LITR 4328 American Renaissance

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 (Wednesday-Thursday midnight). 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, 1-3:50pm; 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.

Three (3) essays for final exam

Essay A: One (1) mid-length essay from A1 or A2  describing your learning about the American Renaissance / American Romanticism or selected terms or subjects. (5-6 paragraphs)

Essay B: One (1) long essay on poetry & styles of Poe, Whitman, and Dickinson. (6-9 paragraphs)

Essay C: One (1) long essay from C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, or C6 (6-9 paragraphs)

Special requirements: All essays must have titles.

Somewhere in your exam you must refer to something you learned (or a quotation) from a previous final exam for this course. (As variations, you may refer to one of your classmates' midterm exams (i.e., this semester) or to a research project from any semester.) (Model Assignments)

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

A. One mid-length essay: EITHER A1 OR A2 (5-6 paragraphs)
Choose ONE of the options under A1 & A2:
that is, choose EITHER A1 OR A2—not both!
(A1 & A2 have internal options, but write only one mid-length essay) (5-6 paragraphs)
For models of A1 & A2, see 2015 model answers, 2013 model answers, 2012 model answers & 2010 model answers

A1. Review & prioritize your learning in American Renaissance. (5-6 paragraphs). If someone comparably educated asked you what you learned from American Renaissance, how would you answer? If helpful, review your midterm long essay (learning, challenges, issues concerning American Renaissance / American Romantic literature) as a starting point, but not required. Also refer to your research project if it adds to the learning you describe here.

Text requirements: Refer to at least two texts that illustrate your theme, or to class discussions, instructions, or other course materials that helped.

Possible emphases (not by priority or any sequential order): (Not a check-list—only potential prompts to help you start or develop material. You're not expected to answer every item.)

What big or important idea about literature or our period of study mattered the most? Why? What can you do with this idea?

What knowledge or confidence did you gain in reading or teaching "classic American literature?"

Personal / professional uses? Applications to career or general learning?

How did your research complement or extend the course in terms of your learning?

What do your interests in the course reveal about your profile as a Literature major (or other major), and how do these interests connect to academic or professional interests beyond this course?

Highlights of semester? Connections to other courses? How does this course fit your maturation as a reader and writer?

Not looking for cheerleading but an intelligent measurement of what you learned and can imagine doing with it. If you have criticisms, make them work for you and me. You're judged not for flattery or disapproval but for your thinking and writing about our texts, subjects, terms, objectives, and classroom style as you relate them to your sense of learning and teaching in our world.

A1 option
OR (variation on "Review & prioritize your learning in American Renaissance")

Describe what you learned about Romanticism as a term or concept for a literary or cultural style or period? Connect Romanticism to related terms or concepts in American Renaissance or other courses (e.g., gothic, Transcendentalism, the Sublime). If helpful, review and extend any relevant parts from your midterm, but not required. You may also refer to your research project insofar as it added to the learning you describe here.

Refer to at least two texts for examples, or maybe more texts if briefly.

(This list of questions is not a check-list; you're not expected to answer every question—only potential prompts to help you start or develop material.)

What did you come in knowing about Romanticism, and how has that understanding extended, changed, or redeveloped?

When you think now of the term Romanticism, what comes first to your mind? What connections can you make from this starting point?

Which texts this semester taught you the most about Romanticism, or which texts now seem to exemplify Romanticism?

Consider explaining the concept of Romanticism as you would teach it to a particular group of students.

What is the range of Romanticism? What does it include and exclude? What terms fall under it or escape it?

A2. Mid-length essay on 1 or 2 selected terms or subjects: (choose one or connect two)

Overall assignment: Write 5-6 paragraphs defining or describing the term or subject and its significance. Apply your definition to at least two texts and refer to appropriate web links. Summarize an overall point about learning experience. Welcome to review and extend any parts of your midterm that may apply, but not required. You may also refer to your research project insofar as it applies to your subject here.

Required: You must refer to the term-page(s) link provided.

Civil Disobedience  / Passive Resistance

Sentimental / Domestic Literature in the American Renaissance (+ / - sentimental stereotypes)

Religious literature or references discussed as literature in public schools? +- Religion in America

Transcendentalism +- Unitarianism & Deism & Second Great Awakening

Texts to consider:

  Passive Resistance & Civil Disobedience: Thoreau's Resistance to Civil Government (1849), Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1851-2); Levi Coffin, Reminiscences; civil disobedience tradition(s)

  Sentimental / Domestic Literature in the American Renaissance (+ or - sentimental stereotypes): sentiment or sentimentality, domestic literature, sentimental stereotypes; Susan B. Warner, The Wide, Wide World (1850); Maria Susanna Cummins, The Lamplighter (1854); Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin (1851-2); Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861); for sentimental stereotypes. consider Harriet Beecher Stowe, "Sojourner Truth, the Libyan Sibyl"; Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Religious literature or references discussed as literature in public schools? 2nd Great Awakening; Beecher family; William Apess (Pequot), "An Indian's Looking-Glass for the White Man"; Susan B. Warner, The Wide, Wide World (1850); Maria Susanna Cummins, The Lamplighter (1854); Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin (1851-2); Harriet Beecher Stowe, "Sojourner Truth, the Libyan Sibyl"; Frederick Douglass, A Narrative of the Life (1845); George Whitefield, sermon excerpts; Abraham Lincoln, The House Divided Speech; The Gettysburg Address; The 2nd Inaugural Address; Rebecca Harding Davis, Life in the Iron Mills (1861)

Transcendentalism: Transcendentalism, Ralph Waldo Emerson, selections from Nature (1836), Margaret Fuller, The Great Lawsuit, Henry David Thoreau, Resistance to Civil Government (1849), Emerson, Thoreau; Louisa May Alcott, from Hospital Sketches (1863)

Models: scroll to A1 & A2 at 2015 final exam index to Model Answers; 2013 final exam index to Model Answers; 2012 final examIndex to Model Answers; 2010 final exam—Index to Model Answers

Essay B: One (1) long essay on poetry & styles of Poe, Whitman, and Dickinson
(6-9 paragraphs)

Below are three lyric poems, one apiece by Poe, Whitman, and Dickinson.  Explain how each poet's style and subject matter identify him or her as its author—that is, how can you tell which is a poem by Poe, Whitman, or Dickinson? Where do these poems (or poets) fit on the formal verse-free verse spectrum?

Refer to the poems below, to other poems by these authors, to their style guides, and to the Comparative Study of Poe, Whitman, Dickinson.

Describe, compare, and contrast Poe's, Whitman's and Dickinson's unique styles and subjects.

Edgar Allan Poe, "The City in the Sea"        (Poe style guide)

Walt Whitman, "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer"       (Whitman style guide)

Emily Dickinson, "[I heard a fly buzz, when I died"       (Dickinson style guide)

Essential elements of answer:

· What aspects of the poem are characteristic of Poe, Whitman and Dickinson? In some instances, how maybe these poems be not characteristic—that is, in what ways may they surprise what you expect from these poets?

· Identify characteristic (or non-characteristic) subject matter and stylistic devices, particularly their uses of formal verse and / or free verse. Develop brief working definitions and apply to examples in the poems.

· Compare Poe, Whitman, and Dickinson in relation to each other—What do you gain, learn, or experience about poetry or classic American literature by comparing them to each other? What do you learn about free verse and formal verse?

Model Assignments: See Final Exam 2015 Model Assignments

  Essay C: One (1) long essay from C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, or C6 (6-9 paragraphs)

Answer One Question (or combine 2 into a single topic)

For all questions below you may review and extend any relevant parts of your midterm exam, but not required.

You may also refer to your research project as it adds to your understanding of the subjects below, but not required.

C1. Varieties of the Gothic. Define the Gothic & describe its various characteristics and uses in 3-4 course readings, mostly since the midterm.

Briefly review Irving’s or Cooper’s use of the Gothic (pre-midterm).

Refer more extensively to Poe, Hawthorne, and Davis. (You may use Poe’s stories, poems, or both.)

You may also refer to at least one other text or author (The Gothic may appear only briefly or tangentially in ways we may not have discussed, but plenty of examples).

Consider the significance of the Gothic. Why do authors return to these conventions? Obviously it’s a hook for readers, but why does it hook us over and over again in so many different forms or contexts? What does it achieve besides interest or entertainment? How does it persist in contemporary popular culture and literature? What unifying reasons are there for its persistence?

Essential websites: gothic, gothic variations

Models: from 2015: Karin Cooper, Dank, Dark and Disgusting: The Gothic; from 2013: Jenna Crosson, There is Gothic in Everything We Read; for 2012 scroll to B1 at 2012 final examIndex to Sample Answers; Models from 2010; Models from 2008; Models from 2004

C2. Literature & Morality. A constantly changing hyper-modern culture like America incessantly raises questions about moral understanding and behavior. Like Rip Van Winkle, we wake every day to a world whose fashions, values, and rules have changed (with no going back to an earlier, simpler time besides nostalgia or self-isolation).

Most Americans react to our incessantly-changing ("hypermodern") society in two extreme ways:

reactionary fundamentalism (a.k.a. "moralism" or "moralizing")—“A woman’s place is in the home,” “It’s their own fault,” “Just say no” (upside: definite, absolute, and certain; downside: simplistic, divisive, polarizing, vain & self-righteous) 


progressive relativism: "Live and let live," "You are not the judge of me," "As long as you feel all right about it . . . ." (upside: tolerance, open-mindedness; downside: indifference, casualness, or slackness in challenging situations)

          Rather than choosing between intense narrow-mindedness or careless open-mindedness, classic writers like Hawthorne, Whitman, Margaret Fuller, Susan B. Warner (Wide, Wide World), Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry David Thoreau, and Emily Dickinson, or great leaders like Abraham Lincoln, and minority writers like Harriet Jacobs or Frederick Douglass admit that morality is important but also complicated.

          Referring to writings by at least two of these writers (and others in or beyond course), describe how moral problems are depicted vividly and significantly but without a simple, reductive moral judgment of who is right or wrong, or innocent or guilty. Compare / contrast different writers' approaches.

Give a picture of the moral situation in which characters or people find themselves.

What does a reader learn and what pleasure or benefit may s/he take from such writings? (Purpose of literature to entertain and instruct)

What responsibilities, rewards, and risks of studying complex moral issues as here?

As a possible synonym for  "moralism," distinguish between simple-and-easy sentimentality

In education keyed to statistical bubble-testing, may such studies of moral complexity be defended as critical thinking?

Models: from 2015, see Joshua Van Horn, Moral Complexity in the Romantic Era; from 2013, see Mickey Thames, Thoreau and Lincoln—A Time to Sit, and A Time to Fight; for earlier models scroll to B2 at 2012 final examIndex to Sample Answers; Models from 2010; Models of Essay 2 from 2008; Models of Essay 2 from 2006; Models of Essay 2 from 2004

C3. Literature and History. “American Renaissance” surveys literature in a dynamic & formative period of American history—the generations before the Civil War. How have our readings developed* your ideas of history, or how has history developed your idea of literature? How may Literature & History be productively combined to encourage student learning? [*“Developed” = extended, confirmed, changed, challenged, etc.]

Two ways to organize:

Start with interesting, applicable, and resonant historical fact(s) or idea(s) you learned, then develop through text analysis or reaction


Start with texts that brought history suddenly and dramatically to life and explain your reactions.

Possible themes: How do literary texts support, contradict, or potentially enrich the study of history? Vice versa, how does knowledge of history enrich the study of literary texts from the past? 

As usual, don’t treat your texts separately but compare, contrast, connect.

Text requirements: Three course-texts connected by history or learning experience.

Possible websites: civil disobedience tradition(s); The 2nd Great Awakening, Mexican-American War

Possible authors / texts: Alcott; Lincoln; Whitman; Sojourner Truth; Frederick Douglass; Harriet Jacobs; Margaret Fuller; Thoreau; Stanton; Stowe; Whitefield; Davis, Life in the Iron Mills

Models: for 2012 scroll to B3 at 2012 final examIndex to Sample Answers; Models from 2010

C4. Classic, Popular, & Representative Literature. Write an essay comparing classic, popular, and representative authors and literature in terms of their differing (or overlapping) styles, values, audiences, and appeals. How do these different styles fulfill literature's dual purpose of entertaining and instructing?

Define and give examples of classical, popular, and representative literature from our course and beyond.  (Suggestions listed below.)

Some authors may fit more than one category—no problem if you explain.

What different pleasures, benefits, and challenges does each category offer a reader in our time?  How were they received in their own time and by periods following their publication?

For what different purposes are these types of literature written?

What can we learn from reading across these different categories of literature?

What different readers might be attracted to the different categories?

Which balance of categories, is most appropriate for a college literature class like ours?  What about other literature classrooms?

As usual in an essay like this, do a lot of comparing and contrasting from start to finish, for the sake of sparking ideas and weaving organization.

Summarize your learning experience with possible applications to research or teaching.

websites: classic, popular, and representative authors and literature; Alternative American Renaissance; Purpose of literature to entertain and instruct.

Examples from our course readings: (not exhaustive—welcome to bring in others)

“Classic” authors and texts: Dickinson; Hawthorne; Emerson; Cooper; Irving; Thoreau

“Popular” authors and texts: Irving, Poe, Cooper, Stowe; you may also refer to popular authors beyond this course.

“Representative” texts and authors: William Apess; Cherokee Memorials; Frederick Douglass; Sojourner Truth; Harriet Jacobs; Margaret Fuller; Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

*Also consider authors who combine or cross categories: Poe, Douglass, Stowe, Irving, Fuller, Cooper.

Models from 2012: scroll to B4 at 2012 final examIndex to Sample Answers; Models from 2010; Models of Essay 4 from 2008; Models of Essay 4 from 2006; Models of Essay 4 from 2004

C5. Romanticism & Realism. Compare and contrast the styles of Romanticism and Realism in 2 or 3 texts from our course. These texts may entirely represent Romanticism (e.g., The Last of the Mohicans, Ligeia) or Realism (Life in the Iron Mills, "The Wound-Dresser"), or you may examine both Romanticism and Realism in a single text (e.g., Uncle Tom's Cabin, Life in the Iron Mills, "The Wound-Dresser") or some combination of these approaches. 2 or 3 texts total required in any case.

Essential term websites: Romanticism; Realism

Models from American Renaissance 2013: Briana Perry, Elevated Romanticism, Blunt Realism; Mickey Thames, Romantic Sentiments in a Realistic World; Kayla Davis, The Realities of Romanticism

Models from American Renaissance 2015: Sarah Hurt, Romanticism as an Aid for Realism; Michael McDonald, Hawkeye vs Hugh: The Battle Between What Is Real & What We Wish Was

C6. Other options for Essay C: Combine two or more topics above into a single essay—but please indicate which topic choices are involved and how and why you're connecting the topics.

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.

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!