The American Experience
American History and Literature 1865 - Present
Spring 2004
MW 1:00 - 3:45

Dr. Connie Jacobs
Office 1876
Tel.: 566-3235
Office Hours :
Monday 10:00 - 10:50, 4:00 - 5:00
Tuesday 12:00 - 12:50
Wednesday 10:00 - 10:50
Thursday 12:00 - 12:50
Friday 10:00 - 10:50

Dr. J. Kelly Robison
Office: 1847
Tel.: 566-3240
Web Page:
Office Hours:
MW 3:00 - 5:15
TR 11:30 - 12:45


This course is a learning community that explores the events, people, and literature that have helped shape America since the Civil War. You will study the rise of the women's voice, Reconstruction and the emerging voice of African Americans that exploded in the Harlem Renaissance, and WWI that brought a sense of dislocation spawning the Modernist Movement. The Depression and WWII gave rise to its own particular literary voice, as did the 1950s with Ike, the Beats and Senator McCarthy. The Posmodern World is still unfolding as a result of the activism of the 1960s and 1970s.

In this course, you will be studying some of the most important writings by American writers since the Civil War. This is a survey course, so we will be looking at an overview of literary tradition, the historical influences, and the reoccurring themes. This course will emphasize the many voices that make up our tradition, and to this end, we will examine a wide variety of works that compositely form what is known as American Literature.

This course is also an introductory survey of the history of the United States from the end of the Civil War through the present. Students should come to an understanding of the chronology of events during the period, but should also become aware of the causes of and reactions to the major events. We will focus on the central themes and issues while examining the political, economic, and social changes that occurred during this period. These themes include industrialization, immigration and the diversification of the U.S. population, the entrance of the U.S. onto the political world stage and the social changes that occurred from 1865 to the present.


To be able to contextualize American literature within its historical framework

To gain an appreciation of the many voices that make up our American literary tradition

To be able in response papers to reflectively write on author's voice and purpose

To understand the chronology of the time period (the facts)

Become aware of the causes of and reactions to the events (the interpretations)

Through a unit test, a final examination, and two short papers to understand the trajectory that has formed our American literary tradition


You will have a test over unit one and a comprehensive final examination.

You will have daily response papers

You will write two short (4 - 5 pages) papers

Tests - There will be an in-class test on unit one and a take home comprehensive final

Response papers - You will have daily homework that asks you to reflect on the readings. This is a combination journal and response which is designed to help you understand the reading more thoroughly and to form a body of work which will help you keep track of the many authors and works we are reading.

The format for the response papers is as follows:



Papers: Further explore a subject that interests you from our readings and discussions. Topic must be approved by instructor, 4 - 5 pages. Be sure and use your own voice to synthesize the material. Do not write a report. You must cite where you got your outside information.  Use MLA or Chicago documentation


15% - unit test

25% - final examination

30% - papers

30% - response papers

You may submit extra credit projects to help your grade and to show me that you are trying

We count your effort in the class when we determine your grade



Any work that is not turned in on time will automatically receive a lower grade


A survey course demands a great deal from students. You need to read a great deal of material in a short time, so the onus is on you to make this course successful. You read the works carefully, and I will help you to understand them. You must keep up with the work, attend class faithfully, and participate enthusiastically and intelligently in order to be a good student.

You are always responsible for the introductory materials to the periods and to the individual authors.


Cell phones must be turned off when you enter class.


If you have a disability that affects you as a student in this class, you are urged to notify us and/or call Student Services. Your notification will remain confidential


We are reading some of the finest works in American literature. Keep a journal of the best pieces of writing (the best ideas or the best written lines) and explain why you find these so extraordinary.

Throughout the semester, bring in newspaper or magazine articles or anything you find that directly relates to the themes and authors we are studying

Other projects to be announced throughout the semester


Unit One - Late Nineteenth Century: 1865 - 1919

Week 1

January 12

Course introduction Twain movie
January 14 Industrialization

Norton, ch. 18

Mark Twain "Letters from the Earth" - handout

Write out the best lines and explain why you chose them. Excerpts from Innocents Abroad

What is Twain satirizing in this piece? Why?

Week 2

January 19

Labor and Management

Norton, ch. 18

"The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg" 77

What is the theme of "The Man That..." Discuss Twain movie

Extra Credit - read another Twain story and report to the class on its themes and voice

January 21 Gilded Age Politics & Populism

Norton, ch. 20

People's Party Platform, 1896

Wm. Dean Howells "Editha" 267

Analyze the character Editha

Stephen Crane "The Open Boat" 503, "A Man Said to the Universe" 530

What is the theme of the story and the poem? Explain

Week 3

January 26


Norton, ch. 19

"Life in the Tenements of New York City" (1890) - Jacob Riis

Mary Freeman "A New England Nun" 749

Sarah Orne Jewett "A White Heron" 723

Kate Chopin "Desiree's Baby" 363

How are these stories examples of regionalist writing ?

What are some of the issues these women writers are dealing with in the Stories ?

Extra Credit - read Edith Wharton "The Other Two" 1031

What are the themes of this story?

January 28 The New West

Norton, ch. 17

Chief Seattle's Treaty Oration, 1854

Charles Eastman "The Soul of the Indian" 550

Sarah Winnemucca "Life Among the Piutes" 563

Gertrude Bonnin "The School Days of an Indian Girl" 859

From these readings, what do you learn about Native American life at the end of the 19th century ? Be sure and provide textual support

Week 4

February 2

Reconstruction and the New South

Norton, ch. 16

The Emancipation Proclamation, 1862

Booker T. Washington "Up From Slavery" 918

What are the main points Washington highlights about his life? Summarize his philosophy as found in "The Atlanta Exposition Address" of the part Africans Americans could play in the rebuilding of the South. What issues did he not address?

W.E.B. Du Bois  "The Soul of Black Folk" chpt. 3, 950, "The Song of Smoke" 965

Analyze Du Bois's objections to Washington's "Atlanta Exposition

Address." How does the poem "The Song of Smoke" and knowledge about Du Bois's life help us understand his philosophy?

February 4 Immigration

Norton, ch. 19

Charles Chestnutt - "The Wife of His Youth" 143

What issues does Chestnutt raise in this story?

Paul Laurence Dunbar "We Wear the Mask " 174, "Sympathy" 176

Analyze one of these poems

James Weldon Johnson "The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man" 971

Explain the title

"Lift Every Voice and Sing" 968

What is the historical importance of this poem?

Week 5

February 9

Gilded Age Social Thought

Norton, ch. 19

Henry James "Daisy Miller" 280

How does Daisy represent the "new American"? What are some of the rules of "Old Europe"? What social rules did Daisy break?

Extra Credit - read either "The Beast in the Jungle" 334 or "The Turn of the Screw" and discuss with the class

February 11 Progressivism

Norton, ch. 21

Upton Sinclair The Jungle 636 - 650

What is the importance of this novel to American history?

Finley Peter Dunne, Martin Dooley pieces 626 - 36

What are some of the issues Dooley addresses in these pieces?

Week 6

February 16

No School - President's Day  

Unit Two - The Modern Era 1920 - 1945

February 18 Imperialism & World War I

Norton, chs. 22-23

First Open Door Note - [John Hay to Andrew D. White], 1899

Unit Exam

We will discuss Wallace Steven's "Of Modern Poetry" 1514 and how it sets the tone for the modern era

Week 7

February 23

The Economy and Politics of the 1920s

Norton, ch. 24

Sherwood Anderson "Hands" 1142 handout "The Grotesques" from Winesburg, Ohio

What is a "grotesque"? Who is the grotesque in the story "Hands"? Why?

Edgar Lee Masters" Spoon River Anthology 1077 - 1180

In what ways is Masters's poetry distinctly American?

February 25 The Roaring Twenties

Norton, ch. 24

Ernest Hemingway " Hills Like White Elephants" 1494

What is the subject of this conversation? How do you know?

F. Scott Fitzgerald "Winter Dreams" - handout

What are the themes of this story?

Extra Credit - read another Hemingway or Fitzgerald story and discuss it with the class

Week 8

March 1

Harlem Renaissance (briefly) Alain Locke "The New Negro" 1571

What and who is the "New Negro"? Why is this important?

Jean Toomer "Blood Burning Moon " 1593

Discuss the symbols in the story. How do the symbols reinforce the theme?

Langston Hughes 1599

Analyze two of the poems

Claude McKay 1674

Countee Cullen 1630

Analyze one poem from McKay and Cullen

March 3   T. S. Eliot "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" 1363

Wallace Stevens "Sunday Morning" 1506

These are two of the great poems of the modernist period. Do an analysis of one of the poems

e.e.cummings 1352 - 1360

Analyze one of the poems

What are the major feature of cummings's poetry

Extra Credit - read poems by Robert Frost and compare therm to the other modernist poems we have read

Week 9

March 8

Great Depression

Norton, ch. 25

John Steinbeck "The Chrysanthemums" 1874

Analyze the story

Wm. Faulkner " A Rose for Emily" - handout

What are the themes of this story?

Extra Credit - read another story by Steinbeck or Faulkner and discuss with the class

March 10 New Deal

Norton, ch. 25

 Zora Neale Hurston "Sweat" 1657

Write out some of the funniest lines in the story.

What happened at the end?

John dos Passos excepts from U.S.A 1755

Extra Credit - read parts from Hurston's Of Mules and Men and discuss with the class

Week 10

March 15

World War II

Norton, chs. 26-27

"Four Freedoms Speech" - Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1941

Lorraine Hansberry A Raisin in the Sun 1725

What are the themes in this famous play?

Extra Credit - watch the movie version and discuss with the class

March 17 World War II - the Home Front

Norton, ch. 26-27

Richard Wright - "The Ethics of Living Jim Crow" and "Long Black Song" - handouts

What do you learn about the experience of the African American in the South from these readings?


Week 11

March 22 - 26


Unit Three - Contemporary Period: 1945 to the Present

Week 12

March 29

Post-War America

Norton, ch. 28

Arthur Miller - The Crucible 1975

To what is Miller responding to in this play? Start movie

March 31 Cold War

Norton, ch. 29

The Sinews of Peace - Winston Churchill, March 5, 1946

Finish movie and discuss.
Week 13

April 5

Cold War II

Norton, chs. 29, 31

Allen Ginsberg 2295

What are the distinctive features of Ginsberg's poetry?

Gwendolyn Brooks 2282 and handouts

Write on one of the poems: theme, language, style

Extra Credit - read selections from other Beat writers and discuss with the class

April 7 The Civil Rights Movement

Norton, ch. 30

Martin Luther King "I Have A Dream" 2456, "Letter from Birmingham Jail" - handout

Malcolm X "The Ballet or the Bullet" 2468

What is the difference in the voice and vision of these two major African American Civil Rights leaders?

Week 14

April 12

The Offspring of Civil Rights

Norton, ch. 30

"The Problem That Has No Name" - Betty Friedan, 1963


Sylvia Plath 2370

Anne Sexton 2378

Adrienne Rich "Diving Into the Wreck" 2526

What are some of the concerns these feminist poets address?

Be sure and cite textual evidence for your answer

April 14 the 1960s

Norton, ch. 30

Week 15

April 19


Norton, ch. 31

"Gulf of Tonkin Resolutions, 1964"

"War Powers Resolution, 1973"

Tim O'Brien "In The Field" 2741

Michael Herr from Dispatches 2731

Yusef Kumunyakaa 2769

What do you learn about Viet Nam from these readings? discuss with the class

April 21 Cold War III

Norton, ch. 31

Tomás Rivera "Devour Him" 2783

Helena María Viramontes "The Cariboo Cafe" 3051

Judith Cofer "Latin Women Pray" 3044

Tato Laviera "Latero Story" 3049

What do you learn about the immigrant experience from these readings?

Extra Credit - read Gloria Analdua excerpt from Borderlands 3015 and

Week 16

April 26

American Foreign Policy after the Cold War

Norton, ch. 32

N. Scott Momaday "The Way to Rainy Mountain" 2708

Joy Harjo 3079

Sherman Alexie "Because My Father" 2928

Simon Ortiz "from Sand Creek" 3162

What are some common features you find in these writings by Native American writers? Be sure and provide textual support


May 1 The Culture Wars

Norton, chs. 32-33

Hisaye Yamamoto "Seventeen Syllables" 2535

Explain the title

Bernard Malamud "The Magic Barrel" 2499

Explain the title and the ending


Take home final exam handed out

May 3 Final Due in one of the instructor's office by noon