John M. Krafft
Department of English
Life and Thought in American Literature II, 1865–1945
English 142 Spring 2012
John M. Krafft
Baym et al., eds., The Norton Anthology of American Literature, 7th ed., Volume II, Parts C and D
Alcott, Little Women (Be sure you have parts 1 and 2)
Wharton, The House of Mirth
Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man
Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
In addition, several readings must be downloaded and/or printed from e-mail attachments I will send you or from <http://www.ham.muohio.edu/~krafftjm/handouts>: Howells, Twain, Zogbaum, Rice, and possibly others.
If you don't already have a collegiate dictionary and an up-to-date English handbook, you will need both. If you are an inexperienced writer, you will find Richard Marius's Writer's Companion readable and helpful.
American literature is rich and varied, and we have only a semester here to sample it, so any reading list must be regrettably partial. But don't feel limited by my selection and arrangement of readings (which we can change in any case). Keep up with the assignments, but read whatever else you want to whenever you want to. In fact, at least one of your papers will deal with work(s) not on the syllabus—or even, necessarily, in our anthology; you will choose (with my help) the author(s) and work(s) you write about. So, if you don't already see who or what isn't on the syllabus that you have always wanted to read or get to know better, start thinking, reading around in the anthology, browsing around in the library and in bookstores, and talking to your friends. Look for something that interests, excites, inspires or troubles you enough that you want to study and write about it. I can help too. Even if you don't need help, plan to discuss your projects with me.
Class discussions are likely to overlap more than the dates of assigned readings below might suggest, so also bring the previous book or printout to a class in which we are scheduled to begin discussing a new work. Bring your anthology to class every day, even if we are not scheduled to discuss something from it. You never know when we might need it.
1. To cultivate the attitudes and skills that make reading both a pleasure and an occasion for critical reflection; to learn to read sensitively, observe carefully and write analytically, critically, persuasively; to become a venturesome and sophisticated reader and a similar critic.
2. To explore just what is peculiarly American about American literature: what forms, themes and values typify it; how writers and readers of American literature understand what that literature is and does, how and why it does it, and in whose interests.
3. To understand the historical, social, political and cultural contexts within which American literature has been and continues to be both written and read, contexts the works reflect, respond to, and perhaps shape.
4. To participate in open, free, thought-provoking discussion; to learn from and with others; to learn by helping others learn.
This Course and the Miami Plan:
English 142 is a Foundation course designed to achieve the four goals of the Miami Plan: thinking critically, understanding contexts, engaging with other learners, reflecting and acting. We will read and discuss American literature from 1865 to 1945, exploring how it reflects contemporaneous historical events and changes, political movements, social trends, and personal values, goals, anxieties and traumas, and asking as well how the literature may have influenced social and personal life. Thus as we learn about the literature and the times in which it was written, we may also learn, directly or indirectly, about our own times. Ideally, we discover in literature not mirrors of what we already think but challenges to it, and opportunities to expand and deepen our understanding. This is a discussion class: it needs your informed and thoughtful participation—give and take.
1. Punctual completion of all assigned reading
You must have completed reading each work by the time we begin discussing it. You can't discuss intelligently what you haven't read in its entirety at least once. Even one or two students' not having done their reading can damage the substance and morale of class discussion. So if you come to class unprepared, I may ask you to leave and count you absent. I hope that won't happen, since it too can damage class morale.
2. Satisfactory and punctual completion of all writing assignments: three 5–7-page papers and the comprehensive take-home final
You will turn in your papers and take-home final by e-mail as attached word-processing files in unprotected Rich Text Format (.rtf) only. (I will return papers as printouts, usually within one to two weeks.)
Follow standard formatting guidelines as if you were handing in hard copy: double space, and leave a one-inch margin all around.
Papers and the take-home final must be well organized, adequately developed, coherent, and substantially error-free in typography, spelling, grammar, mechanics and usage, and must be documented (notes and works-cited list) in correct form as appropriate. Poorly written work will be marked down accordingly.
Late work will be marked down one letter for every day it is late—unless, of course, we have reached an agreement about it ahead of time. You shouldn't take for granted that I will give you extra time if you ask for it only after a paper is due. But before the fact, we can negotiate. If you have a problem, discuss it with me outside class.
If you must miss class on the day a paper is due, e-mail never sleeps.
3. Informed and thoughtful participation in class discussion
4. You will learn to understand and avoid plagiarism (or practice what you already know) by working through the online Miami eScholar tutorial and taking a short test at <http://elearn.lib.muohio.edu/miamiescholar/>. Plan ahead: the tutorial and test may take an hour or more. When you pass the test, you will be e-mailed a certificate to print out and give to me on the day your first paper is due. The certificate implicitly attests that you understand what plagiarism is and therefore cannot plead ignorance if you are later found guilty of having committed it. (Also see the fifth main paragraph under “Papers,” below.) I will not grade your first paper until I have received a hard copy of your eScholar certificate.
If you would like even more online help understanding plagiarism, you are welcome to use a tutorial provided by Indiana University, where the policy on plagiarism is similar to Miami's: <http://www.indiana.edu/%7Eistd/index.html>.
If you miss more than two classes (especially without notifying me in advance), I may consider you ineligible to pass the course. (According to University policy, absence for certain religious observances is not an attendance issue as discussed here: see MUPIM 10.1.) If you miss a class, you will still be responsible for what you miss, including assigned reading, for obtaining any other assignments, information or material you need, and also for punctually handing in any written work due or assigned that day. If you come to class late, leave early, or are unprepared, I may count you absent.
Please determine to arrive by the time class begins and to stay until it ends. If you ever do arrive late, be discreet and polite about entering, or wait for a lull and then knock. Don't come in while I am reading to the class. Don't walk in front of the class or in front of anyone, including me, who is speaking to the class. Plan not to leave even briefly during class, since it is inevitably distracting. If you must leave, say something to me, or to a neighbor who will tell me, about when or whether you will be back. Otherwise, I may count you absent.
If you carry a pager or a phone, turn it off (don't just set it to vibrate) before class begins, and leave it off.
If you must use a computer, PDA or other electronic device during class for a legitimate classroom purpose, discuss your needs with me ahead of time. Otherwise, all such devices, as well as phones, should be turned off during class. Texting, tweeting, e-mailing, Skyping, gaming, web-surfing and the like during class are ordinarily not legitimate English-classroom activities: they are distracting and rude, and good students don't engage in them.
3 Papers: 20% each
Miscellaneous informal work and class participation: 10%
In addition to the take-home final (an essay), you will write three papers. You may write them in any order that suits you.
1. A paper that deals with a work or group of works not on our course syllabus. (You need not limit your choices to the contents of our anthology, but you should keep within the time frame 1865–1945. Look around among other works by authors you become interested in, or works by other authors.)
2. A paper that may also deal with outside reading, but that may be about work(s) on the syllabus provided it does not simply more or less rehearse class discussion.
Note: One of these first two papers (either one) may be more personal than strictly interpretive, but at least one must be more interpretive.
3. A research paper on the historical, social, political and/or cultural context of a work you choose from the syllabus.
I will spell out your options and my bibliographic criteria below. First, however, some more general remarks.
An effective paper, besides being well organized, coherent, adequately developed and correctly executed, ought to have a clear thesis, sense of purpose and source of interest. Try not to write as if you are merely fulfilling an assignment or taking an exam. Write because and as if you have something interesting you want to say. Your job as a writer is to engage and reward readers' interest. Don't book-report. Discuss a work's plot or situation only insofar as doing so grounds or advances your argument. You should, however, use direct quotations or cite specific passages or details from the work(s) you are writing about as evidence to support your analysis or clinch your points. Assume your readers are generally well informed—people you can interest and indeed must interest. If you write about something you believe your readers know little or nothing about, be sure you give them good reason to care about what you offer them. When you write about something your readers already know a lot about, your aim should be to enlighten them further or to change their minds in some way, and to persuade even those who may not agree with you that at least you are making a thoughtful and reasonable case. Papers are likely to run about five to seven pages (approximately 1000 to 1500 words).
To write papers that are well informed, thoughtful and persuasive, you often have to consult literary history, literary criticism and a variety of nonliterary research resources. Both pure curiosity and the practical need to know should motivate you. But beware how you use critical, biographical, historical and other research (and never stoop to the likes of Cliffs [sic] Notes). You need good judgment to know what criticism, for instance, is useful and how to use it profitably in making something new. One of your obligations is to be interesting, and it is nearly impossible to be interesting if you merely rehearse what others before you have written. Not many things are more tedious and exasperating than recycled lit-crit clichés. When in doubt, talk to me.
Meanwhile, here are a few research guidelines:
1. Carefully evaluate the sources you use. Good sources are authoritative (well written by well-informed people with recognizable claims to expertise in their subjects), up to date, verifiable and as unbiased as possible. Beware of anonymous sources. Avoid sources described as “for students,” since, ironically, they are usually anything but authoritative.
2. For research in the humanities, web-based sources alone are likely to prove inadequate. Some are excellent, but many are untrustworthy or insufficiently scholarly. Books and the articles in academic and professional journals (journals which, though not all web-based, are increasingly available on the web) are usually more reliable.
3. If you start with encyclopedias, digests, summaries, compilations, reviews, popularizations or the like, don't stop with them. Follow the references and links in such works to their sources: primary documents, such as literary and historical texts, and complete scholarly essays and books.
4. Read what you write about: don't just read about it.
Little of our language and few of our ideas can ever be entirely original; but there are uses of other people's words, ideas and findings that we are ethically obliged to acknowledge. When you do research and your work is influenced by it (when you quote, paraphrase, summarize or borrow information or ideas—and this goes even for the discussions in textbooks and reference works), you must acknowledge your intellectual debts, explicitly in the body of your essay, in notes, and/or in a works-cited list. Otherwise, you may be guilty of plagiarism. (To take a non-American example, if you write that “Frankenstein is the story of childbirth as it would be if it had been invented by someone who wanted power more than love,” or if, without quoting, you claim that Victor Frankenstein preferred the would-be security of absolute technological control to the risks of cooperative natural human interaction, you must give credit to Edward Mendelson for this argument, preferably with a parenthetical citation keyed to an entry for The Things That Matter in your works-cited list.) Formal research is only an example; you can incur the same obligation informally by reading the newspaper or surfing the web. So even if you think you already know what plagiarism is, see chapter 5 of The Student Handbook, "Academic Integrity," on the meaning and consequences of academic dishonesty. (This chapter and other resources are available online at <http://www.muohio.edu/integrity>.) Plagiarism is among the most serious, most contemptible, most intolerable of academic offenses. Don't risk it. Carefully document your references to the literature you write about and to any historical, cultural, critical or other sources you use in MLA style.
A small but telling point: the title of a paper should have some relevance to the paper's thesis. Don't simply use the title of a work you are writing about as the title of your paper. (For the rest, follow the guidelines in Requirement 2, above.)
The purpose of an interpretive essay is to help its readers understand, appreciate and experience literature more fully. Assume your readers have read the work(s) you write about—thus there is no need for extended summary or for repeating the obvious at length—but that they have perhaps not read it the same way or as carefully, patiently, thoughtfully as you have. Since not every reader knows, notices or comprehends all the same things, you may very well develop insights that can enlighten your readers. You may, for example, be intrigued, puzzled or delighted by something that baffled, annoyed or entirely escaped another reader. If in your paper you work out such a problem for that other reader (not to mention for yourself), you can spread your intellectual wealth and pleasure around. The most effective and manageable interpretive papers often focus on one aspect or part of the work under study (structure, or one scene or chapter; diction and imagery, or one image; theme, or one issue or question; speaker, situation or point of view; one character or relationship) and relate the part to the whole.
What it might be better to call the strategy than the purpose of a personal-response essay is usually to show how a literary work relates to your own experiences and values. You might explain how and why the literature touched you deeply or angered you intensely. Or you might explain how the literature helped you understand an important event or sequence of events in your life. Or you might explain how you respond to certain literary characters—why, for instance, you find one admirable and another less than admirable, and what your reaction says not just about you and your values but about the literature itself. This kind of paper is more difficult to do well than it may seem. As in any paper, you have an obligation to engage and reward readers' interest. You know from having been on the listening end that talk for its own sake about oneself, one's life, one's opinions and values is not in itself necessarily interesting. You have to give readers some reason to care. Remember to appeal to readers' interests—likely in the circumstances here to include the literature—the occasion, after all, for your paper. Don't write the paper you might just as easily have written about yourself if you had never read the work in question. So, you might focus on how the work(s) helped you understand yourself, your experience(s), your values in a way you didn't and couldn't before. Or you might explain how your peculiar resources of experience and knowledge help you understand the literature in a way others might not be able to without the aid of your special insight. You might even explore how reading the literature changed you or your values.
The purpose of a historical-research paper is to enrich our understanding of literature by investigating the sources of and the influences on a work beyond its author's discrete person. Authors do not work in isolation from their historical, social, political, economic, intellectual or cultural contexts. Historical research makes us better-informed readers, showing us what we might not see or appreciate about a work without knowing the broader circumstances within which it was created. A historical-research paper, then, is implicitly or explicitly interpretive to some extent (so the description of an interpretive essay above is relevant to a historical-research paper as well). It can help us recognize what is in the work (characters, manners, values, events, preoccupations, issues, idioms), understand what might otherwise seem puzzling about what is in it, and even see what we might have expected to find in it that, revealingly, is not there. Here again, don't forget the occasion for your paper—the literature. Don't write the paper you might just as easily have written about the historical period without ever having read the literary work in question.
Good historical-research topics may seem hard to come up with, but they will be easier if you indulge your curiosity. Don't take anything for granted: ask questions. For example:
How did social class or economic status affect the opportunities available to women (and to their literary representatives) of Alcott's generation, of Chopin and Wharton's, of Fitzgerald's? What customs and practices informed family life and other personal relations at those times?
How does Thorstein Veblen's theory of the "leisure class" help us understand particular historical trends and literary characters around the turn of the twentieth century, perhaps in relation either to the earlier Gilded Age (the 1870s) or to the later Roaring Twenties?
What events and trends shaped life for native Americans, black Americans, or immigrants from any of various cultures? How did the actual day-to-day experience of a member of one or other of these groups square with popular myths of America?
As you research any such questions, consider how what we learn from historians about social and economic relations, about political issues, about cultural values or the like enriches, reinforces, complicates, contradicts or simply differs in revealing ways from what we read in fiction.
You will usually need to consult many sources, possibly a dozen or more. You should use at least five. Two or more that you actually cite must be print-based secondary works by reputable, individual scholars whom you identify in your works-cited list. Again, beware of anonymous and corporate sources (including Wikipedia), on or off the web, and avoid resources that claim to be “for students.”
Append to your historical-research paper a brief bibliographic essay in which you select the five best sources you have used (not merely glanced at) and rank them according to their relative quality and usefulness. Explain why you have ranked each as you have. A paper without such an appendix cannot receive a grade above a C; a paper with an appendix that is not done well cannot receive a grade above a B.
I will be happy to guide you, but you get to choose the authors and works you write about. I ask that at least one of your papers be on outside reading, that your historical-research paper be on a work from the syllabus, and that no more than one paper be a personal essay. But that still leaves you plenty of latitude. Novels, short stories, poems, plays, autobiographies or diaries and other nonfiction are all fair game. Discuss possible projects with me whenever you like.
Approximately two weeks before each paper is due, you will e-mail me a proposal of 100–200 words or so describing your project. (Send a simple message rather than an attached file.) For your historical-research paper, include your research question, a brief explanation of what makes it interesting, and a list of your principal sources. I will review your proposal, accept it or recommend modifications, and offer any suggestions or other help I can.
An alternative to writing a paper: teach a class. Do you speak more effectively than you write? Do you like to talk about what you read? Are you thinking about becoming a school teacher or college professor? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” consider teaching part of a class as an alternative to writing one paper (ordinarily not, however, your historical-research paper). Your aim would be to make the assigned reading clearer, more meaningful, more interesting and more enjoyable, and you could use any methods or strategies you chose to achieve that aim. This option offers exciting possibilities for all of us, but we may have to limit the number of people who can choose it. Since such a project involves the entire class, we would need to plan it carefully.
Preliminary Technical Notes:
The computing guide that follows covers the basics of MUNet, e-mail and computer security, explains some word-processing requirements, offers advice about word-processing dos and don'ts, and walks you through the steps of turning in a paper by e-mail.
Your Miami address is the one I will use when I need to e-mail you. You will be wise to write to me from your Miami address, since, when you do, your full name, not just your e-mail address or nickname, is displayed at the receiving end. If you write to me from an account that is not set up to allow display of your real name, my spam filter may block your messages, or I may not recognize them when I look through my in-box or my quarantine folder. If you would rather be Peggy Jones than Margaret Jones, or Bob Smith than Robert Smith, that's fine; but if you write as Pinky or The Hulk or eagle273 or your father's girlfriend, I won't know who you are and may not think finding out is urgent.
If you would still rather use a different e-mail service (Yahoo or Hotmail, for instance), configure your entry in the university directory (<http://www.muohio.edu/ph>) so any mail sent to your Miami address will be forwarded to the address you prefer. And configure your preferred mail program to display your real name for the people you write to.
I can reply to a message from any address, but please do not ask me to initiate a message to you at a non-Miami address.
Another way to avoid having your messages mistaken for spam even when they do display your real name is to use a specific, informative subject line. Don't leave it blank, and don't say simply “Hello” or “help,” as spammers often do.
If you have any technical questions, problems or anxieties after reading through the computing guide, ask for help from a member of the Computing Services staff in Mosler 304 (513.785.3279). Be sure anyone who helps you understands that you need to follow my instructions exactly—without taking shortcuts or making substitutions.
If you need help you can't seem to get from your handbook or Marius, I am always ready to help. In addition, the Office of Learning Assistance (102 Rentschler Hall) offers help in many subjects, including reading and writing. OLA services are free to all students, and you are welcome to take advantage of those services if only to build your confidence. If I recommend that you go for help, you should start at once; don't be offended, and don't let false pride get in your way.
If you need an accommodation based on the effect of a disability, contact the Office of Disability Services in 120 Rentschler Hall (513.785.3211). If you have already registered with the office and would like to discuss arrangements for this class, talk with me privately as soon as possible.
Whatever you name your files as you work on your papers (English paper 1, LittleWomen.doc, 142_final), name the copies you e-mail to me exactly as I specify below, based on (1) your Miami unique ID, (2) the assignment number (consider the take-home final assignment 4), and (3) your English 142 section letter (ignoring the H common to all sections on the Hamilton campus). Do not confuse the name of the file with the title of your paper or with anything else written in the file.
Give the files you send me names consisting only of your unique ID plus the number of the assignment plus the letter of your course section, in that order, with no spaces or other characters between elements. Do not include words like English or paper, or extra numbers like 122 in your file name. For instance, if I were turning in my second paper and were a student in section [H]B, I would save a copy of my paper as a file named krafftjm2b and e-mail that file.
That file-naming scheme is convenient and safe—for me. I can account for your files quickly and easily according to unique ID, assignment number and section letter. I will immediately delete all other files as irrelevant, unsolicited and possibly dangerous.
The easy way to rename an open file is to use the “save as” function on the File menu. “Save as” also allows you to change the word-processing format, as you will almost certainly need to do since I accept files in Rich Text Format (.rtf) only. Never send me files in native Word (.doc or .docx), Works (.wps), WordPerfect (.wpd) or any other proprietary word-processing format. Be sure to use “save as” or some other file-conversion process instead of simply editing the file-name extension, since the latter fudge will produce a file I can't open. Also, once you have created the .rtf file for me, open it to make sure it is not read-only (or what Word calls being in protected view), but editable (what Word calls being in compatibility mode).
To rename a closed file, find and select its name in a file list, press F2, edit the name, and press Enter.
More on file names and formats: Word, for example, automatically adds the extension .doc or .docx to the name of every file you save in its native format (producing file names like krafftjm2b.doc), but that does not affect the part of the file name you control.
Whatever word-processing program you use to write your papers, before you send them to me, be sure to save them in or convert them to unprotected Rich Text Format (.rtf—thus, for example, krafftjm2b.rtf). Again, use “save as” or some other file-conversion process; simply editing the file-name extension will make your file unusable. Also check the .rtf file you have created for me by opening it to make sure it is not read-only / in protected view, but editable / in compatibility mode.
While we're on the subject of names, for my convenience, any paper you send me should have your name at the very top (not counting the header, and even if you also include your name in a header or footer), flush left, with no blank lines above it and with nothing else on that first line.
Since the final is comprehensive, however, its influence on your course grade is not simply or rigidly mathematical. As a matter of policy, especially in a borderline case, I may find it difficult to justify a grade for the course that is (much) higher than the grade on your final.
Effective writing involves much more than mere correctness. Conventional spelling, punctuation and grammar alone cannot make a paper successful. But even a few seemingly minor lapses can weaken an otherwise promising paper by distracting readers or by destroying their confidence in or respect for the writer.
This document was last modified on January 6, 2012, by jmk.