Texts (in VCU Bookstore)
Norton Anthology of American Literature. Volume I (5th edition, but
you should be able to use an older one instead]
The Blithedale Romance. Modern Library
American romanticism, sometimes called the
American Renaissance, set the patterns, artistic and philosophical, for
much of the American literature to follow as well as much of what we now
consider distinctively American conflicts, ideals, and even terrors. Therefore,
we will approach the movement not in terms of history, author, or genre,
but through the range of connecting ideas and patterns. Although I have--perhaps
arbitrarily--chosen three themes for us to explore, we will also be aware
of others. This means we will read works in juxtaposition, revisiting
works and authors in different contexts. Though we will focus on the works
assigned for each class, we will constantly be making connections with
works read previously.
We will collaborate on finding and exploring
these connections. Not everyone can see everything, including me; as Emerson
says, our vision is necessarily subjective, governed by the astigmatisms
of experience we are rarely aware of. The greater truths come from bringing
our different insights and knowledges together, and the collaborative
classroom is the place for that. And in this class, that "space" will
be largely electronic, as we will use the computer to do exactly that.
In a sense we will be creating a class super-hypertext
which will record, embed, and link our insights and connections in ways
you've probably never imagined. It means that you must be very active
(rather than passive) readers, generating ideas, comparisons, and links
as you read and then regularly sharing them within the electronic class
discussions. We may not agree but we will definitely be learning from
My role in this collaborative class is not
the "keeper of the secrets of the text" or the "expert interpreter" but
an experienced reader, more knowledgeable about literary conventions and
contexts--and where to go for help, who is a coach and facilitator, delivering
useful information and responding as one of this community of readers.
When I "lecture," it may be usually be electronically after class discussion,
as I try to address "gaps" that may have appeared and pull together ideas
in my "response." I will often set up questions and directions for discussion
for you to take to your reading, but I encourage you to develop your own
questions and responses. And, of course, I will coach you well on how
to use our electronic tools; although some familiarity with the computer
is nice, it is not necessary. Also, as you learn something, you should
share what you know!
and Test Assignments
I. Informal reading
For each class meeting after the first week,
you will write a "starter thread" ending with an open question for the
readings assigned (which you have read, including related web resources)
for that day which you should post before class (or within the
first ten minutes) Some questions are posted on the syllabus which you
might address. Or you might consider general questions: What do you find
confusing (and why)? What do you find especially significant (and why)?
Are there some interesting conflicts or ambiguities in the work? What
seems to be "romantic" (and why)? What needs to be seen in light of the
culture and events of the time (and how does that change it)? (30 course
Just before each test, you must post a rereading
paper (3 page minimum) which explores a significant point or question
in a work (or 2 short poems) in that unit. Don't write on the same writer
twice in the semester. You should refer specifically to related points
made or questions raised in Webtexts and in our on-line discussions. You
don't need to reach any grand conclusions (you might even explain why
there is no good answer to the question you are exploring), but you do
need a fairly clear line of argument that draws its support from the text.
If you like, you may extend your response after a class discussion and
post that paper at any time before the due date. The first two papers
may be rewritten within a week after they are posted and critiqued within
your group. (10 pts each; 30 course pts total)
essays/tests (two tests and a final ): The essays will explore
connections between the works read; the tests will be on your reading,
especially points brought up in class discussion and the study hypertexts.
(15/10/15 pts each; 40 course pts total)
More on grading:
The quantity and quality of your on-line
contributiions in the class will be evaluated at midterm and the end of
the course; late work will carry half of its possible credit and must
be marked as late. The final course grade (your accumulation of points)
will be on a 10 point scale (A is 90-100, B is 80-90, C is 70-80, D is
Class Routines and Attendance
We will be meeting
in Hibbs 329 or on-line wherever you want to be during the class time.
If you come to 329 (as I recommend, especially at the beginning of the
class) we will also have some "off-line" discussions, focusing on
tricky points that have emerged in our discussions. You should begin a
discussion thread to the readings assigned within 10 minutes after
class begins and then join in the on-line conversations for the FULL class
period. (If there are occasional classes when you cannot be on-line during
that time, you may post your starter threads earlier and join the discussions
within 24 hours, but this should be rare and you cannot expect response
to your ideas).
This class is conducted
a little differently from most, as I'm sure you've already figured out,
and most of it will be conducted on-line. Much of what I want you to learn
about a work, especially questions you should be exploring, will be posted
on the Web from the syllabus and I expect you to respond to those materials.
However, I also want you to verbalize your impressions of the works before
you read any of those materials, because your "unvarnished" interpretation
is also important.
Timeliness is everything in a collaborative class built on student discussion,
as this one is. Even though the computer seems to allow you to procrastinate
by entering your responses later, that is NOT the case, since it would
mean that you are then not an effective part of the discussion, electronic
or verbal. A major requirement is that you attend class regularly and
that you do the assigned readings and respond to them as noted above.
Attendance and late work, then, are calculated into the response paper
grade (which is 30% of your course grade!).
Blackboard is set
up so that you must establish and use your VCU mail account. Even if you
have another account, it would be best if you use your VCU account through
http://webmail.vcu.edu for all class communications. It is possible to
forward your VCU mail to another account, if you prefer. You should, of
course, check the account at least daily, since that is our primary means
Because our work will often be collaborative, there are important integrity
issues. You should not copy or print anyone's work from the computer without
their permission and you should not "jump ahead" by reading hypertext
or other responses before you have written your own. In other words, respect
the work of others and in no way present it as your own. You will
need to sign an honor card at the first class.
Disabilities: If you have any documented special learning needs, please
let me know immediately so we can figure out whether I can help.