LITR 4328 American Renaissance

official date: Monday, 10 December 2018

email exam deadline: Wednesday noon, 12 December

(This webpage is the assignment for our course's midterm, to be updated until 3 December, when paper copies are distributed.)

Email submission window: Tuesday 4 Decembernoon Wednesday, 12 December. If your exam will be (somewhat) late, no automatic discredit if you communicate before deadline.

Format: Email to Open-book, open-notebook: Use of outside sources optional; use of course web materials expected / required.

Official Exam Date:
Monday, 10 December 2018, 4-6:50pm; No regular class meeting. Classroom available for student use. Instructor keeps office hours 3-7pm on 10 December, Bayou 2529-7, 281 283 3380.

Relative weight of final exam: 30-40% of final grade

Grade return: 5-10 days after submission, each student receives individual email of final grade report including notes and grades for final exam and research project.

Three (3) essays for final exam

Essay A: One (1) mid-length essay from A1 or A2  reviewing & prioritizing your learning about the American Renaissance / American Romanticism or selected terms or subjects. (5-6 paragraphs)

Essay B: One (1) long essay on poetry & styles of Poe, Whitman, and Dickinson. (6-9 paragraphs)

Essay C: One (1) long essay from C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, or C6 (6-9 paragraphs)

Special requirements: All essays must have titles.

Somewhere in your exam you must refer to something you learned (or a quotation) from a previous final exam for this course. (As variations, you may refer to one of your classmates' midterm exams—i.e., this semester—or to a research project from any semester.) (Model Assignments)

Don't fear over-reliance on help from model answers. I'm usually impressed with references to previous students' learning.

Options: Sections’ contents may overlap or repeat. Not to worry unless you repeat too much. Acknowledge, cross-reference, economize, or extend repeated material to new insights.

A. One mid-length essay: EITHER A1 OR A2 (5-6 paragraphs)
Choose ONE of the options under A1 & A2:
that is, choose EITHER A1 OR A2—not both!
(A1 & A2 have internal options, but write only one mid-length essay) (5-6 paragraphs)
For models of A1 & A2, see 2017 model finals, 2016 model finals, 2015 model finals, 2013 model finals, 2012 model finals & 2010 model finals

A1. Review & prioritize your learning in the American Renaissance. (5-6 paragraphs). If someone comparably educated asked you what you learned from American Renaissance, how would you answer?

Possible starts: review your midterm's long essay (learning, challenges, issues concerning American Renaissance / American Romantic literature), summarizing how your learning since the midterm has extended or changed your insights at the midterm; or start with an important insight after the midterm. What's the first thing you think about when you reflect on our course?

Your answers may overlap somewhat with your other two essays.

Text requirements: Refer to at least two texts (at least one since midterm) that illustrate your theme, and to class discussions, instructions, or course term-pages that helped.

Possible emphases: (Suggestions below are not a check-list—only potential prompts to help you start or develop material. You're not expected to answer every item.)

Review theme(s) from your midterm Essay 1 and extend to new texts, ideas, etc. (Not required, but possible.) (Midterm Essay 1 assignment: describe and evaluate your learning experience concerning the American Renaissance a.k.a. the Romantic period in American literature.)

What big or important idea about literature or our period of study mattered the most to you, for any reason? Why? What can you do with this idea?

What knowledge or confidence did you gain in reading or teaching "classic American literature?"

Personal / professional uses? Applications to career or general learning?

What do your interests in the course reveal about your profile as a Literature major (or other major), and how do these interests connect to academic or professional interests beyond this course?

Highlights of semester? Connections to other courses? How does this course fit your maturation as a reader and writer?

Not looking for cheerleading but an intelligent measure of what you learned and can imagine doing with it. If you have criticisms, make them work for you and me. You're judged not for flattery or disapproval but for your thinking and writing about our texts, subjects, terms, objectives, and classroom style as you relate them to your sense of learning and teaching in our world.

A1 option
(variation on "Review & prioritize your learning in American Renaissance")

Describe what you learned about Romanticism as a term or concept for a literary or cultural style or period? Connect Romanticism to related terms or concepts in American Renaissance or other courses (e.g., gothic, Transcendentalism, the Sublime). If helpful, review and extend any relevant parts from your midterm, but not required. You may also refer to your research project insofar as it added to the learning you describe here.

Text requirements: Refer to at least two texts (at least one since midterm) for examples, or maybe more texts if briefly.

Possible emphases: (Suggestions below are not a check-list—only potential prompts to help you start or develop material. You're not expected to answer every item.)

Review theme(s) from your midterm and extend to new texts, ideas, etc. (Not required, but possible.)

What did you come in knowing about Romanticism, and how has that understanding extended, changed, or redeveloped?

When you think now of the term Romanticism, what comes first to your mind? What connections can you make from this starting point?

Which texts this semester taught you the most about Romanticism, which texts now seem to exemplify Romanticism, and / or which texts varied the concept of Romanticism productively.

Consider explaining the concept of Romanticism as you would teach it to a particular group or grade-level of students.

What is the range of Romanticism? What does it include and exclude? What terms fall under it or escape it?

A2. Mid-length essay option on 1 or 2 selected terms or subjects: (choose one or connect two)

Overall assignment: Write 5-6 paragraphs defining or describing the term or subject and its significance. Referring to appropriate term-pages, apply your definition to at least two texts and . Summarize an overall point about your learning experience. Welcome to review and extend any parts of your midterm that may apply, but not required. You may also refer to your research project insofar as it applies to your subject here.

Required: You must refer to the term-page(s) link provided.

Civil Disobedience  / Passive Resistance

Sentimental / Domestic Literature in the American Renaissance (+ / - sentimental stereotypes)

Religious literature or references discussed as literature in public schools? +- Religion in America

Transcendentalism +- Unitarianism & Deism & Second Great Awakening

Texts to consider:

  Civil Disobedience & Passive Resistance: Thoreau's Resistance to Civil Government (1849), Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1851-2); Levi Coffin, Reminiscences

instructional website(s): civil disobedience tradition(s)

  Sentimental / Domestic Literature in the American Renaissance (+ or - sentimental stereotypes): Susan B. Warner, The Wide, Wide World (1850); Maria Susanna Cummins, The Lamplighter (1854); Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin (1851-2); Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861); for sentimental stereotypes. consider Harriet Beecher Stowe, "Sojourner Truth, the Libyan Sibyl"; Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

instructional website(s): sentiment or sentimentality, domestic literature, sentimental stereotypes

Religious literature or references discussed as literature in public schools? Susan B. Warner, The Wide, Wide World (1850); Maria Susanna Cummins, The Lamplighter (1854); Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin (1851-2); Harriet Beecher Stowe, "Sojourner Truth, the Libyan Sibyl"; Frederick Douglass, A Narrative of the Life (1845); Abraham Lincoln, The House Divided Speech; The Gettysburg Address; The 2nd Inaugural Address; Rebecca Harding Davis, Life in the Iron Mills (1861)

instructional website(s): 2nd Great Awakening; Beecher family; Teaching Literature with Religion 

Transcendentalism: Ralph Waldo Emerson, selections from Nature (1836), Margaret Fuller, The Great Lawsuit, Henry David Thoreau, Resistance to Civil Government (1849), Emerson, Thoreau; Louisa May Alcott, from Hospital Sketches (1863)

instructional website(s): Transcendentalism; Unitarianism

Models: scroll to A1 & A2 at 2017 model finals, 2016 model finals, 2015 model finals; 2013 model finals; 2012 model finals; 2010 model finals

Essay B: One (1) long essay on poetry & styles of Poe, Whitman, and Dickinson
(6-9 paragraphs)

Below are three lyric poems, one apiece by Poe, Whitman, and Dickinson.  Explain how each poet's formal style and subject matter identify him or her as its author—that is, how can you tell which is a poem by Poe, Whitman, or Dickinson? Where do these poems (or poets) fit on the formal verse-free verse spectrum?

Refer to the poems below, to other poems by these authors, to their style guides, and to the Comparative Study of Poe, Whitman, Dickinson.

Describe, compare, and contrast Poe's, Whitman's and Dickinson's unique styles and subjects.

Edgar Allan Poe, "The City in the Sea"        (Poe style guide)

Walt Whitman, "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer"       (Whitman style guide)

Emily Dickinson, "[I heard a fly buzz, when I died"       (Dickinson style guide)

Essential elements of answer:

· What aspects of the poem are characteristic of Poe, Whitman and Dickinson? In some instances, how may these poems be not characteristic—that is, in what ways may they surprise what you expect from these poets?

· Identify characteristic (or non-characteristic) stylistic devices, particularly their uses of formal verse and / or free verse (required). Develop brief working definitions and apply to examples in the poems.

· Identify characteristic (or non-characteristic) subject matter (also part of an author's style).

· Compare Poe, Whitman, and Dickinson in relation to each other.

·  Introduction and / or conclusion: What do you gain, learn, or experience about poetry or classic American literature by comparing them to each other? What do you learn about free verse and formal verse?

Model Assignments: See 2017 model finals, 2016 model finals; 2015 model finals

  Essay C: One (1) long essay from C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, or C6 (6-9 paragraphs)

Answer One Question (or combine 2 into a single topic)

For all questions below you may review and extend any relevant parts of your midterm exam, but not required. References also welcome to your research project but not required.

C1. Varieties and significance of the Gothic. Define the Gothic & describe its various characteristics and uses in 3-4 course readings, mostly since the midterm.

Review Irving’s use of the Gothic (pre-midterm), but refer more extensively to Poe, Hawthorne, and Davis. (You may use Poe’s stories, poems, or both.)

You may also refer to at least one other text or author (The Gothic may appear only briefly or tangentially in ways we may not have discussed, but plenty of examples; e.g. Dickinson, Stowe?).

Explore the significance of the Gothic (required). Why do authors return to these conventions in new settings or situations? Obviously the gothic is a hook for readers, but how and why does the gothic hook us over and over again in so many different forms or contexts? What does it achieve besides interest or entertainment? How and why does it persist in contemporary popular culture and literature?

Essential websites: gothic, gothic variations

Models: from 2017, Tedra Mendoza, Variations of the Gothic; from 2016, Adrian Russell, The Evolution of Gothic American Literature, Clark Omo, Examining the Darkness, Cassandra Waggett, Variations of the Gothic: Exploring Morality, Gender and Grief, Laura Elizabeth Wilson, The Gothic: American Tragedies; from 2015: Karin Cooper, Dank, Dark and Disgusting: The Gothic; from 2013: Jenna Crosson, There is Gothic in Everything We Read; for 2012 scroll to B1 at 2012 final examIndex to Sample Answers; Models from 2010; Models from 2008; Models from 2004

C2. Literature & Morality. A constantly changing hyper-modern culture like the USA incessantly raises questions about moral understanding and behavior. Like Rip Van Winkle, we wake every day to a world whose fashions, values, and rules have changed (with no going back to an earlier, simpler time besides nostalgia or self-isolation).

Most Americans react to our incessantly-changing ("hypermodern") society in two extreme ways:

reactionary fundamentalism (a.k.a. "moralism" or "moralizing")—“A woman’s place is in the home,” “It’s their own fault,” “Just say no” (upside: definite, absolute, and certain; downside: simplistic, divisive, polarizing, vain & self-righteous) 


progressive relativism: "Live and let live," "You are not the judge of me," "As long as you feel all right about it . . . ." (upside: tolerance, open-mindedness, potential for dialogue; downside: indifference, casualness, or slackness in challenging situations)

          Rather than choosing between intense narrow-mindedness or careless open-mindedness, classic writers like Hawthorne, Whitman, Margaret Fuller, Susan B. Warner (Wide, Wide World), Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry David Thoreau, Harriet Jacobs, Frederick Douglass, and Emily Dickinson, or great leaders like Abraham Lincoln, and minority writers like Harriet Jacobs or Frederick Douglass admit that morality is important but complicated.

          Referring to writings by at least two of these writers (and others in or beyond course), describe how moral problems are depicted vividly and significantly but without a simple, reductive moral judgment of who is right or wrong, or innocent or guilty. Compare / contrast different writers' approaches.

Give a picture of the moral situation in which characters or people find themselves.

What does a reader learn and what pleasure or benefit is gained from such writings? (Purpose of literature to entertain and instruct)

What responsibilities, rewards, and risks of studying complex moral issues as part of literary studies?

Models: from 2015, see Joshua Van Horn, Moral Complexity in the Romantic Era; from 2013, see Mickey Thames, Thoreau and Lincoln—A Time to Sit, and A Time to Fight; for earlier models scroll to B2 at 2012 final examIndex to Sample Answers; Models from 2010; Models of Essay 2 from 2008; Models of Essay 2 from 2006; Models of Essay 2 from 2004

C3. Literature and History. Our "American Renaissance” course surveys literature in a dynamic & formative period of American history—the generations before the Civil War. How have our readings developed* your ideas of history, or how has history developed your idea of literature? How may Literature & History be productively combined to encourage student learning? [*“Developed” = extended, confirmed, changed, challenged, etc.]

Two ways to organize:

Start with interesting, applicable, and resonant historical fact(s) or idea(s) you learned, then develop through text analysis or reaction


Start with texts that brought history suddenly and dramatically to life and explain your reactions.

Possible themes: How do literary texts support, contradict, or potentially enrich the study of history? Vice versa, how does history enrich the study of literary texts from the past? As usual, compare, contrast, connect.

Text requirements: Three course-texts connected by history or learning experience.

Possible websites: civil disobedience tradition(s); The 2nd Great Awakening, Mexican-American War; Civil War Casualties

Possible authors / texts: Alcott; Lincoln; Whitman; Sojourner Truth; Frederick Douglass; Harriet Jacobs; Margaret Fuller; Thoreau; Stanton; Stowe; Whitefield; Davis, Life in the Iron Mills

Models: from 2017, Diane Oneydy Alonzo, American Renaissance: The Era That Started the War; Kristin Mizell, The Importance of Historical Context; Timothy Morrow, The American Renaissance and the Historical Knowledge It Lends; Justin Murphy, HIST 201: American Renaissance ; Jessica Zepeda, Literature & History; for 2012 scroll to B3 at 2012 final examIndex to Sample Answers; Models from 2010

C4. Classic, Popular, & Representative Literature. Write an essay comparing classic, popular, and representative authors and literature in terms of their differing (or overlapping) styles, values, audiences, and appeals. How do these different styles fulfill literature's dual purpose of entertaining and instructing?

Define classical, popular, and representative literature and develop examples from our course and beyond.  (Suggestions below.)

Some authors may fit more than one category—no problem if you explain.

What different pleasures, benefits, and challenges does each category offer a reader in our time?  How were they received in their own time and by periods following their publication?

For what different purposes are these types of literature written?

What can we learn from reading across these different categories of literature? What different readers might be attracted to the different categories?

Which balance of categories, is most appropriate for a college literature class like ours?  What about other literature classrooms?

As usual, compare & contrast from start to finish, for the sake of sparking ideas and weaving organization.

Summarize your learning experience with possible applications to research or teaching.

websites: classic, popular, and representative authors and literature; Alternative American Renaissance; Purpose of literature to entertain and instruct.

Examples from our course readings: (not exhaustive—welcome to bring in others)

“Classic” authors and texts: Dickinson; Hawthorne; Emerson; Irving; Thoreau

“Popular” authors and texts: Irving, Poe, Stowe; you may also refer to popular authors beyond this course.

“Representative” texts and authors: Frederick Douglass; Sojourner Truth; Harriet Jacobs; Margaret Fuller; Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

*Also consider authors who combine or cross categories: Poe, Douglass, Stowe, Irving, Fuller.

Models: from 2017, Bradley Tarpey, The Hierarchy of Literature; from 2016, Austin Green, Classifying the Canon, Kimberly Hall, There Is No Box: Thoughts on Classic, Popular, and Representative Literature; from 2012: scroll to B4 at 2012 final examIndex to Sample Answers; Models from 2010; Models of Essay 4 from 2008; Models of Essay 4 from 2006; Models of Essay 4 from 2004

C5. Romanticism & Realism. Compare and contrast the styles of Romanticism and Realism in 2 or 3 texts from our course. These texts may entirely represent Romanticism (e.g., anything by Poe) or Realism (Life in the Iron Mills, "The Wound-Dresser"), or you may examine both Romanticism and Realism in a single text (e.g., Uncle Tom's Cabin, Life in the Iron Mills, "The Wound-Dresser") or some combination of these approaches. 2 or 3 texts total required in any case.

Essential term websites: Romanticism; Realism

Models: from 2017: Alisha Blue, Identifying the Realism From and Within Romanticism; from 2016: Eric Howell, The Cycle of Romanticism and Realism; from 2013: Briana Perry, Elevated Romanticism, Blunt Realism; Mickey Thames, Romantic Sentiments in a Realistic World; Kayla Davis, The Realities of Romanticism; from 2015: Sarah Hurt, Romanticism as an Aid for Realism; Michael McDonald, Hawkeye vs Hugh: The Battle Between What Is Real & What We Wish Was

C6. Combine topics for Essay C: Combine two or more Assignment C topics above into a single essay—but please indicate which topic choices are involved and how and why you're connecting the topics.

General grading standards: Readability, competence levels, content quantity and quality, and thematic unity.

Readability & surface competence: Your reader must be able to process what you're reporting. Some rough edges are acceptable, but chronic errors or elementary style limit quality.

   Review & edit your midterm before submitting. Don't make instructor write, "You expected me to read your midterm when you didn't even read it yourself?"   

Content quantity and quality:

   Evidence of learning, esp. understanding of terms and application to texts.

   Coverage and analysis of required texts.

   Use of course resources including instructional webpages (esp. for terms) + materials from class discussion and lecture.

   Interest & significance: Make your reader want to process your essays by making the information meaningful to our study of literature and culture.

Thematic unity / organization: Unify materials along a line of thought that a reader can follow from start to finish.

Dr. White's Instructional Materials