EN317 Earlier American Literature

for FA 2010

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Vision Statement: Park University will be a renowned international leader in providing innovative educational opportunities for learners within the global society.


EN 317 Earlier American Literature


FA 2010 HO


Okerstrom, Dennis R.


Professor of English


Ph.D., English and History

Office Location

305 Copley

Office Hours

M & W, 10 a.m. - 12 noon, 2 - 3 p.m.,  or by appointment

Daytime Phone




Semester Dates

16 August -- 10 December 2010

Class Days


Class Time

9:00 - 9:50 AM



Credit Hours


The Bedford Anthology of American Literature, Vol. 1 (Beginnings to 1865).  Belasco and Johnson, 2008.

Additional Resources:
We will be studying earlier American literature from a Cultural Poetics perspective, sometimes called the New Historicism.  What that means is that we will not confine our studies to words on the pages of your text.  We will consider context, additional contemporary texts, laws and customs of the day, the roles of religion, regionalism, nationalism, politics, culture, art, and nearly anything else that is relevant to human experience.  Thus, a variety of journal articles (keep J-STOR in mind) and other extra-textual resources will be used.  Some will be provided by the professor, others you will be expected to discover on your own.

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Course Description:
EN317 Earlier American Literature (MLL): Study of significant American writers from the colonial through the Civil War with attention to the historical & cultural contexts of their works. 3:0:3

Educational Philosophy:

Philosophy seems a bit grandiose for the random thoughts that occasionally escape my brain, but perhaps the following will give you some insight into what I believe regarding education:
First, I assume that you all are here for an education, not just a degree.  If that is true, then you are responsible for your enlightenment; I will gladly help you in that cause.  You will learn a great deal from your reading; you will learn as much from your classmates.  It is vaguely possible that you will learn something from me. 
Learning takes place best in a non-hostile environment.  Let's work to ensure that is the case: everyone's viewpoint, comments, and conclusions will be valorized and respected.   A Liberal Arts education demands that we stretch ourselves, and that often means questioning our own beliefs.
If you leave this classroom looking at the world exactly as you did when you entered, then, sadly, no education took place.

Learning Outcomes:
  Core Learning Outcomes

  1. Articulate what is uniquely “American” about certain texts in literature
  2. Evaluate features of earlier American literature
  3. Identify and analyze American cultural issues presented in a variety of texts

Core Assessment:

All Park University courses will include a Core Assessment with rubric. This will include ¾ of the Core Learning Outcomes listed above. The Core Assessment in this course will be a major critical paper of no fewer than 5 pages, which will include research and MLA documentation. The project will be completed in the final quarter of the term.

 The rubric for this assignment is published so the student can see the expectations.

Link to Class Rubric

Class Assessment:
Daily class discussions; weekly quizzes; short writing assignments; a research paper on a topic relevant to the course and approved by the professor.


I prefer that students select their grade.  Here's my plan, which is sometimes called an implied contract.  For those who are not English majors:
 For a C, students will attend class, participate in daily discussions, score 70 per cent of the total number of points possible on weekly quizzes; write an 8 to 10 pp. research paper on some aspect of power during the time period we are studying, using at least five sources (including two hard-copy sources--more about that in class).  This might be political power, literary power, the power of wilderness, the power of ideas, cultural or familial power, the power of religion, power of women, of education, of . . .  well, you get the idea.
To earn a B, students will do all of the above, score at least 80 on the weekly quizzes, and give a class presentation of at least 15 minutes on the topic of their research paper.  This ideally should be done after research but before the paper is written, to obtain feedback and benefit from comments of classmates and professor.
To grab that A, do all of the above; score at least 90 on weekly quizzes;  read one additional journal article relative to the course and write a 2-3 pp. critique of it.
Attendance is an important part of your final grade.  I will give you three absences without penalty (that's a week); for each two absences thereafter, your final grade will be lowered by one letter.  Call me old-fashioned, but I have found that students learn better when they are actually in class instead of the coffee shop.
For English majors, the above requirements apply, but the research paper should be based on a critical literary theory (such as New Historicism, Feminist or Marxist literary criticism, Russian formalism or the like).

Late Submission of Course Materials:
Late submissions are a pain in the how-you-say for your prof, and unfair to other students.  Late work will not be accepted (obviously, if there are unusual circumstances, let's talk).

Classroom Rules of Conduct:
Usual rules apply: no running with scissors, be polite, no hitting or cutting in line.  Oh, one more: cell phones, including the texting thingee, all need to be turned off.  The whole texting culture has gotten out of control, so . . . don't do it in class.  If you text or even look at your phone like you're thinking about it, you will be asked to leave class and you will be counted absent.  See the attendance policy for how that will affect your grade (it's not good).

Course Topic/Dates/Assignments:

Week One:  Introductions and all that.  Who are you?  Who am I?  What is literature?  Is there something unique about "American"?  What is that?  And put together, what constitutes American Literature?
Week Two: Native America.  Introduction, 29.  Cherokee, 40, 41.   Pima, 43.  Lakota, 46, 48.  Read Momaday, 55.  What were essential cultural differences that resulted in clashes and armed conflict on so many occasions?  Were oral stories actually literature? 
Week Three: European Exploration.  Introduction, 61.  Columbus, 66, 68; de Vaca, 74, 76-85; Champlain, 86, 87.  What is the attitude toward the peoples and the land of the European explorers?   What is the motivation for their travels?  Are there essential differences in the approach of the French and other explorers?
Week Four:  Settlement.  Intro, 93.  Smith, 106.  Religion and its influence.  Bradford, 124--146.  What is the mindset of these early Pilgrims regarding their place in the universe?  How does it help determine their relations with the peoples already here?  Once more, what is their attitude toward the land? 
Week Five:  In God We Trust.  Calvinism and the early settlers.  Winthrop, 153, 254; Taylor, 229-244; Edwards, 276-279; 290-303; Bradstreet, 167-185.  How are we influenced today by these early settlers and their faith?
Week Six: Focus on culture.  Intro, 311-335.  What differences arise in the Colonies?  What other influences besides religion begin to play an important role in peoples' lives?  Why?  To what do you attribute the rise of secular concerns in the Colonies?  What other factors contribute to the rise of something we would recognize as literture?
Week Seven:  Lives. Intro 335.  Franklin, 340-76; Rowlandson, 192-228; Occam, 402-10.  How were the lives of these early writers vastly different?  What factors were responsible for their condition?  What was the basis for their treatment?
Week Eight:  Cruel Conundrum.  Jones, 460-467; Equiano, 414-427.  How was American slavery different from other kinds of servitude?  What are the foundations of this early racism?  Why were Native Americans not enslaved?  What institutions furthered the rise of slavery?
Week Nine:  Fall Break!
Week Ten:  Revolutionary Rhetoric.  Intro, 427. Paine, 437-42; Jefferson, 446-452; Adamses, 442-445; Crevecoeur, 430-33; Griffitts, 436.  What is the impetus to revolution?  How does literature influence the rebellion?  What has happened to "impel them to the separation"?
Week Eleven:  Inventing a nation.  The role of literature.  Intro, 467.  Channing, 490; Tudor, 486; Cooper, 493.  Wheatley, 505, 512, 514.
Week Twelve:  Celebration and Reform.  Intro, 607.  Emerson, 653-683; Thoreau, 792, 793-809, 815-825; Davis, 1150-78.
Week Thirteen:  Dichotomies.  Jacobs, 763; 772-784; Douglass, 857-923.  What similaries existed in the lives of male and female slaves?  What were major differences?  What were the causes for this?  What effect has this had today?
Week Fourteen:  Literature:  Hawthorne, 987; Poe, 1044; Melville, 1074.  In what way is this American literature?  What were these early artists trying to do in creating a national literature?
Week Fifteen:  Poetry for a new nation.  Walt Whitman, 1238-1284; Dickinson, 1312-1344.  Of ED's poems, choose five to read closely and be prepared to discuss them in class.
Week Sixteen:  Final exams.

Academic Honesty:
Academic integrity is the foundation of the academic community. Because each student has the primary responsibility for being academically honest, students are advised to read and understand all sections of this policy relating to standards of conduct and academic life. Park University students and faculty members are encouraged to take advantage of the University resources available for learning about academic honesty (www.park.edu/current or http://www.park.edu/faculty/).from Park University 2010-2011 Undergraduate Catalog Page 92

Plagiarism involves the use of quotations without quotation marks, the use of quotations without indication of the source, the use of another's idea without acknowledging the source, the submission of a paper, laboratory report, project, or class assignment (any portion of such) prepared by another person, or incorrect paraphrasing. from Park University 2010-2011 Undergraduate Catalog Page 92-93
If you are still uncertain about whether you might be unintentionally plagiarizing, ask me.  Intentional plagiarizing will result in the student's failing the class.

Attendance Policy:
Instructors are required to maintain attendance records and to report absences via the online attendance reporting system.

  1. The instructor may excuse absences for valid reasons, but missed work must be made up within the semester/term of enrollment.
  2. Work missed through unexcused absences must also be made up within the semester/term of enrollment, but unexcused absences may carry further penalties.
  3. In the event of two consecutive weeks of unexcused absences in a semester/term of enrollment, the student will be administratively withdrawn, resulting in a grade of "F".
  4. A "Contract for Incomplete" will not be issued to a student who has unexcused or excessive absences recorded for a course.
  5. Students receiving Military Tuition Assistance or Veterans Administration educational benefits must not exceed three unexcused absences in the semester/term of enrollment. Excessive absences will be reported to the appropriate agency and may result in a monetary penalty to the student.
  6. Report of a "F" grade (attendance or academic) resulting from excessive absence for those students who are receiving financial assistance from agencies not mentioned in item 5 above will be reported to the appropriate agency.

Park University 2010-2011 Undergraduate Catalog Page 95-96
Since your keen insight is necessary for a complete education of your peers, your attendance is critical.  I will give you three absences (equivalent to a full week of class) without consequence.  For each additional three beyond that, your final grade will be lowered one letter.

Disability Guidelines:
Park University is committed to meeting the needs of all students that meet the criteria for special assistance. These guidelines are designed to supply directions to students concerning the information necessary to accomplish this goal. It is Park University's policy to comply fully with federal and state law, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, regarding students with disabilities. In the case of any inconsistency between these guidelines and federal and/or state law, the provisions of the law will apply. Additional information concerning Park University's policies and procedures related to disability can be found on the Park University web page: http://www.park.edu/disability .


CompetencyExceeds Expectation (3)Meets Expectation (2)Does Not Meet Expectation (1)No Evidence (0)
1, 2, 3                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
Offers clearly stated personal and critical insights to interpretation of readings throughout the essay. Makes occasional personal and critical statements, which are relevant and interpretive. Provides only plot summary, biographical information, or fails to retain focus on literature. Does not submit assignment or does not respond appropriately to assignment. 
1, 2, 3                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
Incorporates primary and secondary sources using MLA documentation style perceptively and creatively in ways that provide new insights while still retaining personal voice. Incorporates primary and secondary sources using MLA documentation style adequately without particularly fresh insights, but still retains personal voice. Primary and secondary sources used rarely if at all and without adequate MLA documentation. Insights are predictable. Lacks an appropriate personal voice. Does not submit assignment or does not respond appropriately to assignment. 
Provides convincing and innovative connections between texts through careful close reading of poem(s). Provides connections between texts that are obvious but nonetheless plausible and interesting. Connections between texts remain vague and undeveloped. Critique not supported by close readings. Does not submit assignment or does not respond appropriately to assignment. 
Literary and critical terminology used appropriately and with ease throughout paper. Literary and critical terminology used adequately throughout much of the paper. Rarely employs appropriate literary and critical terminology, misuses it, or omits it altogether. Does not submit assignment or does not respond appropriately to assignment. 
Content of Communication                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   
1, 2, 3                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
Skillfully interweaves appropriate passages from literary and critical texts and makes strong personal statements that illustrate main point of essay. Adequately incorporates  passages from literary and critical texts as well as some personal statements to prove thesis. Rarely provides specific passages from literary or critical texts, or does so without making connections clear. Does not submit assignment or does not respond appropriately to assignment. 
Technical Skill in Communicating                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
Employs conventions of Standard Written English with grace and style in a well organized, fully developed essay. Employs conventions of Standard Written English adequately in a reasonably well organized and developed essay. Writing shows persistent problems with the use of Standard Written English. Statements are often illogical, incomprehensible; organization and development of ideas do not support thesis. Does not submit assignment or does not respond appropriately to assignment. 
Interdisciplinary and Contemporary Components                                                                                                                                                                                                              
1, 3                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
Analysis makes full use of historical, cultural, and/or other perspectives as interpretive tools. Analysis includes some consideration of historical, cultural, and/or other perspectives. Historical, cultural, and/or other perspectives are not used in any meaningful way. Does not submit assignment or does not respond appropriately to assignment. 
Multicultural Component                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
1, 3                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
Analysis includes ample discussion of multicultural perspectives. Multicultural perspectives are mentioned appropriately but without depth. Multicultural perspectives are omitted from consideration. Does not submit assignment or does not respond appropriately to assignment. 


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Last Updated:8/10/2010 2:30:30 PM