English 4570

Studies in the American Novel

Realism and Naturalism in Twentieth-Century America

Utah Valley State College
Spring 2003
MWF 10:00-10:50, GT 511H


Instructor: Ryan Simmons
Office: EB 10L
Phone: 863-6290 (x6290)
E-mail: simmonry@uvsc.edu
Office hours: Mon., Wed. 8:30-9:30 a.m., 3:30-5:00 p.m., or by appt.


Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. 1899. New York: Dover, 1993.

Dos Passos, John. The Forty-Second Parallel. 1930. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.

Dreiser, Theodore. Sister Carrie. 1900. Unexpurgated edition. New York: Penguin, 1994.

Erdrich, Louise. Love Medicine. Rev. and Expanded Edition. New York: Harper Perennial, 1993.

Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon. 1930. New York: Vintage, 1992.

Jin, Ha. In the Pond. New York: Vintage, 1998.

Morrison, Toni. Sula. 1973. New York: Penguin, 2002.

Petry, Ann. The Street. 1946. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1998.

Wharton, Edith. The Age of Innocence. 1920. New York: Modern Library, 1999.

White, Walter F. The Fire in the Flint. 1924. Athens: U of Georgia P, 1996.

Course Description

Although "realism" might seem a common-sensical enough term, critics continue to debate what literary realism is and what cultural work it does. In this course, we will work toward answers to these and other questions by reading an array of American novels of the Twentieth Century that may be classified as examples of realism or of its cousin, naturalism. Course readings are meant to be eclectic: we'll read novels typicaly considered to be central to American realism and naturalism as well as those that are seldom read into this tradition. Questions we may consider include:

Course Requirements

Essays (40%): Two analytical essays, each on a different novel we've read in class, will be worth 20% of your grade apiece. You may, at your option, produce a comparative analysis of two works--such as two novels from the course list, or one novel from our course and one outside reading. (See general essay policies here; look for additional guidelines here.)

Short Responses (20%): On the last day of discussion for each novel covered in this course, a short (about two pages, adhering to the format described here) response to that novel is due. These responses are expected to be well written and analytical, though not as substantial as the longer essays. One of their purposes, in fact, is to introduce ideas that may be worth further exploration in the longer essays. You might think of them as midway between the essays and the journal entries in their level of formality. (I can provide examples of this type of response if you wish.) You are expected to submit short responses for at least five of the novels; if you choose to submit more, your top five grades will be recorded.

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. Click here to log in. (As an enrolled member of the class, your network ID has already been created; see me if you need help.) 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. (See additional guidelines for literary essays here.)

  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 five free "late days" upon entering the class. The two essays and 5+ responses 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 paper (turning it in five days late) or divided between more than one paper. No penalty is given for late work 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. Each weekday during Finals Week counts as one late day; however, no work will be accepted after noon on Thursday, April 24, regardless of how many late days you have retained.

    The five 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/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 Accomodation

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.


M 1/6 Introduction to course
W 1/8 Overview of the novel; American literary realism and naturalism
F 1/10 Chopin, The Awakening, pp. 1-56 (chs. 1-18)
M 1/13 The Awakening, pp. 56-112 (chs. 19-39); Response 1 due
W 1/15 Dreiser, Sister Carrie, pp. 3-80 (chs. 1-8)
F 1/17 Sister Carrie, pp. 80-163 (chs. 9-17)
M 1/20 NO CLASS - Human Rights Day Holiday
W 1/22 Sister Carrie, pp. 164-260 (chs. 18-28)
F 1/24 Sister Carrie, pp. 261-345 (chs. 29-36)
M 1/27 Sister Carrie, pp. 345-430 (chs. 37-44)
W 1/29 Sister Carrie, pp. 430-499 (chs. 45-50); Response 2 due
F 1/31 Wharton, The Age of Innocence, pp. 3-68 (chs. 1-10)
M 2/3 The Age of Innocence, pp. 69-132 (chs. 11-18)
W 2/5 The Age of Innocence, pp. 133-199 (chs. 19-26)
F 2/7 The Age of Innocence, pp. 200-270 (chs. 27-34); Response 3 due
M 2/10 White, The Fire in the Flint, pp. 11-84 (chs. 1-5)
W 2/12 The Fire in the Flint, pp. 85-145 (chs. 6-10)
F 2/14 The Fire in the Flint, pp. 146-228 (chs. 11-16)
M 2/17 NO CLASS - President's Day Holiday
W 2/19 The Fire in the Flint, pp. 229-300 (chs. 17-23); Response 4 due
F 2/21 Dos Passos, The 42nd Parallel, pp. 1-62 (stop just short of Newsreel VI)
M 2/24 The 42nd Parallel, pp. 63-117 (through The Camera Eye #14);
W 2/26 The 42nd Parallel, pp. 118-187 (through The Camera Eye #19)
F 2/28 The 42nd Parallel, pp. 188-257 (through "Proteus")
M 3/3 The 42nd Parallel, pp. 257-323 (to end); Response 5 due
W 3/5 Hammett, The Maltese Falcon, pp. 3-72 (chs. 1-7)
F 3/7 The Maltese Falcon, pp. 73-139 (chs. 8-14)
M 3/10 The Maltese Falcon, pp. 140-217 (chs. 15-20); Response 6 due
W 3/12 Last day to drop course; Petry, The Street, pp. 1-84 (chs. 1-3)
F 3/14 The Street, pp. 85-162 (chs. 4-6)
M 3/17 The Street, pp. 163-256 (chs. 7-10)
W 3/19 The Street, pp. 257-350 (chs. 11-14)
F 3/21 The Street, pp. 351-436 (chs. 15-18); Response 7 due
M 3/24 Morrison, Sula, pp. 3-85 (Part One)
W 3/26 Sula, pp. 89-137 (Part Two through 1939, inclusive)
F 3/28 NO CLASS - Spring Break
M 3/31 Sula, pp. 138-174 (to end); Response 8 due
W 4/2 Erdrich, Love Medicine, pp. 1-84 ("The World's Greatest Fishermen" through "The Island," inclusive)
F 4/4 Love Medicine, pp. 85-166 ("The Beads" through "Flesh and Blood," inclusive)
M 4/7 Love Medicine, pp. 167-275 ("A Bridge" through "Resurrection," inclusive)
W 4/9 Love Medicine, pp. 276-367 ("The Good Tears" through end); Response 9 due
F 4/11 Jin, In the Pond, pp. 1-57 (chs. 1-5)
M 4/14 In the Pond, pp. 58-125 (chs. 6-11)
W 4/16 In the Pond, pp. 126-178 (chs. 12-15); Response 10 due
M 4/21 ESSAY 2 DUE, 11 a.m.

here for Ryan Simmons's main homepage.