English 3210, Section 105:

American Literature II

Fall 2019

Writing Toward the Good Life:

American Progress and Self-Creation

Time/Day: 5:30 pm-8:00 pm. M

Room: Brown Hall, Room 4010

Final Exam: December 9, 7:15-9:15 pm.

Instructor: Mr. Luke McCarthy

Email: lucas.j.mccarthy@wmich.edu

Website: http://lucasjmccarthy.com

Office: Sprau Tower, Room 712

Office Hours: Thursday from 11:00-12:00

More office hours are available upon request. Please do not hesitate to email me if you want to arrange a time to meet!

Course Overview

This is a survey course on American literature published since 1880 that is intended to provide the broad competence on the subject necessary for continued study of American literature. The skills and knowledge that students have developed in prior composition and literary theory courses will be applied in this course to an exploration of the principle themes, movements, concepts, texts, and authors covered. Besides acquiring knowledge crucial for the more specialized studies of advanced literature courses, this course will serve to broaden the student’s understanding of the historical and continuing interconnections between literature and American society.

I prefer to engage students in an exploration of class content in which students play an active part in curiously questioning what we are covering. To aid that “curiosity quest,” the theme of this course will be “Writing Toward the Good Life: American Progress and Self-Creation,” which students will interrogate throughout the semester. As part of that effort, I will often be asking in class variations of the following three essential questions:

    1. In the readings, what social, environmental, and psychological factors are revealed as affecting the quality of individual lives?
    1. What normative values are implicit in the readings, and how do those values suggest a framework by which to define progress?
    1. What national, group, or personal identities are significant within the readings, and how does the text participate in the construction of those identities?

Required Course Materials:

  • Norton Anthology of American Literature: 1865 to the Present (Shorter 9th Edition) (ISBN-13: 9780393264531; ISBN-10: 039326453X)
  • $5 copy fee card, available for purchase at the bookstore.
    • This fee card pays for various class handouts and assigned readings I will be providing for you.
    • If you fail to turn it in by the end of the semester, you will fail the course.

Course Requirements

  • Class Participation: 15% of your overall grade.
    • Semester average for all class periods after dropping the 2 lowest class period grades.
    • Does not include the first day of class.
    • Grades for each period are assigned as detailed below under “Classroom Participation.”
  • Reading Journal: 10% of your overall grade.
    • You will be keeping a journal summarizing the class readings and including your personal reactions to those readings.
    • Each class period, be prepared to read portions of your journal to the rest of the class.
    • Near the end of the semester, your journal will be turned in and graded as an entirety.
    • All journal entries can be entered into the same notebook and/or collected in the same folder. They do not need to be typed and will not be graded on grammar or spelling. These are expected to be quick, stream-of-conscious writings that “prime” your mind for class discussion, so do not spend considerable time on them.
    • Due: December 2nd.
  • Midterm Exam: 15% of your overall grade
    • Midway through the semester, there will be an in-class exam that will occur during our normal class period. That exam will be comprised of various short answer questions requiring you to identify what we have covered thus far in the course and writing prompts related to the readings, assignments, and class discussions covered since the start of the semester.
    • Date: October 21st
  • Close Reading Essay: 20% of your overall grade
    • You will need to write a three- to five-page essay in which you perform a close reading of a work of literature that you will pick from a list I will provide the class.
    • Due: October 25th by 11:59 pm.
  • Reflection Essay: 5% of your overall grade
    • You will need to write a two- to three-page essay due on the last day of class in which you reflect upon the significance of the semester’s readings.
    • Due: December 2nd.
  • Final Exam: 15% of your overall grade
    • There will be an in-class final exam during the university’s scheduled final exam period. That exam will only cover material we have read since the midterm exam. It will be comprised of various short answer questions requiring you to identify what we have covered and writing prompts related to the readings, assignments, and class discussions.
    • Date: December 9, 7:15-9:15 pm.
  • Seminar Paper: 20% of your overall grade.
    • You will need to compose an eight- to ten-page literary research essay as the final capstone assignment of the course by revising your prior close-reading essay to incorporate at least eight scholarly sources while persuasively defending a strong thesis relevant to the content of the course.
    • Due: December 13th by 11:59 pm.