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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

David T Holmberg
ENGL 200
Seattle Campus

Reading Literary Forms

Covers techniques and practice in reading and enjoying literature in its various forms: poetry, drama, prose fiction, and film. Examines such features of literary meanings as imagery, characterization, narration, and patterning in sound and sense. Offered: AWSp.

Class description

Old, Weird America: American Literature, 1820-1865

This course is designed to cover techniques and practices in reading and enjoying literature in its various forms and to examine such features of literary meanings as imagery, characterization, narration, and patterning in sound and sense. In order to consider how literature “works,” we will be focusing on a specific period of literature and thinking about the various ways that literary meaning is both produced by as well as produces its historical and cultural moment. The period of American history and literature which we will be focusing on, the “antebellum” or pre-Civil War period, offers a great opportunity for thinking through what it means to read literature, as writers of this period were themselves grappling with the role of literature in the still new nation. Of particular concern in this class will be the ways in which authors of the antebellum period attempted to self-consciously articulate their own sense of a national, American identity in the face of the social and cultural pressures of westward expansion, slavery, colonization, Indian removal, Manifest Destiny, and the beginnings of the industrial revolution. We will also be considering what these interpretations reveal about our own contemporary understandings of history and identity.

Our readings will cover short stories, novels, sensational fiction, poetry, autobiography, and essays. Our primary authors will likely include Rebecca Harding Davis, Herman Melville, Frederick Douglass, Nathaniel Hawthorne, John Rollin Ridge, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Fanny Fern, Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry David Thoreau, among others. Because this class satisfies the “W” credit, the course will also be writing intensive, with 10-15 pages of writing and required revision. There will also be reading quizzes, tests, group presentations, and in-class activities.

Required Texts: The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Seventh Edition, Volume B, 1820-1865. ISBN: 978-0-393-92740-5

Ridge, John Rollin. The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta, Celebrated California Bandit. ISBN: 9780906114293

Student learning goals

Students are able to perform competent close readings of course texts and similar texts.

Students are able to contextualize and analyze the materials or topics covered, historically, politically, culturally.

Students develop more sophisticated discussion and presentation skills in the interest of being better able to construct and defend their own arguments or interpretations.

Students develop both an appreciation of literature and a lifelong habit of reading.

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by David T Holmberg
Date: 06/24/2011