English 201: Tales of Rivers and Frontiers

I. Getting in touch

• Luz Elena Ramirez, Ph.D., luz_ramirez@wilmington.edu

• Assistant Professor of English, Wilmington College

• 203E College Hall, 937-382-6661 X304

• Meets MWF 1-1:50, Office Hours Wed 10:30-12:30

In Rivers and Frontiers, students examine the challenge of mapping land, the colonial or settler encounter, survival, and the thrill of discovery in the Americas. These excerpts speak specifically to these issues in their use of history and fiction, while representing on a broader level the course readings.

On the Amazon,

Sir Walter Ralegh, Discoverie of Guiana (1596):

we might haue wardred a whole yeere in that laborinth of riuers, ere we had found any way, either out or in, especiallie after we were past the ebbing and flowing. . . for I know all the earth doth not yeeld the like confluence of streames and branches, the one crossing the other so many times, and all so faire and large, and so like another, as no man can tell which to take. . .

On the encounter between white settlers and Native Americans,

Francis Parkman, The Oregon Trail (1846):

The Ogillallah, the Brule, and the other western bands of the Dacotah or Sioux, are thorough savages, unchanged by any contact with civilization. Not one of them can speak a European tongue, or has ever visited an American settlement. Until within a year or two, when the emigrants began to pass through their country on the way to Oregon, they had seen no whites, except the few employed about the Fur Company's posts. But when the Meneaska, with their oxen and wagons, began to invade them, their astonishment was unbounded. They could scarely believe that the earth contained such a multitude of white men. Their wonder is now giving way to indignation; and the result, unless vigilantly guarded against, may be lamentable to the extreme

On evolution in the tepui region of Brazil,

Malone to Professor Challenger, Conan Doyle's The Lost World (1912):

". . .You are a Columbus of science who has discovered a lost world. I'm awfully sorry if I seemed to doubt you. It was all so unthinkable. But I understand evidence when I see it, and this should be good enough for anyone."

II. Course description and objectives

This course surveys river and frontier literature by examining various

• genres (travelogue, novel, journal)

• geographies (Orinoco Delta, Mississippi River, the Belgian Congo)

• textual authorities (witness, participant, story-teller, editor)

Students analyze literature through:

• daily discussion

• weekly presentations

• research and evaluation of text and context

• writing

III. Texts (many of these are in the Rivers and Frontiers Packet)

• Sir Walter Ralegh. The Discoverie of Guiana (1596;1848, Schomburgk)

• Herzog. Aguirre: Wrath of God

• Harriet Prescott Spofford. "Circumstance" (1860)

• Francis Parkman. The Oregon Trail (1848)

• The Donner Party: PBS, The American Series

• Mark Twain. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885)

• Joseph Conrad. Heart of Darkness (1899)

• Arthur Conan Doyle. The Lost World (1912)

• John Sales. Lone Star

• Gloria Anzaldua. Excerpts from Borderlands/La Frontera

IV. Syllabus

Mon 8-24 Introduction to Course, Read Schomburgk’s introduction to Discoverie

Wed 8-26 Textual Authority in Schomburgk, Begin Discoverie of Guiana 1-23

[Thurs 8-27 Last Day to Add Classes]

Fri 8-28 The British-Spanish Rivalry, Discoverie of Guiana 24-51

Mon 8-31 Discoverie of Guiana 52-68

Wed 9-2 Discoverie of Guiana 69-87

Fri 9-4 Discoverie of Guiana 88-98, Essay I Assigned

Mon 9-7 No Class

Wed 9-9 Peer Critique of Essay I

Fri 9-11 Discoverie of Guiana pp.99-120

Mon 9-14 Aguirre Wrath of God

Wed 9-16 "Circumstance," Essay I due

Fri 9-18 Ch. 1-5 Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Mon 9-21 Ch. 6-10 Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

John Fisher, "Spanish Borderlands: The Forgotten Frontier"

Wed 9-23 Ch. 11-17 Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Fri 9-25 Ch. 18-24 Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Mon 9-28 Ch. 25-30 Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Wed 9-30 Ch. 33-38 Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Fri 10-2 Ch. 39-43 Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Mon 10-5 Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Wed 10-7 No Class

Fri 10-9 Fall Break

Mon 10-12 Ch.1-5 Oregon Trail, Essay II Assigned

Wed 10-14 Ch. 6-13 Oregon Trail

Fri 10-16 Ch. 14-17 Oregon Trail, Last Day to Drop Classes

Mon 10-19 Ch. 18-21 Oregon Trail

Wed 10-21 Ch. 22-25 Oregon Trail

Fri 10-23 Finish Oregon Trail, 26-27

Mon 10-26 Essay II Peer Critique

Wed 10-28 Westheimer Peace Symposium

Fri 10-30 Part 1 Heart of Darkness, Essay II Due with drafts, peer critiques.

Mon 11-2 Part 2 Heart of Darkness

Wed 11-4 Part 3 Heart of Darkness

Fri 11-6 Frontiers in Exploration and Science, Ch. 1-3 The Lost World

Mon 11-9 Ch. 4-7 The Lost World

Wed 11-11 Ch. 8-10 The Lost World

Fri 11-13 Essay III assigned

Mon 11-16 Ch. 11-13 The Lost World

Wed 11-18 Ch. 14-16 The Lost World

Fri 11-20 Lone Star

Mon 11-23 Anzaldua’s Borderlands

Wed 11-25 Anzaldua’s Borderlands,

Fri 11-27 Thanksgiving Vacation

Mon 11-30 Essay III due, Presentations

Wed 12-2 Presentations

Fri 12-4 Presentations

Mon 12-7 Course Evaluation, portfolio due with table of contents.


V. Policies


This is course demands consistent participation from each student. Attendance is required and counts towards the final grade. If you are unable to attend class because of an EMERGENCY or ILLNESS, please contact me by email or phone. Work, midterms in other classes, away games, athletic practice, or oversleeping do not constitute excusable absences. Please also note that reading quizzes may be given at any time, and lack of preparation for class will be noted.


Wilmington College is a career-oriented liberal arts school. This class and others should develop or reinforce skills and work habits that would be expected in the workplace, graduate school, or for one’s own rigorous sense of intellectual growth.


Coursework involves regular participation in class including individual presentations on selected texts and contexts, as well as communication through computer technologies. The final grade will be determined by examining class participation (35%) and written work (65%):

Three papers are required:

•Essay I 3-4 pages 15%

•Essay II 4-5 pages 20%

•Essay III 6-7 pages 30%

Format of Work

Word-process your work. One inch margins all around, double-space, 12 point font, not title page. Hand-written and typed submissions are not acceptable for formal, academic writing. Using a computer will facilitate revision, and keep you up-to-date in recent technologies. Buy a 3.5 floppy disk and write your name on it. Be careful not to lose this disk, and please make back ups of your work. Misplacing files is frustrating, and it does happen with frequency; however this will not excuse late work.

Scholastic Responsibility

Submitting work that is not your own, or any other form of scholastic dishonesty will result in a major course penalty. Be sure to document your sources (including those on-line) using MLA and to distinguish between summation, paraphrasing and plagiarism. If you have questions about using a source, contact me, or refer to a recent Modern Language Association style manual.