for "Coverage") that demonstrate your willingness to contribute selflessly and generously to the online classroom community. Examples of good xenoblogging:
        • The Comment Primo: Be the first to comment on a peer's blog entry; rather than simply say "Nice job!" or "I'm commenting on your blog," launch an intellectual discussion; return to help sustain it.
        • The Comment Grande: Write a long, thoughtful comment in a peer's blog entry. Refer to and post the URLs of other discussions and other blog entries that are related.
        • The Comment Informative: If your peer makes a general, passing reference to something that you know a lot about, post a comment that offers a detailed explanation. (For example, the in the third comment on a recent blog entry about the history and culture of print, Mike Arnzen mentions three books that offer far more information than my post did.)
        • The Link Gracious: If you got an idea for a post by reading something somebody else wrote, give credit where credit is due. (If, in casual conversation, we credited the source of every point we make, we'd get little accomplished. But since a hyperlink is so easy to create, it's not good practice -- or good ethics -- to hide the source of your ideas.) If a good conversation is simmering on someone else's blog -- whether you are heavily involved or not -- post a link to it and invite your own readers to join in.
      7. Wildcard: Include one blog entry on any subject -- related to online writing or not, serious or not -- that you feel will help me evaluate your achievements as a student weblogger.
    • Print out your cover entry and turn it in.
    If you have questions about this assignment, please post them here. (If you aren't a student in my class, and you just want to comment on the basic idea of using weblogs in a classroom, I invite you to post on my academic weblog instead.)

03/03/05: Paper 1 Worksheet: Pre-writing for Paper 1 (2%)

    Include your thesis statement (limited topic, precise opinion, and blueprint); include direct quotations that you plan to use in your paper; include a preliminary conclusion, and a full works cited page. (2-3 pages)

03/03/05: Ransom, ''Judith of Bethulia''

    In Fifty Years of American Poetry, pp. 11-12.

03/03/05: Crane, ''To Brooklyn Bridge''

03/03/05: Lehman, ''The World Trade Center''

    David Lehman, "The World Trade Center" (1996)

03/03/05: Plath, ''Daddy''

    Sylvia Plath, '"Daddy" (1962)

    Consider also her much less popular "Medusa".

03/03/05: Cummings, ''my father moved through dooms of love'' (optional)

    Whoops, for some reason this poem temporarily disappeared from this page. I'm re-posting it as optional. If you are interested in Plath's "Daddy," you might also want to read this one for comparison.

    e.e. cummings, "my father moved through dooms of love'' (1940)

    Also found in Fifty Years of American Poetry, p 40.

03/03/05: Frost, "Never Again Would The Birds' Song Be the Same"

    Fifty Years of American Poetry, 49.

03/17/05: Midterm Exam

    Covers all primary texts, from the beginning of term, including A Streetcar Named Desire.

03/17/05: A Streetcar Named Desire

    • Stage directions, Scene 3: "There is a picture of Van Gogh's of a billiard-parlor at night."
    • Actress Jessica Tandy describes, in a letter to Tennessee Williams: "Eight times a week, and to progressively less sensitive audiences, I have to make clear Blanche's intricate and complex character... her background.. her pathetic elegance... her indomitable spirit... her innate tenderness and honesty... her untruthfulness or manipulation of the truth... her inevitable tragedy."
    • The letter was occasioned by the request by Williams that she pose for a publicity photo reproducing a painting by Thomas Hart Benton depicting the play's poker scene. (Tandy declined.)

      Agenda Item

      Reminder: If you choose to write a detailed response to this play, I welcome your extra effort. But the syllabus simply asks for an "agenda item".

      A good agenda item would include a brief quotation from the text, and a non-obvious observation about that passage. Come to class prepared to talk about your agenda item, if called on.

      Weak agenda item: "Boy, that Stanley sure is a sexist pig."

      Good agenda item:
      Why did Williams go to the trouble to make Stanley so physically attractive at the beginning of the play? Blanche flirts with Stanley, even sprays him with perfume. At the climax, Stanley says, "We've had this date with each other from the beginning." That line really sounds like Stanley is trying to blame the victim -- something that decades of feminist reforms have conditioned Americans not to do. Williams certainly doesn't want us to identify with Stanley by this point in the play, yet there the line is.

03/17/05: Articles TBA

    03/31/05: Moore, ''You're Ugly, Too''

      In Updike, Best Amercian Short Stories of the Century (Presenter: Tiffany Brattina)

    03/31/05: O'Connor, ''Greanleaf''

      In Updike, Best Amercian Short Stories of the Century

    03/31/05: Parker, ''Here We Are''

      In Updike, Best Amercian Short Stories of the Century

    04/07/05: Houston, ''The Best Girlfriend You Never Had''

      In Updike, Best American Short Stories of the Century. Presenter: Moira Richardson.

    04/07/05: Toomer, ''Blood-Burning Moon''

      In Updike, Best Amercian Short Stories of the Century

      Rescheduled from 31 Mar. Presenter: Tammy Roberts.

    04/07/05: Proulx, ''The Half-Skinned Steer''

      In Updike, Best American Short Stories

      Presenter: Sue Myers

    04/14/05: McBride, The Color of Water Miracle at St. Anna

      Presenter: Kristen Zappalla

    04/21/05: Ex 2-2: Literary Research

      This assignment is designed to help you get started on your final paper, which is a longer, more detailed version of the literary research paper you have already completed.

      Choose one or more literary works we have discussed this term, and use peer-reviewed resources (in addition to other sources, if applicable) to support a non-obvious argument that arises from your close reading of the literary work.

      Avoid non-arguments like this: "Women have been oppressed in the past. Literary work X features the oppression of a woman. Therefore, women should continue fighting for their rights."

      You, on the other hand, say, "Literary work X uses the theme of oppression to examine several different mother-daughter relationships, suggesting that, even in a male-dominated society, sometimes women can be each other's worst enemy."

      (See the handout I wrote, Short Research Papers.)

    04/21/05: Oral Interpretation

      Orally present for the class one mid-sized poem or several short ones. (3-4 min, plus 3-4 pages of supporting materials.)

    04/28/05: Jones, ''I Want to Live''

      In Best American Stories.

      Presenter: Mina Sato.

    04/28/05: Ex 2-3: Term Paper Draft and Peer Review

      The exercise is something we'll start in class. Other than bringing extra copies of your term paper rough draft, you won't have to prepare for it.

      (I'll post again shortly to say exactly how many copies -- probably a total of 4.)

    04/28/05: Short Stories TBA

      04/28/05: Bishop, ''The Farmer's Children''

        In Best American Short Stories.

        Presenter: Holly Waite.

      05/05/05: Portfolio 2

        05/05/05: The Secret Life of Bees

          Presenter: Mary Anderson

        05/05/05: Article

          05/06/05: Paper 2 (Revision)

          05/12/05: Final Exam

            Total points: 150

            Identification: 50
            Short Essays: 60 (3 @ 20)
            Long Essay: 40

            Identification will cover the second half of term only. You will not be asked to identify works featured in the poetry slam.

            The essays will include a prompt or prompts asking you to cover works from the poetry slam, and works from the first half of term.