English 2510

American Literature before 1865

Utah Valley State College
Spring 2008
Section 01
MWF 2:00-2:50, LA 119


Instructor: Ryan Simmons
Office: LA 109H
Phone: 863-6290 (x6290)
E-mail: simmonry@uvsc.edu
Office hours: MWF 10:00-12:00, or by appt.


Lauter, Paul, gen ed. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. 5th ed. Vol. A and B. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006.

Course Description

This course will take a selective look at the writers and issues that formed American literature from the earliest records through the Civil War. In looking at an array of poems, plays, non-fiction, and fiction, we will attempt to find meaning in each as an individual expression while also recognizing that each utterance is part of a larger context, and that understanding the context is part of understanding the work itself. We will work toward an understanding of how the earliest American writers responded—and contributed—to artistic and social movements, cultural environments, and the works of others. And we will become informed participants in debates surrounding American literature—such as the uses of the “canon,” the movement toward multiculturalism, and the borderline between literature and other types of narrative, such as history and politics.

Course Requirements

Exams (45%): Two midterms and a non-comprehensive final will each be worth 15% of your final course grade. Some ability to remember the course material (both readings and lectures) is important, but even more so is your ability to make connections between ideas, think critically, and demonstrate an understanding of the big picture. Expect short (one- or two-paragraph) answer and essay questions rather than multiple choice and true/false.

Short Responses (30%): At the start of the semester, you will be assigned to a group (A, B, or C). Individually, you are required to submit a short (approx. one-and-a-half to two pages, double-spaced) response to the ongoing reading schedule every third class period, with deadlines based on your group assignment. (See schedule below.) Ten of the twelve possible responses must be submitted, with each worth 3% of your final course grade. The response is due at the start of class on the indicated date, and must present a brief analysis of the reading assigned for that class period, in line with the following guidelines:

Each short response should include two main components: an insight (an original observation that moves well past summary and suggests something meaningful about the text at hand) and evidence (events or passages from the text, including quotations, that illustrate the validity of your insight). Basically, you want to point your reader’s attention to something you noticed about the text—especially something subtle or non-obvious—and explain what that “something” might mean. While the responses are expected to be relatively personal and exploratory compared to a formal, scholarly essay, they also should convey at least some appeal to objectivity—to the possibility of persuading a neutral audience.

Successful responses will often show awareness of different possible interpretations, and will clarify which interpretation makes most sense, and why. In such short analyses your ability to keep focused is paramount: limit yourself fairly narrowly to a character, scene, passage, or theme that is worth close attention (rather than trying to account for the entirety of a work), and make sure that your reader has a sense of your priorities—which points are most important, and which have a supporting role. Examples of effective short responses will be distributed at the start of the semester.

Essay (15%): Toward the end of the semester, you will submit a medium-sized (approx. 5-7 pages) essay. The essay should represent an original analysis of a work or works of literature we have read during the semester, and it should develop and support a point of view about the literary work(s). It must move beyond summary of others’ writings in order to receive a passing grade. In developing a suitable topic, you might

In any event, your main challenge is to help your readers to understand the work of literature you’re writing about in a new way. Make sure we understand the significance of your topic: assuming we’re convinced that your interpretation is correct, what difference does it make?

Participation/Reading Quizzes (10%): Being a strong participant in the class means being present both physically and mentally. If you miss more than one week (three class periods) of the course, you can expect a participation grade no higher than a “C,” although it may be lower. If you miss more than two weeks (six class periods), your participation grade will automatically drop to “F,” regardless of other factors. Excessive absence (three weeks or more) is sufficient grounds to fail the course. Chronic tardiness also is factored into your participation grade. On the other hand, you can earn a higher grade in participation by reading the assignments carefully before coming to class, bringing forward your questions and thoughts during class discussion, and listening responsively—and responding thoughtfully—to what others have to say. Reading quizzes will occasionally be given without advance warning. Finally, a “Discussions” forum is available on the course’s Blackboard Vista site; although optional, posting on ideas on this forum is encouraged, especially for those who find that they are not able to express all their ideas during class.

Essay Policies

(Note: The following standards apply to both short responses and the required essay.)

  1. Papers must be typed and double-spaced and include a title (but not a title page) and page numbers. Papers are not graded on length, but rather on their ability to capture and persuade a reader. This ability arises from correctness of prose, and also from factors including clear expression, thoughtful organization, originality, completeness, and adequate support (including, in the longer essay, the incorporation of research materials).

  2. In order to receive a passing grade, an essay must articulate and support an original analysis, moving well beyond summary of other writers' ideas and words.

  3. Material from outside sources must be cited completely and correctly using MLA style.

  4. I am always willing to read and critique work in progress, and to answer questions about your writing. When turning in an essay to be graded, you are expected to submit the best work you are capable of doing, given time constraints; thus, revisions will not be accepted after an essay has been graded.

  5. Late papers: You have three free "late days" upon entering the class. The three essays are due at the start of class on their respective due dates. Each class day an essay is turned in late counts as one late day used up. These days may be used up with one essay (turning it in three days late) or divided among more than one essay. No penalty is given for late essays turned in within these parameters, but once your late days are used up, no additional work will be accepted after its due date--late papers after that will receive no credit.

    The three late days are provided to allow for normal problems such as printer failure, forgotten notebooks, competing deadlines in other courses, etc. Once they are used up, no additional late days will be granted, regardless of the reason for being late, and any subsequent late papers will receive no credit.

Academic Honesty

Any course work that is found to violate UVSC's standards of academic honesty will be dealt with as laid out in the college's statement on "Student Rights and Responsibilities." Please read these standards, and the consequences for violating them, carefully, noting that the repercussions are always severe. In particular, be aware that plagiarism is a severe violation of both college policy and the policy of this course.

Plagiarism, or the use of others' words or ideas without proper attribution, is an impediment to your education and to the educational mission of Utah Valley State College. Under the policy of the English and Literature Department of UVSC, work that has been plagiarized must receive a failing grade. A distinction is made between unintentionally plagiarized work, which must be corrected in order to be considered for a passing grade, and intentional plagiarism, which will be forwarded to the Office of the Dean of Student Life as a disciplinary matter in accordance with UVSC's statement on Student Rights and Responsibilities. Please refer to http://www.uvsc.edu/engl/studentresource/plagiarismpolicy.html to read the department's full statement on plagiarism, and speak to your instructor if you have any questions about avoiding plagiarism.

Disability Accommodation

If you have a disability that may influence your ability to meet the requirements of this course, please contact the UVSC Accessibility Service Department (Room BU145) as soon as possible. Any necessary accommodations, as arranged by the Accessibility Service Department, will be made.


DateReading assignmentDue
F 1/4Introduction to course 
M 1/7Native American oral narrative and poetry: “Talk Concerning the First Beginning” (22-36); “The Origin of Stories” (51-53); “Iktomi and the Dancing Ducks” (57-58); “The Singer’s Art” (89-90); “Two Songs” (90)Short Response 1 - Group A
W 1/9First encounters: “Creation of the Whites” (65-66); Columbus, excerpts from “Journal of the First Voyage” and “Narrative of the Third Voyage” (120-131); “The Coming of the Spanish and the Pueblo Revolt” (203-207); Handsome Lake, “How America Was Discovered” (803-804) Short Response 1 - Group B
F 1/11Cluster: “America in the European Imagination” (106-112)Short Response 1 - Group C
M 1/14Smith, excerpt from The Generall Historie of Virginia (258-263); Revel, “The Poor, Unhappy Transported Felon” (282-288); Morton, excerpt from New English Canaan (296-307)Short Response 2 - Group A
W 1/16Winthrop, excerpt from “A Modell of Christian Charity” (309-317); Bradford, excerpts from Of Plymouth Plantation (326-346) Short Response 2 - Group B
F 1/18Bradstreet, “The Prologue [to Her Book]” (396-397), “The Author to Her Book” (402), “The Flesh and the Spirit” (403-405), “To My Dear and Loving Husband” (406-407), “Upon the Burning of Our House” (409-410)Short Response 2 - Group C
M 1/21NO CLASS - Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 
W 1/23Taylor, “Upon Wedlock, & Death of Children” (480-481), “Prologue to Preparatory Meditations” (482-483), “Another Meditation at the Same Time” (483-484), “How Much More Shall the Love of Christ, Etc.” (487-488), “My Beloved” (490-491), “A Fig for Thee Oh! Death” (494-496)Short Response 3 - Group A
F 1/25Wheatley, “To the Right Honorable William, Earl of Dartmouth” (1243-1244), “On Being Brought from Africa to America” (1247), “To the University of Cambridge, in New England” (1249-1250); Jordan, “The Difficult Miracle of Black Poetry in America” (available via Blackboard Vista)Short Response 3 - Group B
M 1/28Equiano, excerpt from The Interesting Narrative (1154-1184)Short Response 3 - Group C
W 1/30“The Lady’s Complaint” (797-798), “Verses Written by a Young Lady, on Women Born to be Controll’d” (798); Murray, “Desultory Thoughts…” (1187-1190), “On the Equality of the Sexes” (1193-1199)Short Response 4 - Group A
F 2/1Tyler, The Contrast (1293-1334)Short Response 4 - Group B
M 2/4Franklin, excerpt from The Autobiography (828-876)Short Response 4 - Group C
W 2/6Franklin, excerpt from The Autobiography (876-894)Short Response 5 - Group A
F 2/8Brown, “Somnambulism” (1375-1387)Short Response 5 - Group B
W 2/13Note: Feb. 14 is the last day to drop courses); Apess, “An Indian’s Looking-Glass for the White Man” (1460-1465); Seattle, “Speech of Chief Seattle” (1473-1475); Perry, corrupted version of Seattle speech (available via WebCT)Short Response 5 - Group C
F 2/15Emerson, “The American Scholar” (1609-1621)Short Response 6 - Group A
M 2/18NO CLASS - Presidents Day
W 2/20Fuller, excerpt from Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1697-1719)Short Response 6 - Group B
F 2/22Thoreau, excerpt from Walden: “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For” and “Higher Laws” (1753-1769)Short Response 6 - Group C
M 2/25Thoreau, “Resistance to Civil Government” (1738-1752), “A Plea for Captain John Brown” (1787-1803)Short Response 7 - Group A
W 2/27Douglass, Narrative of the Life chs. 1-8 (1889-1911)Short Response 7 - Group B
F 2/29Douglass, Narrative of the Life ch. 9-end (1911-1946)Short Response 7 - Group C
M 3/3TBA 
W 3/5Jacobs, excerpts from Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (2031-2054)Short Response 8 - Group A
F 3/7Truth, selections (2094-2099); Stowe, “Sojourner Truth, the Libyan Sibyl” (2601-2609)Short Response 8 - Group B
W 3/12NO CLASS - Spring Break 
F 3/14NO CLASS - Spring Break 
M 3/17Fern, selections (2101-2109); Stanton, “Declaration of Sentiments” (2113-2115)Short Response 8 - Group C
W 3/19Irving, “RipVan Winkle,” “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (2153-2184)Short Response 9 - Group A
F 3/21Hawthorne, “The Birth-Mark” (2276-2287)Short Response 9 - Group B
M 3/24Hawthorne, “Rappaccini’s Daughter” (2287-2306)Short Response 9 - Group C
W 3/26Poe, “The Fall of the House of Usher” (2472-2485)Short Response 10 - Group A
F 3/28Stowe, excerpt from Uncle Tom’s Cabin (2549-2570)Short Response 10 - Group B
M 3/31Stowe, excerpt from Uncle Tom’s Cabin (2570-2588)Short Response 10 - Group C
W 4/2Melville, “Bartleby, the Scrivener” (2625-2651)Short Response 11 - Group A
F 4/4Davis, “Life in the Iron-Mills” (2838-2863)Short Response 11 - Group B
M 4/7Whitman, Preface to the 1855 Leaves of Grass (2923-2937), “In Paths Untrodden” (2992-2993), “Recorders Ages Hence” (2993), “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking” (3000-3005)Short Response 11 - Group C
W 4/9Whitman, Song of Myself (2937-2982); focus on sections 1-21, 24, 30-33, 48-52)Short Response 12 - Group A
M 4/14Dickinson, J. 67, J. 241, J. 249, J. 258, J. 280, J. 288, J. 301, J. 303, J. 324, J. 338, J. 341 (Note: poem numbers appear after each poem’s text; today’s selection appears on pp. 3047-3058)Short Response 12 - Group B
W 4/16Dickinson, J. 435, J. 441, J. 465, J. 632, J. 640, J. 670, J. 686, J. 1072, J. 1129 (Note: poem numbers appear after each poem’s text; today’s selection appears on pp. 3058-3076)Short Response 12 - Group C
M 4/21FINAL EXAM: 1:00-3:00 p.m. 
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