American Literature: Romanticism
Assignment Options

Research Journal Assignment

Research Journal due Wednesday 16 November 2016

Purpose: Students extend their range of knowledge or familiarity within the field of American Romantic literature or one of its subject areas. In brief, the journal might answer the question, "What do I want to know about this field of study, and in what types of sources or references do I find this knowledge most accessible?"

Length: Approximately 15-20 pages, though longer submissions are acceptable.

Content: Specific suggestions are given below, but overall the journal should demonstrate that you have, however briefly or tentatively, initiated and evaluated research in a significant area of scholarship.

Required sources: at least 6 secondary or background sources.

Quality: Be careful not to let the label of "journal" make you lazy. All your writings must be readable and interesting, and none should look like first drafts.

Coherence: A journal provides opportunities for variety in learning, but students should look for opportunities to organize the parts of their journal and its reviews of diverse sources into larger themes or commonalities. The introduction and conclusion provide the primary opportunity for you to summarize your learning. Also you should make connections between parts of your journal as you transition from one part to the next.

Warning regarding grading: If you choose the journal option, you are not choosing an option that involves less work than the traditional research essay option. You are expected to do just as much work and your writing will be judged by similar standards.

The writing may be less centrally or consistently focused on one subject. Thus you may pursue several subjects, which may not perfectly cohere, but the journal must be “readable” and must encourage your the reader to continue from one part to the next.

In brief, the journal I read should not be a compendium of first drafts, and the parts have to be going somewhere. If you drop subjects and introduce new ones without accounting for the shift, this amounts to bad writing in a journal just as it does in an essay. If the progression of the material doesn’t create a desire in your reader to keep reading, this is a problem in a journal just as it is in an essay.

Research journal--suggested contents: (page suggestions are for double-spaced print equivalent)

(Except for the introduction and conclusion, all the items and page numbers below are optional or variable according to your interests and findings. In no case should your journal be over 20 pages. Other options besides those listed are possible.)

Introduction (required): rationale: what you wanted to learn and how; preview contents, general themes, choices (1-1 & 1/2 pages)

(All the following “body” components are optional for inclusion or variable in length according to your topics and findings)

Reviews of two or more secondary sources. What kinds of issues and challenges does the article or book raise? What does the reader leave with, and what remains unresolved? (1 page)

Review of 2-3 websites (1-2 paragraphs on each site?)

You may suggest other possible items for inclusion in your journal.

Conclusion (required): In terms either of variety, priority, or unity, what have you learned from the gathering of your journal? Where might this knowledge take your studies or your teaching? What new issues have been introduced that you might like to study next? (2-3 pages)

For examples of previous student journals, see Model Assignments.

Sample Research Journals from previous seminars

Marichia Wyatt-Jones, Dreaming, Hallucinating, or the Devil Himself: How Do We Teach the Ambiguous “Young Goodman Brown?”

Heather Minette Schutmaat, An Exploration of the Sublime

Norbert Hill, Enhanced Elements of the Romantic Tragic Mulatto in the Realist Narrative

Jacob McCleese, Dichotomous Jazz Age

Jeanette Smith, The Fragile Sanctuary:  My Journey to Understand Elizabeth Bishop


Christine Moon, Searching for a Meaning in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance”

Kristen Bird, journal: "The American Renaissance: The Portrayal of Women vs. the Actual Woman"

Aaron Morris, "American Romanticism Journal: Romantic Language of Exploration"

Corey Porter, journal: "Who’s Reading Whom: A Brief Dissection of The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket"