American Literature: Romanticism

Final Exam Assignment

official date: Tuesday, 6 December 2016

email exams deadline: midnight 7 December

(This webpage is the assignment for our course's midterm, to be updated until 29 November, when paper copies will be distributed.)

Email submission window: 30 November-7 December 11:59pm. If your exam will be late, no automatic discredit if you communicate before deadline.

Format: Email to Open-book, open-notebook: Use course web materials (strongly encouraged) + outside sources (<optional).

Official Exam Date:
Tuesday, 6 December 2016, 7-9:50pm; No regular class meeting. Classroom available for student use.

Instructor keeps office hours 1-4 & 7-10 on 6 December, Bayou 2529, 281 283 3380.

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

5-10 days after submission, each student receives individual email of final grade report including notes and grades for final exam and course.

Content: 1 mid-length essay (4-6 paragraphs) + 2 long essays (6-9 paragraphs)

Special requirements: All essays must have titles.

Somewhere in your exam you must refer to a previous final exam for this course. As variations, refer to a classmate's midterm exam this semester or a research project from any semester. (Model Assignments)

Sections’ contents may overlap or repeat somewhat. Not to worry unless you repeat too much. Acknowledge, cross-reference, economize.

Mid-length essay (4-6 paragraphs)

Review & prioritize your learning in American Romanticism.

If someone comparably educated asked you what you learned or gained from our course (and you weren’t inclined to just gripe), how would you answer? (4-6 paragraphs)

Text requirements: At least 2 or 3 texts across semester, with possible additional texts beyond our readings.

Possible emphases:

Personal / professional applications; applications to career or general learning

Refer to your midterm and research project as developments of your learning.

Questions you had about literature that were answered or came into focus.

Usefulness of a literary-historical survey like ours for learning a period or style? What worked or not and why? What challenges to overcome, to what point or advantage?

Terms, concepts, texts, or instructions that were new and helpful, or reinforced or extended previous learning?

What do your interests or accomplishments in our seminar reveal about your profile as a student of Literature? Connect to personal, academic, or professional interests beyond this course?

Highlights of semester? Connections to other courses? How are you maturing as a reader and writer?

Not looking for cheerleading but an intelligent evaluation of what you learned and can imagine doing with it. If you have criticisms or suggestions, make them work for you and me. You'll be judged not for flattery or disapproval but for critical thinking and writing about our subject, texts, and seminar in relation to your sense of  literary studies and instruction.

Long Essay Questions
Write Two Essays in response to Two of the Questions below

(6-9 paragraphs each)

1.  Why do desire and loss” re-appear so frequently in American Romantic texts, both as driving forces in the “romance” narrative and as indexes for Romantic values?

Describe the significance of this pattern for the romance narrative and its general significance to Romanticism and / or American culture, citing works by three or four writers.

*Consider Columbus, Smith, Bradstreet, Rowlandson, Edwards, Poe, Hawthorne, Douglass, Jacobs, Stowe, Whitman, Hurston, Fitzgerald, or others.

Essential / optional website(s): Desire and Loss, romance narrative, captivity narrative, slave narrative

2. How has American Romanticism continued or changed in post-Romantic American literature?—that is, literature after the Civil War and American Renaissance of the pre-Civil War generation of the1820s-1860s? Discuss Romanticism with Realism (+- Local Color) and Modernism.

Refer to at least three writers from our last four class meetings and a contemporary poem from the presentations.

Relevant writers from our last four classes: James, Jewett, Chesnutt, Faulkner, Porter, Wolfe, McKay, Hurston, Hughes, Cullen, and Fitzgerald.

Essential / optional website(s): Romanticism, American Renaissance, Realism, Local Color, Modernism, Harlem Renaissance.

3. Premise: Historically, Romanticism began in Europe and is associated with European literary traditions and cultural values. American writers most associated with this movement (Cooper, Poe, Emerson, Fitzgerald) are of European descent. In America and esp. the USA, Romanticism must adapt to a multi-racial and multicultural nation involving a dominant culture and distinct minority cultures.

Assignment: Write an essay involving three writers representing at least two of the three major early American races (or ethnicities):  European American (required), African American (required), and either Native American Indian or Mexican American (optional). (Our study of American Indian literature being limited to Apess, "An Indian's Looking-Glass for the White Man" & The Cherokee Memorials, you may refer to European American texts about American Indians. References to US-Mexican War: Thoreau, Resistance to Civil Government  & memoir of Juan Seguin.)

Consider how different races or ethnicities inherit, challenge, or fulfill the Romantic conventions, formulas, or expectations. Reflect how such questions affect our reception of Romanticism. Is this style based on universal truths, a unique set of historical and cultural conventions, or a shifting set of features that reflect the desire and perspective of the writer or audience? How does the usefulness or significance of the term “Romanticism” change?

For a European-American writer, choose a writer who represents race more or less directly, like Cooper, Stowe, or Faulkner, but if it suits your purposes, you might choose a writer who treats the issue less directly or even apparently ignores it (e.g., Irving, Porter, or Fitzgerald).

For African American writers, choose among Douglass, Jacobs, McKay, Hurston, Chesnutt, Cullen, Hughes, Smith.

What gains and risks to studying multicultural authors in a mainstream or classic literature course?


Essential / optional website(s): Romanticism, American Renaissance (including women's and African Americans' texts), multiculturaism, dominant culture, minority,


4. Citing at least three authors, review and evaluate some varieties of the Gothic encountered this semester. How and why does the Gothic recur so frequently in American literature or beyond? Why is it so adaptable to different environments, and what different purposes may it serve? Identify theological, intellectual, and cultural sources, limitations, and biases?

Default organization:

Identify or define the Gothic as a literary genre or style.

Review in detail the backgrounds and sub-categories of the Gothic encountered across the semester with examples from 3-4 authors and texts.

Evaluate the appeal and limits of the Gothic.

Possible authors: Rowlandson, Edwards, Irving, Poe, Hawthorne, Douglass, Jacobs, Chesnutt, McKay, Hughes, Cullen, Plath, Dickinson, others.

Not required but noted: The African American authors Douglass, Jacobs, McKay, Hughes, and Cullen are not gothic writers but are included among options because of their experiments inverting the gothic color code whereby symbols of white or light signify purity or virtue, while black or darkness signifies physical or moral corruption.

Essential / optional website(s): Gothic, Variations on the Gothic, Manichaeism, symbols, color code.

5. Review and defend Romantic Poetry as an essential medium for American Romanticism, explicating 2-3 poems (one of which may be outside our course readings).

How may the lyric poem be defended as the quintessential genre of Romanticism? (at least as inherited from British Romanticism). What qualities associated with Romanticism does lyric poetry exemplify?

Compare and contrast the poems you select, building either a consistent pattern of Romanticism or an appreciation of the variety the term tolerates.

Question usefulness of Romanticism in helping you read the poem. Does identifying elements, styles, or themes as “Romantic” help or hinder appreciation of the poem? (Romanticism may be so integral to American culture that it may feel more powerful and universal, more a part of nature, if what we identify with it doesn’t have a name. Knowing Romantic conventions could be distancing and deleterious to the effects of lyric poetry—identifying formulas to our pleasures may make history or ideology out of what we felt was natural—or such critical awareness may be powerful in its own right.)

Take account also of Romanticism’s limits when dealing with a poem of a complex or high quality or from another stylistic period like Modernism.

Essential / optional website(s): Romanticism, lyric poetry.

6. The "romance narrative" is among the most persistent yet elusive and challenging features of any course in Romanticism. Define the romance narrative, citing the term's complications and rewards for various audiences. Describe and evaluate its appearances and variations in at least three of our texts. For a theoretical angle, consider the potential value of studying narrative along with its conceptual challenges.

Essential / optional website(s): romance, narrative, Desire and Loss.

7. Write an essay concerning some persistent-to-occasional issue, problem, or theme significant to the course overlooked by the previous questions. Refer to course objectives or introduce and defend new objectives. Your development of this question may overlap with questions above. If your topic appears to range beyond the course's evident subject matter, rationalize and defend your topic's significance to our seminar. Relate your topic to the larger subject of American Romanticism—what relevant insights does your discussion reveal or suggest? Refer to at least three writers and their texts.

Possible items for #7: Byronic hero; transcendence and/or Transcendentalism, the tragic mulatto, period studies, women writers or gender studies.

Previous example from Model Assignments 2003: "The Mysterious Female: Elusiveness as a Means of Increasing and Prolonging Male Desire in American Romanticism"

One more question-option: If you wish to combine two questions above into one for a single essay, you may--just explain in your essay's introduction. But you still must write two essays based on questions 1-7. (Questions #1 & #6 might be easily combined.)

Grading criteria:

Surface competence / readability: An occasional careless error won't kill your grade, given time pressures, but repeated or chronic errors are remarked and factored. If you have trouble with spelling, word endings, punctuation, etc., get help from a mentor or tutor (ask them to explain help).

Content: Use, explain, and apply course terms as defined primarily by course term-links; refer frequently to objectives and texts. Explain terms. Apply definitions to text-examples. Analyze and develop text-examples of terms and definitions.

Thematic organization: emphasize central themes of your essay. Connect parts of essay to form a unified whole. Use transitions. Organize paragraphs with topic sentences. (Helpful websites: unity, continuity, and transition; Thesis, topic sentences, transition.)

The best exams use terms, themes, and objectives recognizable from class meetings, demonstrate understanding of terms and objectives with quick working definitions and application to examples from texts, while also extending and refreshing common materials with the student's own language, examples, and analyses of shared texts.

Lesser exams talk about the texts but ignore terms and objectives. Students write what they would have said before starting the course. Instructor thinks, "You could have written this without taking the course." Don't make me write this!