American Literature Survey 1500-1860
The following writing assignments are designed to help you engage more fully with the reading materials of the course, and assist you in becoming a more reflective, critical thinker. Each one also provides you with specific skills and strategies for working within the disciplines of the Humanities. The table of contents below gives you a quick overview of the names, deadlines, and point values of all the assignments. The descriptions that follow provide you with more specific details for completing each assignment.
Assignment Number and Name Deadline Points
#1: Close Reading Exercise on John Smith's Captivity and Rescue
#2: Comparative Close Reading Exercise on the Merrymount Story 9/22 10
#3: Close Reading Essay Exam on Mary Rowlandson 9/27 60
#4: Collaborative Reading Exercise on A Upon the Burning of Our House 10/4 15
#5: Witchcraft Website Exercise and Exchange of Research Question 10/8 10
#6: Witchcraft Group Presentations 10/18 and 10/20 25
#7: Take-Home Personal Narrative Exercise 11/3 15
#8: Take-Home Essay Exam on American Identity 11/8 100
#9: 18th-Century Historical and Cultural Context Web Search Exercise 11/10 10
#10: Major Project Proposal 11/17 10
#11: Take-Home Self-Reliance Narrative Exercise 11/19 20
#12: Letter to Emerson 11/24 15
#13: Student Questions for Group Discussion of Poe, Hawthorne, and Melville 12/6 5
#14: Major Project 12/6 150
#15: Final Exam 12/15 150
Total Number of Points 600
Assignment #1: Close Reading Exercise on John Smith's Captivity and Rescue
Deadline: Completed in class on Wednesday, September 15
This exercise will help you develop your ability to read a text closely and carefully. Close reading is the most fundamental skill in the Humanities, and the foundation for all of your reading, critical thinking, and writing activities. Before coming to class on September 15, re-read the annotated close reading of Cabeza de Vaca's La Relación. Note the various kinds of inquiry, reflection, and critical thinking recorded in the annotations. Then read carefully the reading assignment for September 15. In class you will be provided with a typed passage from John Smith's Generall Historie and you will be given class time to annotate it.
Assignment #2: Comparative Close Reading Exercise on the Merrymount Story
Deadline: Completed in class Wednesday, September 22
This assignment is an extension of your last one. You will build upon your close reading skills by examining two passages from two different texts. This exercise will also help you develop your intertextual reading skills. Read the Thomas Morton excerpt from New-English Canaan before coming to class and think about the similarities and differences between William Bradford's version of the Merrymount story and Thomas Morton's. In class you will be provided with typed passages from the two writers and you will be given class time to annotate the excerpts.
Assignment #3: Close Reading Essay Exam on Mary Rowlandson
Deadline: Completed in class Monday, September 27
This first midterm exam will allow you to demonstrate what you have learned thus far about close reading and analysis. Read carefully Mary Rowlandson's captivity narrative before coming to class. The essay exam will consist of passages selected from the narrative that focus on general topics we have discussed in class (cultural contact, covenant theology, Puritan selfhood). You will write analyses of each excerpt by drawing upon your general knowledge of these topics. You will be given the whole class period to complete this essay exam.
Assignment #4: Collaborative Reading Exercise on "Upon the Burning of Our House"
Deadline: Begins in class Friday, October 1 and finishes in class Monday,
This assignment continues your development of close reading skills by allowing you an opportunity to work with others to construct a collaborative reading of Anne Bradstreet's "Upon the Burning of Our House." Before coming to class on October 1, be sure to read "The Author to Her Book" and the student essay on the poem from the website.
In class on October 1, you will work in small groups. For the first half of class, you will discuss "The Author to Her Book" and the student essay on the poem, focusing especially on what the student says about Bradstreet's verse (the overall argument and insights) and how the student says it (the structure of the essay). This student essay is your model for developing a collaborative reading of "Upon the Burning of Our House."
In the second half of class on October 1, you will begin your close reading of "Upon the Burning of Our House." By the end of class, your group needs to gather a set of insights and develop a general direction for writing an analysis of the poem. Before you leave class, the group needs to assign tasks to each member: who will be responsible for which stanzas of the poem? who will tackle the unresolved questions? who will review notes on Bradstreet and other Puritan writers for helping develop the analysis?
Your group will reconvene in class on October 4. You will gather all of your insights and inquiries and construct a single collaborative draft. This reading of the poem will not be neatly polished, but assembled in such a way to facilitate fairly easy reading. You will turn in this collaborative effort at the end of class.
Assignment #5: Witchcraft Website Exercise and Exchange of Research Question
Deadline: Turn in exercise and research question at the beginning of
class Friday, October 8
The exercise is designed to provide you with inquiry skills for conducting research and to acquaint you with some of the cultural and historical contexts of the Salem witchcraft trials. Begin your inquiry by delving into colonial cyberspace and browsing through some Salem witchcraft websites. You need to look at a minimum of two sites. One of the websites must be from the following list, while the other can be either from this list or from your own cybertravels beyond the list.
Salem Witchcraft Websites
Salem Witchcraft Hysteria http://www.nationalgeographic.com/features/97/salem/
Salem Chronology http://www.salemweb.com/memorial/default.htm
Salem Witchcraft Trials http://www.law.umke.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/salem/SALEM.HTM
Salem Witch Museum http://www.salemwitchmuseum.com
After reviewing at least two websites, formulate a "research question." Write the question in the form of a one-paragraph inquiry that describes something that intrigues you about the witchcraft trials and poses a question about some aspect of Salem witchcraft that you would like to know more about.
Bring your question to class on October 8. You will meet with a small group and discuss the websites you have reviewed and the questions that you have written. Each group will then select a question to exchange with another group. This question can be one group member's question, a composite of several members questions, or an entirely new question that emerges from the conversation with your peers. At the end of class on October 8, make sure you turn in your original question. See Assignment #6 for the continuation of this activity.
Assignment #6: Witchcraft Group Presentations
Deadline: Half of the student groups present Monday, October 18, and
the other half on Wednesday, October 20
This assignment is a continuation of the activity begun in Assignment #5. This exercise will provide you with additional opportunities to collaborate and conduct research, and will also help you develop your oral communication skills.
From October 8 to October 17, your group needs to discuss the research question given to you by another group. You need to decide when to meet and how often, and you need to determine what kinds of tasks need to be completed and how to allocate those responsibilities.
On October 11 and 13, you will see the 1996 film adaptation of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, a play based upon the Salem witchcraft trials. This film will provide additional contexts and approaches to witchcraft that may be useful for responding to your group's research question. If it is not immediately useful to this assignment, it could prove important for future writing assignments. At the very least, your workload will be reduced (no reading assignments) while you complete this writing activity.
On October 15, class will be canceled. Use that hour for your final preparations. What have you discovered? How will you present your findings to the class? How will you allocate the responsibilities?
On October 18 and 20, groups will be given 10 to 15 minutes to present their responses to their research question. Each presentation must include the following components: a careful reading of the original question; a succinct summary of your response to the question; and a brief discussion of the process your group used to answer the question.
Assignment #7: Take-Home Personal Narrative Exercise
Deadline: Collected at the beginning of class Wednesday, November 3
This assignment will provide you with personal reflection skills that will help you engage more fully with early American texts. On October 25, you will be assigned one personal narrative from the reading list of October 27. Read your assigned narrative and one other narrative of your own choosing from the list, and write one paragraph on each narrative before coming to class on October 27.
On October 27, you will meet with a group of students who have read the same assigned narrative you read. Share your paragraph on the assigned narrative with your group and discuss your insights and questions. After class, write another paragraph reflecting upon how your views of your assigned narrative have changed, and whether or not you see your other selected narrative in a new light.
Before coming to class on November 1, choose another personal narrative from the October 27 reading list and write a one-paragraph response. In class, you will meet with a mixed group of students who have read three narratives, but not all the same ones. Your goal will be to find common ground for a conversation on personal narratives. Your guide will be the personal narrative exercise that you will receive in class. It will contain comments and questions that will aid you in making connections between personal narratives and personal experiences.
Complete the personal narrative exercise on your own after class and turn it in at the beginning of class on Wednesday, November 3.
Assignment #8: Take-Home Essay Exam on American Identity
Deadline: Pick up Friday, November 5 and return at the beginning of
class on Monday, November 8
This second midterm exam will allow you to demonstrate what you have
learned about American identity. The essay exam will consist of passages
selected from various personal narratives from Cabeza de Vaca through Crèvecoeur,
as well as general topic questions focusing on identity construction in
early America. You will write short analytical responses to the excerpts
questions. You will be allowed as much time as you would like from Friday, November 5 to Monday, November 8 to think about the exam, review your notes, and reread selections from your anthology. Take no more than 1 2 hours to write your responses to the exam. All exams must be completed independently without outside help from anyone in the class or outside the class. The exam will be collected at the beginning of class on November 8.
Assignment #9: 18th-Century Historical and Cultural Context Web Search Exercise
Deadline: Turn in exercise at the beginning of class Wednesday, November
This exercise is very similar to Assignment #5 and is designed to provide you with further inquiry skills for conducting research and to acquaint you with some of the cultural and historical contexts of the American Revolution. Once again you need to look at a minimum of two websites and formulate a one-paragraph inquiry that you can share in class. With this assignment, however, you will begin your search through revolutionary cyberspace without any guidance. Join the Revolution! and find your own websites as an independent thinker.
Bring your one-paragraph inquiry to class on Wednesday, November 10. This inquiry should provide some context for the Revolutionary War, something that intrigues you and that you would like to learn more about. Be prepared to discuss your inquiry with the class and to respond to other inquiries from other students. Our goal is to understand some of the "stories behind the stories," the cultural attitudes and historical events that inform the writings of Thomas Paine, John and Abigail Adams, and Thomas Jefferson.
Assignment #10: Major Project Proposal
Deadline: Turn in at the beginning of class Wednesday, November 17
See separate Major Project handout for description of this proposal and the project itself (Assignment #14).
Assignment #11: Take-Home Self-Reliance Narrative Exercise
Deadline: Collected at the beginning of class Friday, November 19
This exercise is very similar to Assignment #7 and will provide you with further personal reflection skills. On November 12, you will be assigned one "self-reliance narrative" from the reading list of November 15. Read your assigned narrative and one other narrative of your own choosing from the list, and write one paragraph on each narrative before coming to class on November 15.
On November 15, you will meet with a group of students who have read the same assigned narrative you read. Share your paragraph on the assigned narrative with your group and discuss your insights and questions. After class, write another paragraph reflecting upon how your views of your assigned narrative have changed, and whether or not you see your other selected narrative in a new light.
Before coming to class on November 17, choose another self-reliance narrative from the November 15 reading list and write a one-paragraph response. In class, you will meet with a mixed group of students who have read three narratives, but not all the same ones. Your goal will be to find common ground for a conversation on self-reliance narratives. Your guide will be the self-reliance narrative exercise that you will receive in class. It will contain comments and questions that will aid you in making connections between self-reliance narratives and the problems and prospects of self-reliance.
Complete the self-reliance narrative exercise on your own, and turn it in at the beginning of class on Friday, November 19.
Assignment #12: Letter to Emerson
Deadline: Completed in class Wednesday, November 24
This assignment will help you develop further your intertextual analysis
abilities and give you an opportunity to formulate some creative interaction
skills. On November 19, you will be assigned a short story from the
November 22 reading list. Read your assigned short story before coming
to class on November 22, noting especially how this piece of fiction does
or does not respond to
Emerson's call for a national literature in "The American Scholar" and "The Poet." Write a one-paragraph response on this topic.
In class on November 22, you will meet with a small group of peers who have read the same assigned story. Discuss the story in terms of Emerson.
Before coming to class on November 24, read another story from the assigned reading on November 22. Think about the relationship between this story and Emerson's ideas (you need not write a response unless you would like to do so).
In class on November 24, you will write a letter to Emerson from the viewpoint of the author of one of the two stories you have read. In this letter you will describe how your story does or does not respond to his call for a national literature and whether or not this is an important issue.
Assignment #13: Student Questions for Group Discussion of Poe, Hawthorne, and Melville
Deadline: Turn in at the beginning of class Monday, December 6
This assignment enables you to develop further your inquiry skills in response to lecture. Three consecutive lectures on Poe, Hawthorne, and Melville will introduce you to the mainstream canonical fiction of early American literature. After listening to these three lectures, your task is to formulate a one-paragraph inquiry that focuses on one, two, or all three of the stories. This inquiry should describe something that intrigues you and that poses a question that you would like to learn more about. These questions will be the basis for a classroom conversation on the three writers on December 6.
Assignment #14: Major Project
Deadline: Turn in at the beginning of class Monday, December 6
See separate Major Project handout for description of this project and the proposal that needs to be completed beforehand (Assignment #10).
Assignment #15: Final Exam
Deadline: Completed in class Wednesday, December 15
This final assignment is a two-hour, in-class examination during the
regular final exam period. It is designed to tap many of the skills
you have learned this semester. The exam will consist of excerpts
from a variety of writers and general topic questions. You will analyze
the excerpts and respond to the questions by drawing upon a range of skills
you acquired this term: close reading, intertextual analysis, independent
inquiry, contextual analysis, personal reflection, and creative interaction.