English 645

ENGL 645
Studies in American Literature II (since 1861).

Catalog Entry

ENG 645. Studies in American Literature II (since 1861)
Three hours lecture (3).

Study of selected authors and important topics of American Literature since 1861. With a different subheading, may be taken twice for credit.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

The specific content varies with each offering of the course, depending on the particular topic ("subheading") designated by the instructor. Designated topics focus on significant scholarly issues and concerns relevant to American Literature since the Civil War. Such topics might include thematic concerns ("The American Dream"), generic concerns (the Novel of Manners), linguistic concerns (W.C. Williams and the vernacular tradition of the new poetry), cultural/social/ political/historical issues (the portrayal of outsiders--immigrants, blacks, women), source studies (the school of Hawthorne and the "Romance" tradition), studies of the influence of one author upon another writer or group of writers (Gertrude Stein and the Lost Generation), a particular critical approach to selected literary works of the period (Deconstructing Literary Naturalism), an intensive study of a single major work (The Waste Land) or a selected author (James, Faulkner, Twain, or others). Close reading of primary texts assigned in conjunction with the designated topic and extensive reading in relevant secondary texts, including those providing historical, cultural, social, and political backgrounds and contexts as well as those providing a variety of critical and theoretical approaches to the literature of the period.


Detailed Description on Conduct of Course

The course is conducted as a seminar, directed by a member of the English Department's graduate faculty with expertise in American Literature since the Civil War and whose role is essentially that of a consultant. The seminar meets once or twice a week. These meetings are most often conducted by one or more seminar participants who may lead discussion of assigned readings, offering their own interpretations and critical analyses as well as raising questions, concerns and/or problems posed by the readings; engage other seminar participants in debate over controversial issues; report on readings in secondary texts; explore potential topics for further research; share drafts of papers for peer review and response; or make formal presentations of finished papers. While seminar meetings afford students the opportunity to take responsibility for much of their learning and to engage both with their peers and with the instructor in the kind of scholarly discourse characteristic of the discipline, the greatest emphasis is on independent study and research done outside the classroom. In consultation with the instructor, students develop an extended research project culminating most commonly in one or more formal scholarly papers developing an original thesis and conforming in style and format to the guidelines of the Modern Language Association. Students are encouraged to submit such papers for publication in professional journals or, if opportunity affords, for presentation at a professional conference.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

The primary goals of the course are for graduate students to study intensively the particular literary texts, modes, and traditions of American Literature since the Civil War; to engage in the kinds of scholarly research, writing, and discourse characteristic of the discipline; and to develop and practice the skills requisite for advanced literary studies in general and for such study of American Literature since 1861 in particular. Graduate students pursuing the Master of Arts degree with a concentration in American Literature will investigate topics of special interest, undertake significant research into such topics, and compose formal scholarly papers that may become the basis for a thesis.


Assessment Measures

While individual instructors may wish to consider a variety of measures in their final assessment of student achievement in this course (e.g., preparation for and participation for and participation during seminar meetings, oral presentations, informal and/or creative writing exercises, quizzes and examinations), the single most important measure is the ability of the student to engage in meaningful independent research, to develop on the basis of that research an original insight into or perspective on a significant question, and to present that insight or perspective in a formal scholarly paper.


Other Course Information

This course is offered, with a different subheading, once every 2 years.


Review and Approval

March 1999