English 3520

Literature of the American Renaissance

Utah Valley State College
Fall 2006
Section 001
MW 1:00-1:50, LA 102



Instructor: Ryan Simmons
Office: LA 114H
Phone: 863-6290
E-mail: simmonry@uvsc.edu
Office hours: MW 2:00-3:30, or by appt.


Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women. New York: Bantam, 1983.

Andrews, William, ed. Three Classic African-American Novels. New York: Signet, 2003.

Chesnutt, Charles W. Tales of Conjure and the Color Line: 10 Stories. New York: Dover, 1998.

Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. New York: Dover, 1993.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The House of the Seven Gables. New York: Bantam, 1981.

Melville, Herman. Moby-Dick. New York: Bantam, 2003.

Poe, Edgar Allan. The Gold-Bug and Other Tales. New York: Dover, 1991.

Thoreau, Henry David. Walden, or Life in the Woods. New York: Dover, 1995.

Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass. 1892 edition. New York: Bantam, 1983.

Course Description

This course concerns the flowering of American narrative and poetry during the mid-nineteenth century, often known as the “American Renaissance,” as well as the subsequent movement of American literary realism which both stemmed from and reacted to the Renaissance period. Many of the world’s most beloved authors wrote, and interacted with one another textually and personally, in the U.S. during the mid-to-late nineteenth century. In this course we will examine this vibrant literary period and explore powerful, challenging works by American writers in the romantic and realist traditions. At the same time, we will analyze ways in which nineteenth-century American writers were deeply engaged with the specific histories and cultures in which they operated. With an eye to the (often neglected) diversity of this literary era, we will try to come to terms with how these writers’ works operated within their cultures, why they became esteemed despite their frequently unruly politics, and how our contemporary experience can be elucidated, and possibly changed, by our reading of them.

Course Requirements

Online Journal (15%): At least once a week, you are expected to contribute a journal response to course readings; these journal entries must be submitted online at a WebCT site that has been developed for our course. (Submitting your journal electronically requires you to have a UVSC network ID and access to the Internet, both of which are automatically available to you as an enrolled student. If you need help with this, let me know and I'll point you in the right direction.) I will provide instructions for accessing our WebCT site in class, and will also be available to guide you through the process individually if you'd like. Offline entries are permissible if you are momentarily unable to access the Web, but generally you should try to post entries online. Journal entries should be analytical in nature--raising questions, advancing theories, exploring implications, etc. In most cases, they should concern themselves with readings we are about to discuss, although occasionally you may follow up on a class discussion after the fact. Because all participants' entries will be visible online to everyone else in the class, the entries should also be dialogic--that is, you should read and, as appropriate, respond to each others' ideas, thoughts, and questions.

PLEASE NOTE: Entries made within twenty-four hours of one another will be regarded as a single entry. In general, trying to catch up on missing entries late in the semester will have an adverse effect on your grade; trying to submit a majority of your journal entries in a short period of time is a waste of your effort, as it will result in a failing grade for the journal. Please keep in mind the main purpose of the online journal: to enhance in-class discussion. You are expected to keep on top of the journal throughout the semester; occasional minor lapses may be overcome, but flouting the purpose of this requirement is out of bounds.

Participation (15%): This portion of your grade measures the contribution you've made to classroom discussions on a day-to-day basis. Quality counts as well as quantity. Keeping up with the reading assignments, being involved in classroom discussion, and respectfully engaging with others' points of view are factors that count in your favor. Missing class repeatedly will seriously impair this portion of your grade; so can habitual tardiness. Each participant will also be responsible for helping lead class discussion at least once or twice, which will be factored as part of your participation grade.

Exams (30%): Two exams, a midterm and a comprehensive final, will each count for 15% of your final grade. The ability to remember and use key concepts from the course is important, but more important is your ability to reflect on critical questions and support your interpretation of texts and your own critical position.

Essays (40%): Three essays are required for the course: two short essays (each worth 10% of your course grade) exploring a theme in a single author’s work that we’ve read in the course and a longer essay (worth 20%) examining the work of two authors. The longer essay will, under ordinary circumstances, be an extension of one of the short ones (i.e. expanding its scope by incorporating an additional author’s work). Various on this basic pattern are possible, but must be approved in advance by me. The longer essay must also incorporate (and correctly cite) the findings of recent, published criticism, articulating how your reading intersects—and parts ways—with another scholar’s work. Successful essays will be original, analytical, and well-written; additional guidelines will be distributed and discussed during class.

Essay Policies

  1. Essays should be typed and double-spaced and include a title (but not a title page) and page numbers. Essays 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 it is the student’s responsibility to correct under the instructor’s supervision so that it may be considered for a passing grade, and intentional plagiarism, which will be forwarded to the Office 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/plag/plagiarism_policy.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.


W 8/23 Introduction to course: What was the American Renaissance?
F 8/25 Poe, "The Black Cat," "The Cask of Amontillado" (pp. 108-121), "The Philosophy of Composition" (available via WebCT)
M 8/28 Poe, "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" (pp. 14-56)
W 8/30 Poe, "The Masque of the Red Death," "The Gold-Bug" (pp. 57-61, 79-107)
F 9/1 Douglass, "What to a Slave is the Fourth of July?" (available via WebCT)
M 9/4 NO CLASS - Labor Day
W 9/6 Douglass, "The Heroic Slave" (Three Classic African-American Novels pp. 23-69)
F 9/8 Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables Preface and chs. 1-4 (pp. vi-viii, 1-51)
M 9/11 The House of the Seven Gables chs. 5-8 (pp. 52-99)
W 9/13 The House of the Seven Gables chs. 9-12 (pp. 100-142)
F 9/15 The House of the Seven Gables chs. 13-16 (pp. 143-193)
M 9/18 The House of the Seven Gables chs. 17-21 (pp. 194-245)
W 9/20 Emerson, "The American Scholar" (available via WebCT)
F 9/22 Thoreau, Walden: "Economy" (pp. 1-52)
M 9/25 Walden: "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For," "Reading," "Solitude," "Visitors," "The Village," "Baker Farm" (pp. 53-72, 84-100, 108-112, 130-36)
W 9/27 Walden: "Higher Laws," "Brute Neighbors," "The Pond in Winter," "Spring," "Conclusion" (pp. 136-53, 182-216)
F 9/29 Fuller, excerpt from Woman in the Nineteenth Century (available via WebCT); Alcott, "Transcendental Wild Oats" (available via WebCT); FIRST SHORT ESSAY DUE
M 10/2 Alcott, Little Women chs. 1-11 (pp. 3-111); Lurie, "Little Women and Big Girls" (available via WebCT)
W 10/4 Last day to drop course; Little Women chs. 12-23 (pp. 112-220)
F 10/6 Little Women chs. 24-34 (pp. 223-337)
M 10/9 Little Women chs. 35-47 (pp. 338-459)
F 10/13 NO CLASS - Fall break
M 10/16 Melville, Moby-Dick, "Extracts" and chs. 1-12 (pp. 1-73)
W 10/18 Moby-Dick, chs. 13-31 (pp. 73-145)
F 10/20 Moby-Dick, chs. 32-45 (pp. 146-227)
M 10/23Moby-Dick, chs. 46-60 (pp. 227-99)
W 10/25 Moby-Dick, chs. 61-81 (pp. 300-77)
F 10/27 Moby-Dick, chs. 82-98 (pp. 378-445)
M 10/30 Moby-Dick, chs. 99-123 (pp. 446-529)
W 11/1 Moby-Dick, chs. 124-135 (pp. 530-89)
F 11/3 Wilson, "Our Nig" chs. 1-7(Three Classic African-American Novels pp. 289-329); SECOND SHORT ESSAY DUE
M 11/6 "Our Nig" chs. 8-12, plus Appendix (pp. 330-66)
W 11/8 Chesnutt, "Po' Sandy," "The Sheriff's Children," "The Wife of His Youth" (pp. 12-20, 32-56)
F 11/10 Chesnutt, "The Passing of Grandison," "Baxter's Procrustes," "The Doll" (pp. 83-117)
M 11/13 Chopin, The Awakening chs. 1-18 (pp. 1-56)
W 11/15 The Awakening chs. 19-39 (pp. 56-116)
F 11/17 Dickinson, selected poems (handout)
M 11/20 Dickinson, selected poems (continue with handout)
W 11/22 NO CLASS - Thanksgiving break
F 11/24 NO CLASS - Thanksgiving break
M 11/27 Whitman, "I Hear America Singing" (p. 9), "Poets to Come" (10), "Song of Myself" (22-73)
W 11/29 Whitman, "Whoever You Are Holding Me Now in Hand" (pp. 94-95), "We Two Boys Together Clinging" (105), "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" (200-05), "Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field One Night" (245-46), "The Sleepers" (338-46)
M 12/4 Reading TBA
W 12/6 Course wrap-up
here for Ryan Simmons's main homepage.