LITR 4328 American Renaissance
Midterm assignment
(long essay, short essay, web highlights & research proposal)

official date: Monday, 1 October 2018

email midterms due by midnight 3 October

1865 American flag

(This webpage is the assignment for our midterm, to be updated until 24 September, when paper copies will be distributed.)

Official Date:  1 October 2018. Email midterms due by midnight 3 October (If your exam will be late, communicate!)

No regular class meeting on 1 October (i.e. attendance not required.) Instructor keeps office hours during class period. Welcome to confer re midterm, research proposals, etc.

Email: Any time after class on Monday, 24 September and by midnight Wednesday 3 October. Write in Word or Rich Text Format file; attach or paste into email message to

Edit / proofread before hitting "send."

Format: Open-book, open-notebook, open-webpage. Outside sources permissible but emphasize course website resources: texts, terms, objectives, Model Assignments, etc.

Documentation? See information below, after description of parts to midterm.

4 parts to midterm
(Consider doing parts 4 & 3 first.)

1. Long essay: Describe and evaluate your learning experience concerning the American Renaissance a.k.a. the Romantic period in American literature. (6-8 paragraphs)

2. Short essay on 1 of 2 options (4-6 paragraphs):

2a. Choose and analyze a passage from our course readings—your best textual experience for comprehending course terms, themes, or objectives.

2b. Identify your favorite term, objective, concept in course: define, evaluate, & apply to 1-2 readings

3. Web Highlights: Essay reviewing at least 3 submissions on the course website's Model Assignments (5 paragraphs).

4. Research proposal (2+ paragraphs) indicating research option and topic(s)

Special requirement: Essays & Research proposals must have titles.

Special notes: Sections’ contents may overlap or repeat. Acknowledge, cross-reference, economize.

Preparation: Draft your Research Proposal & Web Highlights first? Research proposals are often surprisinglly slack, and seeing how previous students performed on a similar midterm can give you ideas and help organize your thoughts.

Welcome to email, phone, or confer with instructor before, during or after exam.

Warning about content: You're always invited to lead with or integrate your own ideas, but your ideas must interact with the course's terms and objectives. Don't make me tell you, "You could have written this without taking the course." Show what you're learning, not just what you already or always thought.

Assignment Details

1. Long essay: Referring to at least 4 texts (from 27 Aug. to 24 Sept.) and to the course's central terms and objectives, describe and evaluate your learning experience concerning the American Renaissance a.k.a. the Romantic period in American literature.

Possible approaches: You can't cover everything & aren't expected to—prioritize, emphasize, organize some materials at the expense of others. Think about what you care about most and develop with examples and analysis.

Review your previous knowledge of course's authors, texts, terms, time period, etc., then describe how this initial understanding has grown, changed, found new applications, etc.

Start with authors, their texts, and their significance to American literature, history, and culture, then detail how and why individual authors can matter to readers now, . . . OR . . .

Focus on a specific aspect of the course that appeals to your interests, then extend and connect to course texts, terms and objectives that develop your interests.

In discussing Romanticism, welcome to compare it to the previous literary period & style (Enlightenment / Age of Reason) or the subsequent period & style of Realism.

More on required texts: One of your minimal 4 texts can be a poem presented in class. Beyond those numbers, refer to as many poems as helpful. You may also refer to visual art in the Hudson River School of American Romantic Painters, but not required.

Model Assignments for Midterm Long Essay
(Don't fear repeating someone else's ideas—usually helps.)

Models of long essay from American Renaissance 2017 Models of long essay from American Renaissance 2016

Models of long essay from American Renaissance 2015

Models of long essay from American Renaissance 2013

Models of long essay from American Renaissance 2012

Models of long essay from American Renaissance 2010


2. Short essay (4-6 paragraphs). Choose & indicate either 2a or 2b. If combining options, announce at start of essay.

2a. Select and analyze a passage from our course texts—your best reading experience so far—explaining why it made an impression on you and how it relates to our course. Analyze the passage’s language for how it appeals to your interests and the course's terms and objectives, + extend or apply beyond course?

Copy and paste the passage into your exam, or refer to it so instructor knows what you’re talking about. (Copying & pasting the passage doesn’t count toward required essay length.)

You may refer to more than 1 passage, but too much material may make for shallow analysis. If 2 passages, relate them to each other.

Explain context (i.e. source-text); review discussion, lecture, relevant terms, objectives, + information from links on course website or connections to other texts.

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

text selection: any text featured so far in class, whether assigned readings, poetry presentations, or web reviews.

2b. Favorite term or objective & why + apply to 1-2 texts

What  term or course objective appeals to you the most & why? What use can you make of it in this or other courses, or in readings beyond school? Why does the term or its application matter?

Use course website links to establish a "working definition" of the term that you can apply to one or more course texts. You can certainly use your own language, but you should not ignore the information provided.

Apply your term or objective to one or more passages from one or more of our course texts so far. How does the passage from the text support, extend, challenge, or enrich your working definition?

Connect, compare, or contrast with other terms.

Conclusion: How has your understanding evolved? What do you learn? Show how the term or idea helps you with the text, course, or literature generally.

Model Assignments for Midterm Short Essay
(Don't fear repeating someone else's ideas—usually helps.)

Models of Short Essay 2 from American Renaissance 2017 Models of Short Essay 2 from American Renaissance 2016

Models of Short Essay 2 from American Renaissance 2015

Models of Short Essay 2 from American Renaissance 2013

Models of Short Essay 2 from American Renaissance 2012

Models of Short Essay 2 from American Renaissance 2010


3. Web Highlights: Write a complete essay reviewing what you found and learned from at least 3 submissions on the course website’s “Model Assignments” page. (5+ paragraphs of your writing).

At least one Model Assignment must be a midterm from a previous semester. All three may be midterms (including previous Web Highlights essays), but research projects and final exams are welcome.

“Review”: describe what interested you, where, why, what you learned, what impressed or surprised. 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 locations, paraphrases, summaries, and brief quotes. (Both options appear 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?

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 with introduction and conclusion, in which the learning experience of one review connects to the learning experience of another, and your entire learning experience is previewed in the introduction and summarized in the essay's conclusion.

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

Model Assignments for Midterm Web Highlights
(Don't fear repeating someone else's ideas—usually helps.)

Models of Web Highlights from American Renaissance 2017 Models of Web Highlights from American Renaissance 2016

Models of Web Highlights from American Renaissance 2015

Models of Web Highlights from American Renaissance 2013

Models of Web Highlights from American Renaissance 2012

Models of Web Highlights from American Renaissance 2010


4. Research proposal (2+ paragraphs) indicating research project & options + content

Click on research proposal for requirements and research options.

Stuck between options or topics? Explain & instructor will try to help.

Model Assignments for Research Proposals
(Don't fear repeating someone else's ideas—usually not that big a deal.)

research proposals 2016

research proposals 2015

research proposals 2013

research proposals 2012

Any of your answers may refer to your research plans, but #4 is required as a separate element.


Documentation?—No documentation required for references to course texts except for citing author, title, & context in your text.

Example from a 2006 midterm:

In “Resistance to Civil Government” Thoreau uses a mix of Romantic language and sublime imagery to make the individual the supreme authority from which governments derive their power: “when an acorn and a chestnut fall side by side, the one does not remain inert to make way for the other, but both obey their own laws, and spring and grow and flourish as best they can, till one, perchance, overshadows and destroys the other.  If a plant cannot live according to its nature, it dies; and so a man.” The moral reference to nature is specifically Romantic in that it recalls the simplicity of the natural world and the natural order. The analogy of competition requires the reader to consider the role of governments and individuals in both their natural urges and their moral obligations to themselves and each other. . . .

Instructor’s response to midterm: When instructor acknowledges receipt of your midterm with an email reply, you'll also receive an ungraded response to  your research proposal. Response may be only “yes” + brief note since many students change their option or topic. The proposal’s purpose is less to commit than to start thinking and planning.

Welcome to continue email exchange with further questions about research proposal, project.

7-10 days after turning in midterm, you’ll receive an email with your midterm grade and some paragraphs of feedback.

Feedback tries to be brief, but sometimes it's long for the sake of trying to help however possible.

  • Many students don’t read instructor’s comments or scan through them on cellphone. (Best students review possibilities for improvement.)

  • An exam's purpose may be less instruction than exercise of memory, critical thinking, writing.

  • Ask for more feedback or a conference—I'm impressed if / when you do.

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