American Literature: Romanticism

Midterm Assignment

(This webpage is the assignment for our course's midterm, to be updated until 4 October, when paper copies will be distributed.)

Due: email midterms due by Wednesday 12 October 11:59pm. Receipt acknowledged within 24 hours.

No regular class meeting on 11 October (i.e. attendance not required.) Instructor keeps office hours during class period. Welcome to confer re midterm, research proposals, etc.

Open-book, open-notebook, open webpage. Use course materials + outside sources (<optional).

Special requirement: Essays, web reviews, and research plan must have titles.

Special notes: Sections’ contents may overlap / repeat; acknowledge, cross-reference, economize; each part read on its own terms.

If your exam will be late, communicate.

Model Assignments

Model Midterm Submissions 2015

Model Midterm Submissions 2013

Model Midterm Submissions 2010

Model Midterm Submissions 2008

Model Midterm Submissions 2006

Midterm Contents

4 parts to midterm

1. Long essay (options)

  • 1a. Describe and focus learning, challenges, backgrounds, and potential applications for studies in American Romanticism. (7-10 paragraphs)

  • 1b. Describe, analyze, and illustrate a term, objective, or combination(s) from our course as especially helpful for comprehending or extending American Romanticism; alternatively you may start with a text or texts exemplifying American Romanticism, then proceed to terms, objectives, etc.

2. Short essay (4-6 paragraphs) (options) (or combinations as inspired) :

  • 2a. Highlight and analyze a passage from our course readings—your best textual experience (plus or minus class discussion, lecture, or web support) in comprehending course contents (terms, themes, objectives)

  • 2b. Choose a previously-read literary text, American or otherwise, Romantic or otherwise; apply course terms & themes / objectives; comparisons-contrasts, connects-disconnects, learning outcomes.

3. Web highlights: Review at least 3 posts from course website's Model Assignments (5-8 paragraphs)

4. Research proposal indicating choice of research options (essay, journal, or posts) and likely content (2+ paragraphs)

Details for Midterm Parts 1-4

Requirements for references to objectives: you may refer to part or all of any objective, or combinations;
some students refer to objectives via numbers, etc., but most simply integrate terms or headings
from objectives with enough prominence that references are evident.

1. Long essay (options)

Text requirements: refer to at least 3-4 texts (depending on extent of references) from readings to midterm (featuring at least 3 authors). Outside, additional, or later texts may be referred to, but maintain focus on shared texts of American Romanticism thus far.

Write a unified, thesis-driven essay fulfilling or answering the following topics or questions. (These are options, not checklists.)

1a. Describe and focus backgrounds, learning, challenges, issues, potential applications for studies in American Romanticism. (7-10 paragraphs)

What idea, understanding, or image of American Romanticism is created by our texts, objectives, terms, and discussions? How  does this image build from or depend on earlier courses and readings, and what purpose may it serve in your larger academic or professional career?

Following our reading schedule to midterm, how has American Romanticism emerged chronologically from early European settlement to the American Renaissance? How have European models or terms of Romanticism adapted to the natural and cultural history of the North American colonies and the early USA?

Consider beginning with a “focusing background or experience”—previous knowledge or a text, passage, objective, or insight that provides traction for comprehending our course materials—then expand or  apply to other texts with consistent theme and appropriate variations.

Or organize by problem-solution or question-answer involving objective(s), texts, and/or expectations or assumptions operating in class discussion. What issue do you or the seminar continually return that helps you imagine American Romanticism? Why or how does American Romanticism matter?

Another possible organization is your progress from partial knowledge, confusion, etc. to increasing knowledge, familiarity, applications.


1b. Describe, analyze, and illustrate a term, objective, or combinations from our course that is especially helpful for comprehending or extending American Romanticism. (7-10 paragraphs)

Start with a central term or an objective (or part of an objective), but expand focus by end to emphasize learning (or potential learning) about Romanticism or American Romanticism generally.

Alternatively, start with a text or texts exemplifying American Romanticism, then proceed to terms, objectives, etc., followed by application of themes or insights to other texts.

As with 1a, considert tracing the development or evolution of your selected term or objective according to our mostly-chronological reading schedule. How has your selected aspect of American Romanticism emerged from early European settlement to the American Renaissance? How have European models or terms of Romanticism adapted to the natural and cultural history of the North American colonies and the early USA?

Long essay samples from 2010; midterm samples 2013; midterm samples 2015

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

2a. Describe best textual experience (plus or minus class discussion) in comprehending course contents (terms, themes, objectives)

Highlight 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 toward essay length)

You may refer to more than 1 passage, but more material may equal shallower analysis. If 2 passages, be sure to connect.

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

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

One way to make your passage matter is to connect it to other course readings; e.g. Ligeia as dark lady > Cora in Mohicans


2b. Apply course terms & themes or objectives to a previously-read literary text, American or otherwise, Romantic or otherwise; comparisons-contrasts, connects-disconnects to course readings and objectives. (3-5 paragraphs)

New assignment, so no models—Questions? Suggestions?

Suggested examples—You may go beyond:

Romantic texts from other courses or contexts: Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre; Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights; poetry by Wordsworth or other English Romantic poets

Texts from any period that might be considered as "American Romanticism" but not on our reading list.

American texts / authors from Realist period (later 1800s): Kate Chopin, The Awakening; Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn; Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence; Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence

Texts from non-English Romantic traditions; e.g. Goethe or Schiller of Germany, Victor Hugo or Alexandre Dumas of France.

Examples from popular genres that depend on a Romantic or post-Romantic worldview: science fiction, detective fiction, fantasy, adventure, travel, etc. (Beware pop-culture celebration and slacking—analyze critically.)

Consider referring to a film or visual arts, but again beware pop-culture celebration and slacking—analyze critically.

Likely contents:

Identify course terms, objectives, discussions in your selected text.

Relate to texts read for our course; e.g., similar passages, character types, Romantic rhetoric, romance narrative, etc. 

Short essay samples from 2010 (2b not an option for 2010); midterm samples 2013; midterm samples 2015

3. Web highlights: Review at least 3 posts from course website's Model Assignments

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

Requirements & guidelines:

At least one Model Assignment must be a midterm from American Romanticism's previous semesters. You may restrict your review to midterms, but research projects, research proposals, final exams, and presentations are available from several semesters. Reviewing research projects may help your proposal.

“Review”: quickly describe what interested you, where, why, and what you learned or admired. You may criticize what you found, but not required.

To identify model passages you’re responding to, copy and paste brief selections into your web review, or simply refer to them using paraphrases, summaries, and brief quotations. (You'll see both options in models.) Either way, highlight and discuss the language used in the passages as part of your review. Critique what you’re reviewing for what you learn or where it lets down.

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

midterm samples 2015

midterm samples 2013

Web highlights from  2010

4. Research Proposal. As part 4 of your midterm, write at least 2 paragraphs with the following content. More is more!

Provisionally choose your research option: essay, journal, 2 research posts, or conference proposal / presentation / learning commentary.

Indicate subject matter or range of possible subjects.

Explore or preview what you wish to learn or accomplish, especially in terms of your reading, research, or career interests.

Ask question(s) to which instructor may respond in reply.

Instructor will reply to research proposal by email upon receipt of midterm.

Research Projects 2015

Research Projects 2013

Research Projects 2010

Research Proposals 2006

Instructor response to research proposal: Instructor will acknowledge receipt of email midterm and, in same reply-message, will briefly respond to your research proposal. Email exchange may continue.

Research projects developing interdisciplinary or cross-cultural topics welcome.

You may change your option or topic by notifying the instructor before the last minute.


Your topic should be recognizable as having something to do with our course's subject of American Romantic Literature, though you can compare and contrast this subject with other literary or historical traditions.

You are not automatically limited to authors, texts, or cultures in the syllabus.

If your topic changes drastically, let me know so I won’t be surprised and think the wrong things when I see it.

Documentation for midterm essays: no need for “Works Cited” or bibliography unless your essay goes beyond our shared readings, or you want to list some sources in your research plan.

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

Page or paragraph numbers in parentheses are welcome but not essential unless very odd or surprising.

If documentation problems arise, I’ll ask about them (won’t declare war).

If this all sounds casual, the midterm remains an exam, not necessarily a paper for presentation or publication beyond our course

Example from a 2008 midterm:

Jonathan Edwards’ “Personal Narrative” could be seen as one extended account of his sublime religious experiences. He repeatedly describes his walks in the fields and pastures and how in his meditations “there came into [his] mind a sweet sense of the glorious majesty and grace of God, that [he] knew not how to express.” Nature is clearly key to his moments of transcendence, as Mary Brooks notes in her midterm: “Edwards finds his sublime religious meaning from being alone in the vastness of nature and from encountering all the vast array of phenomena that nature has to hold.” Yet I differ from Brooks in her notion that Edwards finds  his religious meaning through nature alone. Edwards describes moments that are extremely emotional, almost otherworldly; while they do take place in nature and are sometimes a response to nature, they are even more a product of a mind and heart attuned to the metaphysical in everything. Ultimately, his sensitive spiritual nature leads him to a profound pleasure/pain response: “I seemed to see them both in a sweet conjunction: majesty and meekness joined together…an awful sweetness; a high, and great, and holy gentleness,” and again later, “And his blood and atonement has appeared sweet…which is always accompanied with an ardency of spirit, and inward strugglings and breathings, and groanings, that cannot be uttered, to be emptied of myself, and swallowed up in Christ.” Particularly in this second quote, we can see how the pleasure/pain sublime response leads to change, or at least a desire for change, in Edwards’s life. . . .

Instructor’s response: Within a few hours of receiving your email midterm, instructor will acknowledge receipt and include a brief reply regarding your research proposal.

 A week or two after submission, you'll receive an email from instructor including your grade report with a midterm grade filled in and notes on your essays and web review.

General grading standards: Readability, competence levels, evidence of learning, thematic unity, and interest.

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.

Content quality:

Evidence of learning.

Evidence of reading & coverage 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.