American Lit II (EL 267)

24 January 2006

Course Overview

Welcome to EL 267, "American Literature 1915-Present."

The course website is located at I will update the online syllabus periodically, so a printout wouldn't be all that useful. The offical version of the syllabus is the online version (though I will notify you in advance of any significant changes -- I won't try to trick you by adding work or moving up deadlines).

Topics for today:

The front page of the blog only shows the main class topic and the main readings scheduled for that day. To get a full list of the lesson plan for any day, click on the date on the calendar.

Preview Ex 1-1
Preview Intro to Weblogs
In class: Informal written response.

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Frost, ''Desert Places'' (1936)

In Roberts, 334. It's not out of copyright, so I won't post it here, but you can easily find a copy through Google.

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Historical Context

What are some of the key events that shaped American literature since 1915?

Continue reading...

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1. Where and When

Section 02: Wed 6:00 PM - 8:30 PM A403
Section 03: Tues, Thur 9:30 AM - 10:45 AM A405

Both sections of this class will share the same course outline.

Wednesday section, note:

On Wednesday nights we will accomplish all the work that is listed for both the Tuesday and Thursday meetings of the two-day-a-week class. (We will do the Tuesday work, take a 10 minute break, and do the Thursday work. Scheduled dismissal time will be 8:40 PM.)


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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: Tue 1pm; Wed 4pm; Thu 11am; and by appointment.

Occasionally I step out of my office briefly to run errands during my scheduled office hours. When I do, I usually leave a note on my door. If my light is still on, then I'm probably not far away.

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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.

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4. Course Objectives

EL 267 has been designated a writing-intensive course. This means less emphasis on listening to the instructor talking and regurgitating it on tests, and more emphasis on developing your own thoughts and crafting them into high-quality papers.

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. Awareness 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 ussing primary and secondary sources to defend a non-obvious claim (without minimizing or neglecting opposing or alternative views)

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Dennis G. Jerz

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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 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 forwarding 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.

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.

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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, download the word processor version of my “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 resist the impulse to ask me to e-mail you a summary of what you missed. I welcome the chance to help you get caught up, but please consult the syllabus and a classmate's notes first, and then bring any specific questions to me.) 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 2 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.

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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.

Late arrivals and early departures, disruptive or inattentive behavior, and lack of preparation will impact your participation grade.

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

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5.3 Late Penalties

This term, I am experimenting with using J-Web to handle most assignment submissions and returns.

Due to strange quirks within J-Web, sometimes when you submit work, the system will record your work as "Inc" -- but that's simply because I haven't had the chance to check it yet. Other times, J-Web will record a 0% for your answers -- again that's because I haven't had the chance to evaluate it yet. This can be maddening, since your running total average will go down slightly (due to the 0%) until I have the chance to mark your assignments.

Please understand that I think of J-Web as a tool, not a judge. Nevertheless, just as students in generations past learned to carry spare quills, a pen knife, an extra inkhorn, and spare lamp wicks, there are certain common-sense strategies that will make your J-Web experiences less risky.

Sometimes J-Web will log you out in the middle of a session, and as a result you will lose work. This is annoying when you are working on multiple-choice questions, but can be seriously destructive if you've been crafting an essay that gets destroyed.

To avoid this problem, I suggest that when writing an essay for a J-Web question set, you should first download all the questions, draft your answers in your word processor, and upload your answers one after the other when you have finished writing them all.

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

Getting Credit for Late Work
If your assignment does not get into J-Web by the deadline (usually an hour before class starts), 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. Upload a copy of your work into the J-Web slot I have reserved for late work. Include your name and the exercise name ("Smith Ex 7a" or "Smith Term Paper Draft").
  2. Send me an e-mail that tells me I should look in the late box for your work. Include a subject line with your last name, the course name, the assignment name, and the word "Late". Example:

    "Smith EL267 Ex 1-2 Late"
  3. (There's no need to make an extra trip to slip it under my office door. In fact, as penance for all the trees I've caused to be slain over the years, I'm seriously trying to reduce the number of pages that I handle this term. Unless the homework assignment specifically mentions a prinout, you should assume that I don't want a hard copy.)

By default, late assignments automatically lose 20% if they are not submitted to J-Web on time.

By default, assignments earn a maximum of half credit when they are submitted later than midnight on the day they were due.

All Late Work

For all late work, contact me to tell me what I should find in the late drop box on J-Web -- otherwise I may never see it, and won't know that I should change the recorded zero. If you are asking that I waive the late penalty, upload a copy of your completed Absence Form into the J-Web late paper drop box, with a file name that follows this pattern: "Smith EL267 Ex 1-2 Absence Form".

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 holidays when the university does not offer classes). (Students who have had me before should note, this is stricter than my previous policy.)

Special Cases

RRRR Items: These time-sensitive assignments (see the RRRR section of the FAQ page) earn no credit if they are late. (You should still complete any items you missed in order to get full credit for your class portfolio.)

Class Participation: The way to get credit for a missed in-class activity is to contribute substantially to the online discussion. Post thoughtful comments on the course website, your peers' websites, and/or your own. To make sure that I see and record credit for this alternative work, paste the URLs of your online contributions into a word processor file, and upload the file into the J-Web late paper box in order to make up a missed set of discussion prompts.-----

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5.4 Texts

Required Texts

I'm aware that the Arthur Miller play will not be published until February.


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6. Assignments

This year I am experimenting with a points-based grading system. The whole course is based on 1000 points.

Thus, if a particular exercise is worth 40 points, and you get 30 on it, you got 75%, or a B.

  • Papers (400 pts) -- Three revised formal papers, of a minimum 4, 6, and 10 pages.
  • Exercises (200 pts) -- Homework assignments, often divided into parts (Ex 1-1a, Ex 1-1b, etc.). These prepare you for the major papers..
  • Participation Portfolios (250 pts) -- Online and in-class informal writing assignments based on the assigned readings.
  • Final Exam (150pts)

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