August 26, 2009 Archives

Welcome to EL 266, "American Literature I: 1800-1915."

The course website is located at The printout I give on the first day of classes is only part of the information available online.

Plot Summary and "The Right Answer"
Literary Close Reading
Literary Research
Literary Theory

Key Concept:

Close Reading

A close reading is a careful, thorough, sustained examination of the words that make up a text.

A close reading uses short quotations (a few words or only one word) inside sentences that make an argument about the work itself (rather than an argument about your reactions, incidents in the author's life, or whether things today are different from or similar to the society depicted in the story).

In a close reading, a literary work is not so much a window to look through, nor is it a mirror to reflect yourself. Instead, you look closely at the language the author chose, in order to analyze what the author has accomplished.

Note: Close reading is always re-reading.

Francis Scott Key, (Background)

American Literature

Colonial Period
"Divine Right of Kings"
Declaration of Independence
Revolutionary War
"Manifest Destiny"
Louisiana Purchase
War of 1812
Francis Scott Key

American Renaissance
Edgar Allen Poe
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Henry David Thoreau
Walt Whitman

American Civil War

For each assignment that is marked in the daily course plan as an "assigned text" (or just "text" on the "Outline" page), follow these steps as part of your participation grade.

  1. Read: Read the assigned text.
  2. React: 24 hours before we discuss an assigned text in class, post your Agenda Item (a brief quote from the assigned reading, and a brief note explaining what you'd say when called on in class) posted to your blog, following the trackback procedure (which I'll explain when the time comes). Even if you haven't finished the assigned reading, please post your agenda item on time, so your peers will have something to talk about.
  3. Respond: Before class time, I'd like to see everyone post 2-4 comments on peer blogs, but our class is small enough that I think we should all follow each other's blogs.
  4. Reflect: Bring to class a half-page reflection paper that mentions by name a student whose agenda item helped you notice or question something about the assigned reading. I encourage you to post that half-page reflection on your blog, but doing so is optional. (Your upcoming portfolio assignments will ask you to include examples of blog entries that show your ability to reflect deeply, to launch a good discussion, etc., so it will be to your benefit to plan to publish longer reflections on topics that really interest you.)
If you have any questions, feel free to post them right here.
In high school, you may have gotten credit for being able to paraphrase poems, in order to demonstrate that you understand the literal meaning of the content. But if the purpose of a poem is simply to communicate a message, why does the poet go to all the trouble to rhyme, to make classical allusions, to choose vivid images?

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand
singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morning, or
at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of
the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day--at night the party of young fellows,
robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

SCIENCE! true daughter of Old Time thou art!
Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes.
Why preyest thou thus upon the poet's heart,
Vulture, whose wings are dull realities?
How should he love thee? or how deem thee wise,
Who wouldst not leave him in his wandering
To seek for treasure in the jewelled skies,
Albeit he soared with an undaunted wing?
Hast thou not dragged Diana from her car?
And driven the Hamadryad from the wood
To seek a shelter in some happier star?
Hast thou not torn the Naiad from her flood,
The Elfin from the green grass, and from me
The summer dream beneath the tamarind tree?

Edgar Allen Poe

Assigned Text:

Dickinson [Assorted]

This entry contains three short Emily Dickinson poems. Many of her works were published long after her death, so a publication date is not immediately useful here. Dickinson's poems are typically known by their first lines, although she did not give them titles.

LO! 't is a gala night	 
Within the lonesome latter years.
An angel throng, bewinged, bedight
In veils, and drowned in tears,
Sit in a theatre to see
A play of hopes and fears,
While the orchestra breathes fitfully
The music of the spheres.

For EL266, a four-step process that helps you prepare for a productive class discussion using the SHU weblog system.

Read the assigned text, react by posting an "agenda item" (see glossary) to your weblog, respond to 2-4 items posted by your peers, and reflect on the experience in a 200-word informal essay (see "reflection paper" in the glossary).

I used to spend time on this during class, but because many students who have blogged for me before don't need the review, I've put it all on YouTube.

Key Concept:

Agenda Item

For EL266, a brief quotation from the assigned text, together with a non-obvious question or observation, that you will be prepared to talk about if called on in class. (It's part of "React," the second "R" in the RRRR sequence.) For readings due on Tuesday, post by 9:30am Monday. For readings due on Thursday, post by noon on Wednesday. (The same schedule holds for students taking the Wednesday evening section.)
Key Concept:

Reflection Paper

For EL266, a reflection paper is an informal written statement that demonstrates that you are coming to class prepared to do your part to advance the discussion of a reading. (It's the fourth "R" in the "RRRR" sequence.) You may post it on your class weblog, if you wish, but bring a printout to class in any case. Requirements
  1. Include at least one direct quotation from the assigned reading.
  2. Engage critically and intellectually with that quotation.
  3. Refer by name to at least one peer whose online reaction differs from yours.
  4. Length: about 200 words (not counting quotations).
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