English 4570

Studies in the American Novel

Novels of Politics and Reform

Utah Valley State College
Spring 2002
Section 01
MWF 12:00-12:50, LA 106


Instructor: Ryan Simmons
Office: ED 10a
Phone: 863-6290 (x6290)
E-mail: simmonry@uvsc.edu
Office hours: MWF 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., T/Th 10:00-11:00 a.m., or by appt.


Alexie, Sherman. Indian Killer. New York: Warner Books, 1996.

Chesnutt, Charles. The Marrow of Tradition. 1901. New York: Penguin, 1993.

Fern, Fanny. Ruth Hall and Other Writings. 1855. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 1986..

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. Herland. 1915. New York: Pantheon, 1979.

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. 1937. New York: Perennial, 1998.

Ozeki, Ruth. My Year of Meats. New York: Penguin, 1998.

Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. 1939. New York: Penguin, 1992.

Twain, Mark. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. 1885. New York: Ivy, 1997.

Course Description

"All literature is political" is a recent literary-critical truism, and it makes sense: Novelists would hardly bother writing, and we would have little reason to read their works, if some vision of change were not implied. Yet how novels are political is a more elusive question, and our only way of working toward an answer is to read and discuss the novels themselves, with an eye toward cultural context and social and political significance. That is what we will do in this course. our agenda is to understand works of literature and their possibilities more completely; all points of view are invited, especially when they are brought forward in a spirit of mutual respect. Open-mindedness, a willingness to talk and listen, and a desire to read some challenging, often tricky, always engaging novels--these qualities will help ensure a successful course. The novels address a wide array of issues, ranging from women's rights to slavery and racism to poverty to animal rights. Three central questions are of particular interest: Why might novels be regarded by their writers (and readers) as especially useful tools toward political reform? In what ways do novels account for, even give voice to, competing points of view? And how might novels, and more generally literature, shape our political vision?

Course Requirements

Essays (60%): Four essays, each worth 15% of the final grade, are due periodically during the course. The essays should offer polished, original, substantial and persuasive analyses of literary texts. One essay is expected on each of the following four pairings: (1)Ruth Hall/Herland, (2) Huckleberry Finn/The Marrow of Tradition, (3) The Grapes of Wrath/Their Eyes Were Watching God, and (4) Indian Killer/My Year of Meats. You may examine one novel from each pair or write a comparative analysis of both; if you wish to develop an alternative topic relevant to the course, see me.

Online Journal (20%): At least once a week, you are expected to contribute a journal response to readings we are about to discuss; 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. Journal entries should be analytical in nature--raising questions, advancing theories, exploring implications, etc. 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.

Course Participation (20%): This is a discussion-oriented course, and for this reason each participant's active involvement is integral to our success. Attendance is critical, and you may expect that missing more than a week's worth of class will have a significant impact on your grade. Making thoughtful, analytical comments on a consistent basis will help you excel in this portion of your grade, as will respectful engagement with others' points of view. In evaluating your contribution to the course's day-to-day success, I will consider quality as well as quantity.

Essay Policies

  1. Essays should be typed and double-spaced and include a title 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.

  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 four free "late days" upon entering the class. The four 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 four days late) or divided between 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 four 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.

    (NOTE: Essay Four must be submitted by Thursday, April 25 to receive credit, regardless of how many late days you have retained.)

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 Catalog. Please read these standards, and the consequences for violating them, carefully, noting that the repercussions are always severe. In particular, be aware that plagiarism (meaning that a source is used without correct attribution) is a severe violation of both college policy and the policy of this course.

Any work that is plagiarized, even unintentionally, cannot receive a passing grade. Any submitted work (including drafts) represented as your own but found to be copied, in whole or in part, from an outside source is a particularly serious infraction. You may expect, in such a case, that I will report the infraction to the UVSC Academic Affairs committee, and will instruct you to drop the course.

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.


F 1/4Introduction to cousre
M 1/7The novel as a genre and its history in the U.S.
W 1/9Ruth Hall, pp. 13-60 (chs. 1-29)
F 1/11Ruth Hall, pp. 60-112 (chs. 30-54)
M 1/14Ruth Hall, pp. 112-166 (chs. 55-75)
W 1/16Ruth Hall, pp. 167-211 (chs. 76-90) and selected "Other Writings"
F 1/18Herland, pp. 1-48 (chs. 1-4)
M 1/21Martin Luther King Day--no class
W 1/23Herland, pp. 49-108 (chs. 5-9)
F 1/25Herland, pp. 109-146 (chs. 10-12) and "Domestic Economy" (handout)
M 1/28Huckleberry Finn, pp. 1-49 (chs. 1-8)
W 1/30Huckleberry Finn, pp. 50-94 (chs. 9-15)
F 2/1Huckleberry Finn, pp. 94-159 (chs. 16-20); Essay One due
M 2/4Huckleberry Finn, pp. 159-212 (chs. 21-27)
W 2/6Huckleberry Finn, pp. 212-274 (chs. 28-35)
F 2/8Huckleberry Finn, pp. 274-324 (chs. 36-43) and Jane Smiley, "Say It Ain't So, Huck" (handout)
M 2/11Marrow of Tradition, pp. 1-62 (chs. 1-5)
W 2/13Marrow of Tradition, pp. 63-131 (chs. 6-14)
F 2/15Marrow of Tradition, pp. 132-186 (chs. 15-21)
M 2/18Presidents Day--no class
W 2/20Marrow of Tradition, pp. 187-253 (chs. 22-29)
F 2/22Marrow of Tradition, pp. 254-229 (chs. 30-37)
M 2/25Grapes of Wrath, pp. 3-116 (chs. 1-8)/td>
W 2/27Grapes of Wrath, pp. 117-207 (chs. 9-14)
F 3/1Grapes of Wrath, pp. 208-273 (chs. 15-17); Essay Two due
M 3/4Grapes of Wrath, pp. 274-388 (chs. 18-21)
W 3/6Grapes of Wrath, pp. 389-472 (chs. 22-24)
F 3/8Grapes of Wrath, pp. 473-553 (chs. 25-26)
M 3/11Grapes of Wrath, pp. 554-619 (chs. 27-30)
W 3/13Their Eyes, pp. 1-50 (chs. 1-5)
F 3/15Their Eyes, pp. 51-99 (chs. 6-11)
M 3/18Their Eyes, pp. 100-153 (chs. 12-17)
W 3/20Their Eyes, pp. 154-193 (chs. 18-20)
F 3/22Indian Killer, pp. 3-82
M 3/25Indian Killer, pp. 83-153; Essay Three due
W 3/27Spring Break--no class
F 3/29Spring Break--no class
M 4/1Indian Killer, pp. 155-243
W 4/3Indian Killer, pp. 245-321
F 4/5Indian Killer, pp. 323-420
M 4/8My Year of Meats, pp. 1-83
W 4/10My Year of Meats, pp. 85-197
F 4/12My Year of Meats, pp. 199-284
M 4/15My Year of Meats, pp. 285-366
W 4/17Course wrap-up
F 4/19Study Day--no class
M 4/22Essay Four due at 11:00 a.m.
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