English 115: The American Experience Spring 2009

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English 115: The American Experience

Welcome to English 115! In this class, we will survey the American Experience, or more properly, the American experiences, as America has never been a singular place. Through short stories, novels, poems, autobiography, and film, we will ask: what does it mean to be an American? who is an American? what are the social histories, conflicts, aspirations, and values that have shaped this country? what is America today? In answering these questions, we will critically engage the histories of conquest, expansion, slavery, nation-building, and immigration as well as defining American concepts like individualism, self-creation, and alienation. And because art and literature constitute the gateway through which we will view American experiences, we will pay particular attention to the close reading of artistic form.

Required Texts
All books are available at Amherst Books in downtown Amherst. Purchasing the class reader is required. We will read everything in it.

● Course Reader: Library of American Literature
● Andrea Lee. Sarah Phillips
● William Andrews, Ed. Classic American Autobiographies
● Chang-rae Lee. Native Speaker
● Frank Miller. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
● Daniel Clowes. Ghost World

Course Requirements
● Attendance and participation
● Weekly online responses
● 2 essays

Grade Components
Attendance Coming to class, participating in lecture and discussion, taking notes, and learning new material is work. If you do this work, you should be rewarded for it in your grade. Attendance will be roughly equal in weight to the final paper. Note that attending more than 38 classes will result in 1 extra credit point/class.

Peer Review We will workshop first drafts of essays in class. Bringing your draft to class and fully participating in peer review will earn you 3 automatic points. You will not receive credit for attending peer review workshops if you do not have a finished, printed first draft.

Weekly Responses Every week I will ask you to post very briefly (about half to a full page) on the readings. Generally you may post on the text and topic of your choice. Responses are designed primarily to get you thinking about the reading and to give you a chance to hear what other students have to say. Feedback will be given if requested. Responses will be due on SPARK on Sunday nights by midnight. 10 responses will be due by the end of the semester.

Papers I will ask you to write a mid-semester paper and a final paper this semester. Both will be 4-6 double-spaced pages, although the final paper will carry more weight. These papers will give a critical analysis of course texts in relation to the themes of the class. Topics will be announced 2 weeks before the first drafts are due. First drafts should be double-spaced. Final drafts must be stapled, paged, single-spaced, in 12 pt Times New Roman font, with 1 inch margins. 2 points will be deducted for papers that do not adhere to these formatting standards. Email papers will not be accepted except in the case of a class absence (see Lateness below).

Assignment Points

Class Attendance 38
Responses 10
Peer Review 6
Mid-Semester Paper 30
Final Paper 40


Class Policies
Contacting Me Please come see me during office hours for extra help. You can also make an appointment to see me. Email is a good way to keep in touch. I check my email once daily during the school week and less frequently over the weekends. Email me early to ensure that you will get the response you need when you need it.

Writing While online responses are more informal, I expect class papers to be carefully written, organized, and edited. Because form and content cannot be separated, you will be graded on your presentation as much as on the content of your essays. First drafts of papers will be due in class early for peer review. I also strongly recommend taking drafts to the Writing Center, located in the basement of the Du Bois library: http://www.umass.edu/writingcenter.

SPARK Our course will use SPARK. SPARK will host our online discussions as well as provide you with the syllabus, class handouts, and other information. You can log in to the website at https://spark.oit.umass.edu/webct/entryPageIns.dowebct.

Tardiness Arriving late to class is disruptive. If circumstances prevent you from coming to class on time, do not come. Coming to class late three times will be considered an absence; each additional lateness will be considered an absence. Coming to class late by 15 minutes or more will be automatically considered an absence. If you are late, you are responsible for informing me of your attendance after class.

Late Work Late online responses will not be accepted. Late papers will not be accepted unless you have previously spoken with me. If you anticipate handing a paper in late, you must email me before the paper is due. Provided they are cleared with me first, late papers due to unavoidable, documented circumstances will receive full credit. Papers late for other reasons will be automatically reduced by one grade point (i.e., an A will become an A-). If you must miss class when a paper is due, you are responsible for emailing me a copy of the paper by the beginning of class and handing in a printed copy within a week.

Plagiarism Plagiarism is cheating. It is dishonest. Most of all, it is unnecessary. You can do perfectly well in this class without it—so don’t put your grade and academic standing at the University in jeopardy.

You are responsible for being familiar with our plagiarism policy (below). Please read it carefully, and make sure you understand it. If you have any questions, please ask me for clarification. A full explanation of plagiarism is available on the University website at http://www.umass.edu/dean_students/codeofconduct/acadhonesty. “The Dean’s Book Guide to Avoiding Plagiarism” is also a helpful guide: http://www.comcol.umass.edu/academics/deansbookcourse/avoidingplagiarism.html.

Plagiarism is the intentional or unintentional use of someone else’s words and/or ideas without giving them credit. Some examples of plagiarism include:
• copying words, phrases, sentences, and/or passages from someone else’s work without using quotation marks and giving the author credit in a signal phrase or parenthetical citation;
• paraphrasing another author’s work without clearly indicating the source;
• using a paper downloaded from the Internet in whole or in part;
• turning in a paper partially or entirely written by a friend or family member;
• turning in a paper partially or entirely written for another class; or
• using someone else’s facts, opinions, or ideas without giving them credit.

Every word in your online responses and your class papers must be your own work: your ideas, interpretations, and opinions about the text or texts about which you are writing. If you are influenced by the ideas of another writer or scholar, you are responsible for correctly citing them in your work. Undocumented use of web resources always constitutes plagiarism.

If you plagiarize in any of your work, you will automatically fail the course and be reported to the Academic Honesty Board. Plagiarism detection services like Turnitin.com may be used. Ignorance or misunderstanding of the policy is not a valid excuse, so if you have any questions, please ask me before turning in your work.

Individual Needs If you have a documented physical, psychological, or learning disability on file with Disability Services, Learning Disabilities Support Services, or Psychological Disabilities Services, you may be eligible for reasonable academic accommodations to help you succeed in this course. If you have a documented disability that requires an accommodation, please notify me within the first two weeks of the semester so that we may make appropriate arrangements.

If you must miss class to participate in University athletic events, please notify me within the first two weeks of the semester. You must provide the appropriate documentation.

If you have religious concerns about the course material, please meet with me during the first two weeks of the semester to work out alternative readings.

Below is a tentative outline. The calendar is subject to change.
CR: Course Reader
CAA: Classic American Autobiographies

Visions of America
M 1/26 First Class
W 1/28 Winthrop, “A Modell of Christian Charity” CR
F 1/30 Workshop
M 2/2 Jefferson, from The Autobiography of Thomas Jefferson, from The Declaration of Independence CR
W 2/4 Martí, “Our America” Marti CR
F 2/6 Anzaldúa, “La conciencia de la mestiza/Towards a New Consciousness” CR

What is an American?
M 2/9 Add/Drop Ends; Rowlandson, Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration CAA
W 2/11 Apess, “An Indian's Looking-Glass for the White Man” CR
F 2/13 Introduction to the Corridos CR Gregorio Cortez, Kiansis I
M 2/16 NO CLASS Presidents’ Day
W 2/18 Crèvecoeur, “What Is an American?” CR
F 2/20 Zitkala-Sa, Impressions of an Indian Childhood CAA
M 2/23 Chopin “Desiree's Baby” CR
W 2/25 Brooks, poems CR
F 2/27 Douglass Narrative of the Life 230-275 CAA
M 3/2 Douglass Narrative of the Life 275-308 CAA
W 3/4 Douglass Narrative of the Life 309-327 CAA
F 3/6 Douglass Narrative of the Life CAA
M 3/9 Movie
W 3/11 Movie
F 3/13 Peer Review

Individualism and Self-Creation
M 3/23 Last Day to Withdraw, Franklin, Autobiography of CAA
W 3/25 Mid Semester Paper Due, Franklin, Autobiography of CAA
F 3/27 Emerson, “Self-Reliance” CR
M 3/30 Lee Sarah Phillips 3-38
W 4/1 Lee Sarah Phillips 39-80
F 4/3 Lee Sarah Phillips 81-117
M 4/6 Miller Batman
W 4/8 Miller Batman
F 4/10 Miller Batman
M 4/13 Dickinson, poems CR

W 4/15 Lee Native Speaker 1-46
F 4/17 Lee Native Speaker 47-99
M 4/20 NO CLASS Patriots Day
Tu 4/21 MONDAY SCHEDULE, Lee Native Speaker 100-155
W 4/22 Lee Native Speaker 156-202, Movie
F 4/24 Movie
M 4/27 Lee Native Speaker 203-259
W 4/29 Lee Native Speaker 250-312
F 5/1 Lee Native Speaker 313-349
M 5/4 Carver “Cathedral” CR
W 5/6 Clowes Ghost World
F 5/8 Clowes Ghost World
M 5/11 Peer Review

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