American Literature: Romanticism
Assignment Options

2 Research Posts Assignment

1st Research Post due 19-24 October

2nd Research Post due 16 November

Assignment: Research and write two “adventures / experiments in research.”

  • These exercises must be relevant to our subject matter but should also reflect your personal and professional interests.

  • Posts are reports, not essays. They should be interesting and readable, but NOT analyses of literary texts. Instead, they report and explain your research and findings on a topic of interest.

  • Relate your research to Literature, but content options include history, anthropology, sociology, religious studies, women's studies, multicultural studies, etc.

  • Your topic may grow from a course text or author, a term or theory in the course objectives, another student's presentation, or relevant material from other courses, personal reading, or experience, as long as it relates to our course's subject matter.

  • Your second post may continue the same topic as your first post, so that your two posts relate to, build on, or vary each other—or they may be distinct topics.

  • The only absolute stipulation for content is that the subject must have something to do with American Romanticism (which is such a big field that fairly any topic is possible as long as you bend it towards our seminar topic).
  • Your final exam will assess these research experiments as part of your essay on your overall learning experience.

  • Most typical mistake: Students want to write a personal analysis of texts we're studying or might study because that's the kind of writing they're familiar with in a Literature course.That approach is an essay, not a report.

  • Some primary research may be involved, but this report requires secondary and background research. (See primary, background, & secondary research.)

  • In brief, Research Posts emphasize gathering and explaining knowledge, rather than reading and interpreting poems or fiction—though your research may apply to poems or fiction.

Length: 4-7 paragraphs, plus or minus bibliographic information

Bibliographic requirements and information: At least 4 sources, at least some of which should be from reputable scholarship and not just stray internet postings. MLA style is expected. Information may be included in text or more completely in listings at end of posting.

Bibliographic information may be included in paragraphs or more completely in listings at end of posting.

Posting to webpage: Email contents to instructor at Instructor will post to webpage and email notification of posting with a brief reaction. This may be all the feedback the student will receive until final grade report. (See “grading” below.)

Organization, Content, etc.:

Provide a title for your entry that will serve as a web heading or link. This title should indicate the content. The title may take the form of a question.

1st paragraph: Introduce and frame a question you want to answer or a topic you want to know more about.

  • Explain the source or background of your interest; what you already knew on the subject, how or where you learned it or were alerted to it, etc.
  • These backgrounds can be personal as well as educational or professional.
  • At some point in this introductory paragraph, a statement of the question you’re trying to answer should appear.

2nd and 3rd paragraphs: Describe your search for answers to your question or topic.

  • Identify, locate, describe, and evaluate at least two sources.
  • Your sources may be print, Web, or personal (interview, lecture, conversation, or anecdote).
  • If Web, provide links.
  • If print, provide bibliographic information. (MLA style is preferred, but the main point of all documentation is to enable your reader to find the source.)
  • If “personal,” provide as much contextual information as possible; welcome to protect privacy.

4th paragraph: What is the answer to your question?

  • Your “answer” may take a variety of forms, as long as you demonstrate learning.
  • You may find a definite answer to your specific question.
  • Or you may learn that you’ve asked the wrong question, in which case you could conclude by revising your question.
  • Summarize and evaluate what you have learned.
  • Consider what your next step might be if you continued your research along this line.

These paragraph descriptions are only guidelines, not absolute rules.

You may write more than 4 paragraphs, but more than 6 or 7 paragraphs may push the assignment too far.

Grading schedule: Grades for research postings are not returned until the Final Grade Report

Instead of a grade and extended review for your first post, on receipt of your submission I will send a brief email summarizing my overall impression of your submission + suggestions for next moves.

Your two research posts together receive a single grade, which appears in your Final Grade Report because your final exam will reference one or both of your Research Posts.

This description may sound tricky, and some students like their grade outcomes better than others, but in several semesters of such assignments I've had no direct complaints—only questions, which you're welcome to ask.

Grading standards: Research Post grades are based on readability, interest, quality of research, and learning.

  • Readability: quality of reading and writing distinguishes excellence and competence in Literature courses--not just covering course materials but organizing extended analyses into compelling essays. Competence in spelling, punctuation, grammar, and clarity are taken for granted. Given time pressures, occasional careless errors won't break your grade, but chronic errors must be factored. Thematic unity, continuity, and transitions are essential.
  • Interest: Not whether I would have chosen the topic, but how well the report generates and sustains interest. A personal angle is welcome for starters, but develop for wider appeal.
  • Quality of research: Use what you've learned about academic research. Consult with Neumann Library's reference librarians. But also take some chances--interview, review a relevant film, magazine, or commercial site. Scholars in Literature and Humanities combine work and pleasure--honoring what they must do but redeeming what they want to do.
  • Learning: The most consistently redeeming quality in all research is the sense that the author (and at least potentially the audience) has learned something valuable. Emphasize what you wanted to know and why + how your research advanced or changed your knowledge and understanding.

Possible topics

An author associated with American Romanticism

A historical event, movement, figure, or cultural development relevant to American Romanticism

Other artistic, literary, or cultural movements associated with American Romantic Literature or Culture

Secondary critical research concerning a work, author, or issue related to our subject. (You would find several critical articles or books relevant to your interest, then summarize what you gained or learned from reviewing them.)

Model Research Posts from 2015

Lori Wheeler
1st post: Romantic Reading Ladder: Batman to Irving
2nd post: America and Its Romantic Ideal of the Native

Model Research Posts from 2013

Sarah McCall DeLaRosa
1st post:
 Politics and tricking the reader in Edgar Allan Poe's "William Wilson"

2nd post: 
A brief study of early Dutch American literature and culture

Beverly Li
1st post:
 Emerson's Greek Connection

2nd post: 
Emerson's Swedenborgian Connection

Matt Martin
1st post:
 Spiritual Understanding, Beauty, and the Hudson River

2nd post: 
Beyond the Hudson: Popularity and Changes of Landscape Art

Sheila Morris
1st post:
 What is the Feminine Gothic and Why Should I Care?

2nd post: 
Where is the American Feminine Gothic writer today, what is she doing, and how is she doing it?