English 3525

American Literary Realism and Naturalism

Utah Valley State College
Fall 2007
Section 001
T/Th 1:00-2:15

Click here for schedule

Instructor: Ryan Simmons
Office: LA 109H
Phone: 863-6290 (x6290)
E-mail: simmonry@uvsc.edu
Office hours: MW 2:00-3:00, TTh 11:30-12:30, or by appt.

Required Texts

Chesnutt, Charles W. The Marrow of Tradition. New York: Penguin, 1993. ISBN 0-14-018686-7

Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. New York: Dover, 1993. ISBN 0-486-27786-0

Dreiser, Theodore. Sister Carrie. New York: Penguin, 1994. ISBN 0-14-018828-2

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. What Diantha Did. Durham: Duke UP, 2005. ISBN 0-8223-3519-0

James, Henry. The Bostonians. New York: Modern Library, 1993. ISBN 0-8129-6996-0

London, Jack. The Call of the Wild. New York: Dover, 1990. 0-486-26472-6

Sui Sin Far, Mrs. Spring Fragrance and Other Writings. Champaign: U of Illinois P, 1995. ISBN 0-252-06419-4

Twain, Mark. The Mysterious Stranger and Other Stories. New York: Dover, 1992. ISBN 0-486-27069-6

Wharton, Edith. The House of Mirth. New York: Modern Library, 1999. ISBN 0-375-75375-3

Course Description

This course explores the variety of American literary texts produced in response to a problem: how to depict human environments and relations realistically. Primarily focused on the decades near the turn of the twentieth century—the period traditionally associated with American literary realism and naturalism—the course will consider literary realism and naturalism as movements (groups of writers, aware of one another’s work, who self-consciously adopted the descriptors “realist” or “naturalist”), philosophies (writing based on particular assumptions about human nature and history), technical experiments (asking, what techniques will most effectively inspire an understanding of what’s real?), and theoretical issues (what’s “real” or “natural” anyway, and how can realities be apprehended through language?). By examining selected canonical and emerging texts, we will encounter some possible answers to such questions and evaluate how successful the realists and naturalists were in their ambitious attempts to reorient the American literary scene.

Course Requirements

Online Journal (20%): 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 Blackboard Vista site that has been developed for our course. (Submitting your journal electronically requires you to have a UV Link 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 Blackboard Vista 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 hypotheses, 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 (20%): 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 in as part of your participation grade.

Essays/Take-home Exams (60%): Three times during the semester, you are required to submit either an out-of-class essay or a take-home exam. Either option involves a written analysis of one or more course texts and a sustained engagement with the problems and questions introduced by our discussion of them. Both options, in other words, require you to compose one or more essays, and these essays will be assessed on a similar basis. You are expected to demonstrate proficiency at developing an argument (or thesis), supporting it using logic and evidence, and analyzing the significance of your findings. Out-of-class essays may be on any topic relevant to the course and its readings, and you may begin working on an essay at any time; I am also willing to work with you on multiple drafts if you wish (see policies, below). Take-home exams are of limited duration: you will receive the questions on a specified date and must submit your responses within a set time period. (See schedule, below.) There may be one or more question to which you are required to respond, and due to time constraints opportunities for feedback and revision are more limited.

In short, the out-of-class essay affords you the potential of additional time to develop your analysis, and the flexibility of designing your own topic. The take-home exam offers more direction (in the form of pre-established questions) and are limited to a defined period of time. You should pursue the option that seems most likely to stress your individual strengths. Regardless of which options are chosen, each of the three submissions is worth 20% of your final course grade.

Essay Policies

  1. Essays (both out-of class essays and take-home exams) must 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, as appropriate, 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 assigned submissions (out-of-class essays and take-home exams) are due at the start of class on their respective due dates. Beginning immediately thereafter, each class day a submission is turned in late counts as one late day used up. These days may be used up with one submission (turning it in three days late) or divided among more than one. No penalty is given for late submissions turned in within these parameters, but once your late days are used up, no additional work will be accepted after its due date—late work after that will receive no credit.

    The three late days are provided to allow for normal problems such as illness, 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 submissions 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, which appears in the UVSC catalogue. 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 UVSC. 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/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 Services Department (Room BU 145) as soon as possible. Any necessary accommodations, as arranged by the Accessibility Service Department, will be made.


Th 8/23Introduction to course
T 8/28Howells, "The Grasshopper"; Garland, "Productive Conditions of American Literature"; Wolfe, "Stalking the Billion-Footed Beast" (available via Blackboard Vista)
Th 8/30Rebecca Harding Davis, "Life in the Iron Mills" (available via Blackboard Vista)
T 9/4James, The Bostonians chs. 1-14 (pp. 3-110)
Th 9/6Bostonians chs. 15-24 (pp. 111-227)
T 9/11Bostonians chs. 25-33 (pp. 228-320)
Th 9/13Bostonians chs. 34-43 (pp. 321-436)
T 9/18Chopin, The Awakening chs. 1-18 (pp. 1-56); Questions issued for first take-home exam
Th 9/20Awakening chs. 19-39 (pp. 56-116)
T 9/25Chesnutt, The Marrow of Tradition chs. 1-11 (pp. 1-108)
Th 9/27Marrow chs. 12-26 (pp. 109-221); FIRST ESSAY OR TAKE-HOME EXAM DUE
T 10/2Marrow chs. 27-37 (pp. 222-329); NOTE: Wed., Oct. 3 is the last day to drop classes
Th 10/4Dreiser, Sister Carrie chs. 1-14 (pp. 3-130)
T 10/9Carrie chs. 15-26 (pp. 130-244)
Th 10/11NO CLASS - Fall Break
T 10/16Carrie chs. 27-39 (pp. 244-376); Questions issued for second take-home exam
Th 10/18Carrie chs. 40-50 (pp. 376-499)
T 10/23Gilman, What Diantha Did chs. 1-7 (pp. 27-103)
Th 10/25Diantha chs. 8-14 (pp. 104-189); SECOND ESSAY OR TAKE-HOME EXAM DUE
T 10/30Sui Sin Far, Mrs. Spring Fragrance: "Aluteh," "Leaves from the Mental Portfolio of a Eurasian," "Chinese Workmen in America," "The Chinese in America," "An Autumn Fan" (pp. 211-258, 262-266)
Th 11/1Mrs. Spring Fragrance: "Mrs. Spring Fragrance," "The Wisdom of the New," "Its Wavering Image," "The Americanizing of Pau Tsu," "In the Land of the Free" (pp. 17-28, 42-66, 83-101)
T 11/6Wharton, The House of Mirth, Book One chs. 1-7 (pp. 3-84)
Th 11/8Mirth, Book One chs. 8-15 (pp. 84-177)
T 11/13Mirth, Book Two chs. 1-7 (pp. 178-255)
Th 11/15Mirth, Book Two chs. 8-14 (pp. 255-324)
T 11/20Twain, "The £1,000,000 Bank Note," "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg" (p. 5-55); Questions issued for third take-home exam
Th 11/22NO CLASS - Thanksgiving break
T 11/27Twain, "The Mysterious Stranger" (pp. 55-121)
Th 11/29London, Call of the Wild; THIRD ESSAY OR TAKE-HOME EXAM DUE
T 12/4Carver, "The Bath," "A Small, Good Thing" (available via Blackboard Vista)
Th 12/6Moore, "People Like That Are the Only People Here" (available via Blackboard Vista)
T 12/13Last possible chance to submit work for this course (if you retain sufficient late days)

Click here for Ryan Simmons's main homepage.