English 100 introduces students not only to canonical works of American literature from the colonial period until Civil War reconstruction, but also to the fundamentals of writing college-level essays. This class features discussions about literary themes and techniques, as well as historical information about authors and their times. Students who pass English 100 will evince some understanding of the themes and historical events of the first three centuries of American writing. Students who excel will be able to contextualize such materials—esthetically and historically—and offer original insight into their particulars.
It is my hope that English 100 will help you become a better student of American literature and a better writer. The only way to achieve this is to require as many reading and writing assignments as time will allow. I hope that you find this work to be interesting, if not downright exciting. However, should you find what we do to be utterly dull, pretend it is the most thrilling thing since SnapChat. Ask questions during class. Stay awake. Talk to me about what you’re studying and writing.
Students who successfully complete this course will be able to:
- Discuss the themes of texts listed on the course schedule.
- Discuss the cultural and critical common denominators of what we read.
- Write theme essays that provide close readings of a text—that is, readings that offer an awareness of the text’s
themes, and how those themes relate to the cultural and critical contexts discussed in class.
- Demonstrate a competent understanding of the materials on the course schedule through work done during timed
METHOD OF EVALUATION
There will be a midterm and a final, quizzes and class participation assessments, and two essays. Exams will assess your ability to offer critical and objective information about the materials we read. Quizzes, when given, will come at the beginning of a class, and will provide an objective indication of your daily preparedness. We will discuss your writing assignments at greater length over the course of the semester. The numbers break down like this:
Exams: 45% of quarterly grade
Essays: 40% of quarterly grade
Quizzes/Blog entries: 15% of quarterly grade
Each quarter’s grade will be worth 40% of your final grade; a final exam will constitute the final 20%. Your score for each quarter will be measured by dividing the number of points you’ve earned by the number possible to that point in the semester.
I will assess students’ progress as writers based on the following rubric:
A writing is characterized by absolute clarity and original thought. A essays expertly incorporate objective details and
subjective perspectives on those details. They also reflect voices that are as wise as they are vivid, as intuitive as
they are organized. An A essay is rare. Effort alone will not merit an A.
B writing is characterized by above-average achievement. Few errors appear. If an essay reveals occasional excellence and
general competence, it is likely a B essay.
C writing reflects average engagement with the task at hand. C essays are not bad, though they often evince errors in
grammar and mechanics; rather, they are not especially good.
D writing is characterized by an intrusive lack of coherence or a lack of awareness of the assignment.
COURSE REQUIREMENTS & POLICIES
Each student will be issued a copy of The Norton Anthology of American Literature. This text must be brought to class daily, along with notebook and paper. I will also occasionally assign reading material from the internet and from handouts.
Essays should be submitted on time. Late essays will be docked a letter grade for each day they are late.
Barring exceptional circumstances, students who have excused absences must make up missed assignments within a week of the original due date.
Students must complete all major assignments to pass the course.
Also, MSMS’ academic honesty regulations apply to every activity in this course. Do not cheat.
9 Course introduction
11 Smith, 54-7
14 Bradford, 58-63; 65-66; 74-75
16 Bradstreet, “The Prologue” and “To My Dear and Loving Husband”
18 Bradstreet, “The Author to Her Book” and “Before the Birth of One of her Children”; How to Write a B+ Paper Overnight
19 Parents Day
21 Writing Workshop
23 Essay 1 Due; Rowlandson (use the version on the J drive)
28 Mather, 146-49; “The William Fly Narrative” (use the J drive for the latter)Review
30 Test 1
- Intro to the Enlightenment Period; Extended weekend
6 Edwards, “A Divine and Supernatural Light” and selections from “Sinners”
8 Franklin, selections from The Autobiography
11 Franklin, selections from The Autobiography
13 Madison, “Federalist Paper #10”
15 Jefferson, “The Declaration of Independence”; The Bill of Rights
18 Johnstone Narrative selections (http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/johnstone/menu.html)
20 Johnstone Narrative selections (http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/johnstone/menu.html)
22 In-class essay on Enlightenment texts
25 Introduction to Romanticism and Boon; Boon (http://earlyamerica.com/lives/boone/)
29 Irving bio; “Rip van Winkle”
2 “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (find online)
6 Hawthorne ; Extended weekend
13 Hawthorne ; Begin second quarter
16 Melville, “Bartleby, The Scrivenor”
18 Melville, “Bartleby, The Scrivenor”
20 Test 2
23 Introduction to transcendentalism; selections from Emerson’s “Nature”
25 “Divinity School Address,” which is not in your book
27 Selections from “Self-Reliance”; Thoreau bio
30 Selections from Walden
1 Selections from Walden
3 Thoreau, “Resistance to Civil Government”
8 Douglass; review
10 Essay 2
13 Test 2
How to Write a B+ Paper Overnight
- Understand what’s being asked of you by the assignment. Your first assignment is but two pages. Your scope is extremely limited; select a topic that lends itself to detailed analysis. I have two main goals: that you demonstrate an ability to analyze a theme from a work, and that you demonstrate an ability to analyze the ways parts of the work lend insight into the whole.
- Make certain that you have mastered the content of the material. If you make ungrounded claims or interpretations, your grade will suffer.
- Place your name, my name, the name of the course and period time, and the date in the upper left-hand corner. Place a header with your name and the page number in the upper right hand corner. Do not use a title page.
- Write an introduction that takes us immediately to the heart of your concerns. At the end of the introduction, include a thesis that makes an informed assessment of your concerns. Be sure that your thesis moves past a summary of the text, or merely an observation about it.
- Make certain that each topic sentence relates to the thesis, and that the sentences in each paragraph are adequately governed by the topic sentence.
- Write in present tense.
- You need to be able to use the text you’re working with to substantiate the interpretation you’re making. Don’t quote too much—after all, this is your essay. When you quote, use good signal phrases and obey MLA guidelines.
- Make certain that your works cited page includes bibliographical information for all the materials used over the course of the essay.
- Things to avoid because they are pet peeves: contractions; second person; referring to authors by first name; using “they” or “their” as universal third person singular; writing bloated, passive voice prose; split infinitives; wordy or redundant phrases; rhetorical questions; opening paragraphs with quotations; and poor diction.
Your first assignment
Write a typed, double-spaced, two-page essay that meets the following requirements:
- You interpret a theme by analyzing the author’s use of a poetic device (e.g. irony, image, metaphor, simile, connotation); if you write about Smith or Bradford rather than a poet, then you should interpret a theme by analyzing the author’s use of plot details and/or his motives for writing;
- Your thesis justifies your interpretation;
- Your topic sentences relate not only to your thesis, but also to the support in the paragraph to follow.
Consult the course schedule for the due date. I encourage you to bring me a draft of your work at least two days before the essay is due.
General Information about the Puritans
- Their arrival in 1620 addressed a religious need, but resulted from a commercial charter. Religion and industry were never far apart for them. Only 27 of the 100 passengers on the Mayflower were Pilgrims. Twenty thousand people migrated to New England by 1640 because of the Puritans’ successes against the Indians and their successful commerce.
- A religious binary of Puritanism: the omnipotence of God vs. the impotence of man.
- They saw their relationship to the land as ordained by God. Just as God provided Israel for his chosen people, so too would he provide New England for his chosen people. To their minds, this belief justified their belligerence towards any culture different from their own, including that of Indians, Quakers, French Catholics, etc.
- Covenant theology: The Puritans, like the Israelites, enter into a contract with God in the Mayflower Compact. God can show his pleasure with the contract by letting Puritans prosper, or show his wrath by whatever means He chooses.
- They believed in two kinds of providence: general providence, which was God’s overall plan, and remarkable providence, through which God reaches down and for unknowable reasons extends salvation. We should also note that the Puritans believed that God chastens those he loves, which helped them explain attacks by Indians and other calamities. The Puritans relied on these notions to make sense of their worlds-and they deeply needed for their world to make sense. But their reliance raises tough questions: if Puritans admit they cannot understand God, then how are they to know with certainty that they are His chosen people?