LITR 4328 American Renaissance
Midterm assignment
(long essay, short essay, web highlights & research proposal)

official date: Monday, 9 October 2017

email midterms due by 11:59 11 October

1865 American flag

(This webpage is the assignment for our course's midterm, to be updated until 2 October, when paper copies will be distributed.)

Official Date:  9 October 2017email midterms due by 11:59pm 11 October (If your exam will be late, communicate!—professional courtesy.).

No regular class meeting on 9 October (i.e. attendance not required.) Instructor keeps office hours during class period. Welcome to confer re midterm, research proposals, etc.

Email: Any time after class on Monday, 2 October and by 11:59pm Wednesday 11 October. Write in Word or Rich Text Format file; attach or paste into email message to Edit before hitting "send."

Format: Open-book, open-notebook, open-webpage. Outside sources permissible but emphasize course texts, terms, and objectives.

Documentation? See information below questions.

3 parts to midterm (Consider doing part 3 first.)

1. Long essay describing and evaluating your learning experience concerning the American Renaissance a.k.a. the Romantic period in American literature. (6-8 paragraphs)

2. Short essay on 1 of 2 options (4-6 paragraphs):

2a. Select and analyze a passage from our course readings—your best textual experience for comprehending course terms, themes, or objectives.

2b. Favorite term, objective, concept in course + explanation & application to 1-2 readings

3. Web Highlights: Essay reviewing at least 3 submissions on the course website's Model Assignments (4-6 paragraphs).

Special requirement: Both essays & Web Highlights must have titles.

Special notes: Sections’ contents may overlap or repeat. Acknowledge, cross-reference, economize.

Preparation: Draft your Web Highlights first? Seeing how previous students performed on a similar midterm can give you ideas and help organize your thoughts. (Don't fear repeating someone else's ideas. As long as you share credit, that's good!)

Welcome to email, phone, or confer with instructor before, during or after exam.

Warning about content: You're always invited to lead with or integrate your own ideas, but your ideas must interact with the course's terms and objectives. Don't make me tell you, "You could have written this without taking the course." Show what you're learning, not just what you already thought.

Assignment Details

1. Long essay: Referring to at least 4 assigned readings and to the course's central terms, themes, and objectives, describe and evaluate your learning experience concerning the American Renaissance a.k.a. the Romantic period in American literature. Why do this subject and these authors matter not only to students of literature but to everyday citizens?

Possible approaches: You can't cover everything & aren't expected to—prioritize, emphasize, organize some materials at the expense of others. Think about what you care about most and develop with examples and analysis.

Review your previous knowledge of course's authors, terms, time period, etc., then describe how this initial understanding has grown, changed, found new applications, etc.

Start with our authors, their texts, and their significance to American literature, history, and culture, then detail how and why individual authors can matter to readers now.

Focus on a specific aspect or theme of the course that appeals to your interests, then extend and connect to the course’s texts, issues, terms and objectives, and texts that develop your interests.

In discussing Romanticism, welcome to compare it to the previous literary period & style (Enlightenment / Age of Reason) or the subsequent period & style of Realism.

More on required texts: One of your minimal number of 3-4 texts can be a poem presented in class. Beyond the minimal number of assigned class readings, refer to as many poems as helpful. You may also refer to visual art in the Hudson River School of American Romantic Painters, but not required.

Model Assignments for Midterm Long Essay
(Don't fear repeating someone else's ideas—usually helps.)

Models of long essay from American Renaissance 2016  

Models of long essay from American Renaissance 2015

Models of long essay from American Renaissance 2013

Models of long essay from American Renaissance 2012

Models of long essay from American Renaissance 2010


2. Short essay (4-6 paragraphs). Choose & indicate either 2a or 2b. If combining options, announce at start of essay.

2a. Select and analyze a passage from our course readings—your best textual experience so far—explaining why it made an impression on you and how it relates to our course. Analyze the passage’s language for how it works to appeal to your interests and the course's terms and 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. (Copying & pasting the passage doesn’t count toward required essay length.)

You may refer to more than 1 passage, but too much material may make for shallow analysis. If 2 passages, be sure to relate them to each other.

Make references to source-text, discussion, lecture, + terms, objectives, and links on course website; otherwise analyze passage on its own terms, in context, and by connecting to significant terms and 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.]

text selection: any text featured so far in class, whether assigned readings, poetry presentations, or web reviews.

2b. Favorite term, objective, concept + why + apply to 1-2 texts

What  term or course objective appeals to you the most & why? What use can you make of it in this or other courses, or in readings beyond school? Why does the term or its application matter?

Use course website links to establish a "working definition" of the term that you can apply to one or more course texts. You can certainly use your own language, but you should not ignore the information provided.

Apply your term or theme to one or more passages from one or more of our course texts so far. How does the passage from the text support, extend, challenge, or enrich your working definition?

Connect, compare, or contrast with other terms.

Conclude by exploring, How has your understanding evolved? What do you learn? Show how the term or idea helps you with the text, course, or literature generally.

Model Assignments for Midterm Short Essay
(Don't fear repeating someone else's ideas—usually helps.)

Models of Short Essay 2 from American Renaissance 2016  

Models of Short Essay 2 from American Renaissance 2015

Models of Short Essay 2 from American Renaissance 2013

Models of Short Essay 2 from American Renaissance 2012

Models of Short Essay 2 from American Renaissance 2010


3. Web Highlights: Write an essay reviewing at least 3 submissions on the course website’s “Model Assignments” page and write 4-6 paragraphs (total) on what you found and learned.

At least one Model Assignment must be a midterm from a previous semester. All three may be midterms, but research projects, research proposals, final exams, and presentations are welcome.

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

To identify passages, copy and paste brief selections into your web review or refer to them using locations, paraphrases, summaries, and brief quotes. (Both options appear in models.) Either way, highlight and discuss language used in the passages as part of your commentary. Critique what you learn.

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

Note on organization and grading: Some students fulfill assignment by going through 3 assignments individually, one at a time until finished, with few or no connections or relations observed between the separate models.

Better submissions unify the three reviews into a whole, purposeful essay in which the learning experience of one review connects to the learning experience of another, and your entire learning experience is previewed and summarized in the essay's introduction and conclusion.

Successful submissions sometimes start by identifying a subject or assignment of interest, then choosing Model Assignments that meet those interests.

Or unify your essay by relating what you learned from one Model Assignment to what you learned from another, or start with a theme, idea, term, or question that all three of your models connect to and you want to learn about.

Model Assignments for Midterm Web Highlights
(Don't fear repeating someone else's ideas—usually helps.)

Models of Web Highlights from American Renaissance 2016  

Models of Web Highlights from American Renaissance 2015

Models of Web Highlights from American Renaissance 2013

Models of Web Highlights from American Renaissance 2012

Models of Web Highlights from American Renaissance 2010


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

Example from a 2006 midterm:

In “Resistance to Civil Government” Thoreau uses a mix of Romantic language and sublime imagery to make the individual the supreme authority from which governments derive their power: “when an acorn and a chestnut fall side by side, the one does not remain inert to make way for the other, but both obey their own laws, and spring and grow and flourish as best they can, till one, perchance, overshadows and destroys the other.  If a plant cannot live according to its nature, it dies; and so a man.” The moral reference to nature is specifically Romantic in that it recalls the simplicity of the natural world and the natural order. The analogy of competition requires the reader to consider the role of governments and individuals in both their natural urges and their moral obligations to themselves and each other. . . .

Instructor’s response to midterm: You'll receive an ungraded response to  your research proposal within a few days after submission. Response to research proposal may be only “yes” + brief note since many students change their research option or topic. The proposal’s purpose is less to commit than to start thinking and planning.

7-10 days after turning in midterm, you’ll receive an email with your midterm grade and 1-3 paragraphs of feedback.

Feedback tries to be brief, but sometimes it's long for the sake of trying to help however possible.

  • Many students don’t read instructor’s comments or scan through them on cellphone. (Best students review possibilities for improvement.)

  • An exam's purpose may be less instruction than exercise of memory, critical thinking, writing

  • Ask for more feedback or a conference—it's impressive when you do

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.

Coverage and analysis 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.