English 260 General Syllabus

Basic Information

English 260 Section TBA

American Literary Tradition

Credit Hours: 3

Course Prerequisites: English 110-112 or English 111-112 with an earned grade of C or higher.

Instructor’s Name: TBA

Instructors Office Address, Email Address, Office Hours, and Office Phone Number: TBA

Textbook and Related Materials:

Baym, Nina et. al. eds. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 8th ed. New York: Norton, 2012.


[The department permits other standard anthologies such as the Longman Anthology of American Literature.]

Course Purpose, Goals, and Objectives

Course Description

American Literary Tradition (3) American literature from its beginnings to the Civil War.

General Course Objectives (Keyed to General Education Learning Outcomes)

Students will demonstrate the ability to:

  1. Employ various critical and analytical methods (e.g., close reading, historical and linguistic analysis, ideological analysis) in the study of literary texts from a variety of genres and historical periods through written assignments [LOC 1, 4].
  2. Analyze important primary texts from American literature from native cultures and early explorers to 1865 [LOC 2].
  3. Interpret literary texts as shapers, reflectors, and instruments of change of cultural phenomena (e.g., value systems, familial/social institutions, government and their policies, philosophical/religious institutions) [LOC 3, 4, 5]
  4. Analyze literary texts for personal aesthetic pleasure and the enjoyment of language [LOC 1]
  5. Analyze the contributions of literary texts within various societies and how these have impacted history and the human condition [LOC 6]
  6. Employ a comparative approach in the analysis of the literature of America and the expression of those ideas within a global literary context, particularly focusing on the interplay of ideas and forms [LOC 4, 5]
  7. Recognize diversity in literature, based on race, ethnicity, economic status, and gender across historical periods as important to the understand of local and global culture [LOC 5]

Outline of Course Content

[Individual Instructor decisions may vary slightly from section to section, but the emphasis is upon the canon in which the specific ideas noted above can be observed, examined, and analyzed.]


All sections of English 260 will:

  1. Involve students in critical reading to facilitate active engagement with texts. Students will read approximately 50 pages each week.
  2. Involve students with the full range of literary periods, and genres and styles—in connection with global models—within those periods appropriate to the course.


Native American creation stories and oratory [Zuni, Winnebago, Seneca, etc]: native accounts of the beginning, coyote tales, accounts of first contact with Europeans.


Spanish, French, and English exploration narratives [Columbus, Cabeza de Vaca, Castillo, Champlain, John Smith, Thomas Harriot, etc.]: imperialism, spread of Catholicism, enslavement of native cultures, geographical depictions, relationships between natives and Europeans.


Separatist and Puritan narratives and poetry [William Bradford, John Winthrop, Ann Bradstreet, Edward Taylor, Mary Rowlandson, etc.]: colonization and the development of American literary voices, individual and collective identities, colonial and European identities, sacred and secular texts.


The literature of the American Enlightenment [Benjamin Franklin, Jonathan Edwards, William Byrd, Sarah Kemble Knight, Olaudah Equiano, Thomas Jefferson, etc.]: rhetorical and philosophical connections between American Revolution and European philosophies and movements, transatlantic trade and rights speech, Lockean epistemology and perception, autobiography.


The literature of revolution and the early nation [Thomas Jefferson, Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, Thomas Paine, Phyllis Wheatley, Susanna Rowson, John and Abigail Adams, Philip Freneau, The Federalist, etc.]: the struggle for independence and national definition, individual rights vs. state authority, democratic and aristocratic forms of government, political and social equality, public print culture and national identity.


The growth of narrative [T.B. Thorpe, Irving, Cooper, Poe, Hawthorne, Melville]: the development of the short story, the romance, the romantic novel, etc. in America and its adoption of/reaction against contemporary European modes of writing.


The romantic imagination and philosophical tradition [Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, etc.]: transcendentalism, Unitarianism, eastern philosophy, idealism and forms.


The literature of social protest [Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Jacobs, William Apess, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Margaret Fuller, etc.]: slavery narratives, native American perspectives and protests, female rights and advocacy, etc.


Poetry [Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, William Cullen Bryant, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, etc.]: form and unity, nature and perspective, development of poetic form and experimentation, nationalism and idealism, etc.

Course Requirements/Expectations

Grading Procedures

Individual sections of the course may differ, but each section will have at least two in-class exams, part of which will include essay writing. In addition, each student will engage in other relevant writing activities. Over the course of the semester, students write at least 10 pages of finished written work outside of exams, focused particularly on literary texts. Finished writing may be done in or outside of class. Some writing may include work with secondary sources.

Signature Assignment to Assess Student Learning Outcomes in Humanities General Education Core


  1. A four-to six-page double-spaced paper that is a critical analysis of a single text with a synthesis in light of its literary, historical, and cultural contexts (LOC 2, 3, 4, and 5).
  2. The paper could examine either a poem, play, section of a novel, or short story as determined by either the instructor or instructor and student in collaboration (LOC 2).
  3. Since the paper must involve an engagement with “critical and analytical methodologies of the humanities,” the instructor builds in instruction on use of secondary sources, not limited to procedure, but how to evaluate those sources relative to their theoretical understanding of the selected primary text (LOC 1).
  4. The assignment requires students to use 2-3 secondary sources and requires 4-6 in-text citations of the secondary sources’ ideas in the form of summaries, paraphrases, and direct quotations about the effectiveness of those ideas in solving the interpretive dilemmas at those points. At the same time, students will be assessed on their direct engagement with the primary text through analysis of words, phrases, and sentences on one level and an overall impact of the literary text as a complete unit of meaning at a second level. (A rubric will be used to determine the effectiveness of the analysis of both primary text and also with handling of ideas from secondary sources reflective of the humanities methodology) (LOC 1, 2).
  5. In establishing a context for the explication of a single text, students comment on cultures, values, institutional forms (e.g., country, religion, family, gender, race, sexuality) that connect not only to the historical period of the selection, but also how those expressions cohere or disconnect across the sweep of time (LOC 3, 4, 5, and 6).
  6. While the explication of a text is sometimes thought to simplify meaning, the purpose of the assignment is to examine the complex relationship of words and ideas in the text as an example of a cultural moment in which it was written as well as how it speaks to speaks to modern audiences (LOC 4, 5, and 6).

Class Policies

Students are expected to attend class regularly. Policies regarding class attendance and make up exams will vary with the instructor, but all are within the handbook guidelines. The English Department has adopted the National Writing Project definition of plagiarism.

Disabilities Statement

Any student eligible for and requesting reasonable accommodations due to a disability is required to provide a letter of accommodation from the Student Success Center.


Revised Fall 2016

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