2017 midterm assignment

official date: Tuesday, 24 October 1-3:50pm

email submissions window: 18 October till deadline 25 October 11:59pm

Model Assignments
for Early American Literature

Instructional Materials

(This webpage is the official midterm, to be updated until 17 October, when paper copies will be distributed.)

Official Date:  24 October 2017email midterms due by 11:59pm 25 October (If your exam will be late, communicate!).

No regular class meeting on 24 October (i.e. attendance not required.) Instructor keeps office hours during class period. Welcome to confer in person, by email or phone (281 283 3380).

Format: Open-book, open-notebook, open-webpage. Outside sources permissible but emphasize course texts, terms, and objectives.

Email your pre-midterm submission to whiteC@uhcl.edu. (Most common mistake: students send to “white” rather than “whiteC)

Attach appropriate file(s) to an email for whiteC@uhcl.edu. (Microsoft Word or Rich Text Format works, Microsoft Works doesn't)

and / or

Copy and paste contents of your essays into an email message to whiteC@uhcl.edu

Acknowledgement of receipt: Instructor usually replies that he's received your submission within a few hours (unless you send it at an odd time). If you don't see an email confirmation within 24 hours, make sure you emailed to the right address: WhiteC@uhcl.edu.

Email problems? A problem or two with email (or computers generally) is normal in a class this size. Don't panic—communicate & we'll work things out.

Spacing: Single-spacing preferred. No need to double-space, but OK if you do. All submissions are converted to single-space for reading onscreen.  

Return of grades, etc.: Approximately 1-2 weeks after submission.

3 parts to midterm exam

1. Essay 1: 6-8 paragraphs on 5-6 texts & 2-3 terms developing Objectives 1, 2, 3, 4, and/or 5.

2. Essay 2: (4-6 paragraphs) on 1 of 2 options (or combinations as inspired):

2a. Highlight and analyze a passage from our course readings—your best textual experience in comprehending course contents (terms, themes, objectives, class discussion)

2b. Favorite term, objective, concept in course + explanation & application to at least 2 texts

3. Web Highlights: Review at least 3 student contributions from course website's Model Assignments (4-6 paragraphs)

Requirement: All 3 Essays (incl. Web Highlights) must have titles. (If your essays arrive without titles, I send them back to be re-submitted with titles added.)

Advice: Start on #3 Web Highlights first in order to acquaint yourself with standards and inspire thinking.

Sections’ contents may overlap or repeat materials, but be efficient; cross-reference to economize.

No need for page documentation unless it’s something surprising. Refer to texts by full title and author's name the first time; abbreviations welcome thereafter.

1. Essay 1: 6-8 paragraph essay unifying 5-6 texts & 2-3 terms developing Objectives 1, 2, 3, 4, and/or 5.

Referring to 5-6 texts from readings before midterm and using at least 2-3 course terms, describe your learning experience in terms of Course Objectives 1, 2, 3, 4, and / or 5. (You should probably do at least two, but you may emphasize one or two of these while referring to more.)

Obj. 1. To learn about early North American and U.S.texts and cultures and make them matter now.

Obj. 2. Early American Literature as an origin story about the beginnings and evolution of North American culture and literature.

Obj. 3. To reconcile the "Culture Wars" over which America is the real America? Which America to teach?Dominant culture and / or multicultural?

Obj. 4. To gain knowledge of historical periods & attempt trans-historical unity, progress, or evolution.

Obj. 5. Can American literary and cultural history tell a single story?

Refer to selected course objectives, at least 2-3 important terms (referring to term-pages), and text-passages that illustrate or develop your points. State your central ideas and themes clearly, connect them to each other, and relate to relevant texts as you go. (You don't need to number your references to objectives as much as you need to share the objectives' and terms' language.)

Required references:

Sustained references to objective(s): 1, 2, 3, 4, and / or 5. ("Sustained" means don't just mention and drop them, but return to them and reinforce or extend.)

2-3 terms using information from term-links: Don’t just mention them—work with their term-page definitions; reconnect and extend.

5-6 Texts from course up to midterm: you may cover 1-3 texts in more detail than others. Most important: connect texts to each other—compare-contrast themes, characters, outcomes. Texts may include 1 poem or web review. (You may also involve 1-2 texts beyond course, as long as they connect.)

Your selection of texts should be from several class meetings. Warning: If you write about origin / creation stories, you cannot limit yourself to the second meeting's texts. In past semesters' midterms, several students wrote Essay 1 as though they came to the second class but never read or discussed anything afterward.

Within these limits and requirements, develop your own emphases or discuss with me or others like the Writing Center.

Priority: Write about something you care about or can make yourself care about. Develop your interest to match, vary, and extend the course’s interests.

Possible emphases—you may select, vary, combine, or ignore; plenty of other topics identifiable in the course:

Creation / Origin stories The Puritan generations  Plain Style & Baroque Voices and images of women and ethnic groups  material and spiritual aspects of American culture what's surprising and familiar about early American literature Periods of study Religion & Enlightenment Interactions between Europeans and American Indians and literature that results.

Suggestions for starting and organizing:

Describe your learning experience. What have you found most useful or rewarding? What themes or issues do you find yourself responding to?

What did you previously know about our overall subject (Early American Literature) and/or your particular interest in it?

Welcome to describe previous sources of learning: earlier courses, religious instruction, movies or cartoons, outside reading, Thanksgiving pageants, etc.

2016 midterm Long Essay samples

2014 midterm Long Essay samples

2. Essay 2: 4-6 paragraph essay on choice of 1 of 2 options (or combinations as inspired):

2a. Highlight and analyze a passage from our course readings—your best textual experience in comprehending course contents (terms, themes, objectives, class discussion)


2b. Favorite term, objective, concept in course + explanation & application to at least 2 texts

2a. Highlight & analyze a passage from our course readings—your best textual experience before the midterm—explaining why it made an impression on you. Analyze the passage’s language, how it works and connects. Apply to course terms and/or objectives + extend or apply beyond course.

  Copy and paste the passage into your exam, or refer to it so instructor can find it or know what you’re talking about. (Doesn’t count as essay length)

  You may refer to more than 1 passage, but if 2 passages, be sure to connect.

  References to discussion or lecture welcome; otherwise analyze text on its own terms, in larger context, and / or connect to other texts.

  Make it matter. Why or how does the passage speak to literary or cultural issues in and beyond our course?

2b. Favorite term, objective, concept in course + why + application to at least 2 texts

  What  term, objective, theme, or idea appeals to you the most & why? What does it help explain about your, our, or their world then or now? Why does the term or concept matter? Two textual references may be better than one.

  Connect, compare, or contrast with other terms.

  How has your understanding evolved? Where do you apply or see it?

2016 midterm Short Essay samples

2014 midterm Short Essay samples

3. Web Highlights: Review at least 3 student submissions from course website's Model Assignments (4-6 paragraphs)

Assignment: Review at least 3 submissions from previous semesters' submissions on the course webpage’s “Model Assignments” page and write 5-7 paragraphs (total) on what you found and learned.

Requirements & guidelines:

  Review at least one midterm essay from 2016, 2014, 2012, or 2010 midterm essays.

  “Review”: describe what interested you, where, why you chose it, what you learned. You may criticize what you found, but not required.

To identify passages, copy and paste brief selections into your web review or refer to them using names, locations, paraphrases, summaries, and brief quotes. (Both options in models.) Either way, highlight and discuss language used in the passages as part of your commentary. Critique what you learn.

What did you learn from reviewing model assignments that you didn't learn from in-class instruction?

Requirement: Web Highlights essay must have a title.

Note on organization and grading: Some students fulfill assignment by going through 3 assignments individually, one at a time until finished, with few or no connections or relations observed between the separate models.

Better submissions unify the three reviews into a whole, purposeful essay in which the learning experience of one review connects to the learning experience of another, and your entire learning experience is previewed and summarized in the essay's introduction and conclusion.

Successful submissions sometimes start by identifying a subject or assignment of interest, then choosing Model Assignments that meet those interests.

Or unify your essay by relating what you learned from one Model Assignment to what you learned from another, or start with a theme, idea, term, or question that all three of your models connect to and you want to learn about.

2016 midterm Web Highlights samples

2014 midterm Web Highlights samples 

Evaluation standards:  Readability & surface competence, content quality, and unity / organization.

  Readability & surface competence: Your reader must be able to process what you're reporting. Given the pressures of a timed writing exercise, some rough edges are acceptable, but chronic errors or elementary style can hurt.

  Content quality: Comprehension of subject, demonstration of learning, + interest & significance. Use of course website materials, esp. terms, objectives, Model Assignments.

Reproduce course materials, especially through reference to terms and objectives, but also refresh with your own insights and experiences. Avoid: "You could have written this without taking the course."

  Thematic Unity and Organization: Unify materials along a line of thought that a reader can follow from start to finish.