AMERICAN LITERATURE II, 2005 by mwz19860


									AMERICAN LITERATURE (2009-10)
Teacher: John Ryan
Office: Main English Dept., room 5
Available conference hours: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 8
Email: Website:
Office phone: 854-6661

Overarching Topics for the Course

The American Dream
The Individual and Society
Equality and Justice
Meaning and Purpose

Major Questions for the Course

•What is an American? What is an American literature?
•How are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” present in Americans‟ dreams and
American literature?
•What is the American Dream? How does American literature reflect and/or shape the Dream?
•What impact does „America as a frontier‟ have on people‟s dreams? Do people‟s movements
around America relate to their dreams?
•How are migration and displacement similar to/different from each other?
•Where do Americans look for salvation? What value do places such as the West or the North
hold for Americans?
•What is the difference between people‟s dreams when they feel a part of America
versus apart from America?
•Is morality absolute or relative?
•How is American society kept in order?
•How do Americans resist or encourage equality for all?
•How does injustice manifest in America?
•What effect does the nonconformist have on society?

Note: Most often when we refer to „America‟ in this course we mean the „United States of
America.‟ However, „Americans‟ in a generic sense can refer to „North Americans,‟ „Central
Americans,‟ and „South Americans.‟

Organization of the Course

Our course comprises four units of study, which correlate to the overarching topics above.
They are:

       Unit One: The American Dream & Definitions of Success (personal & public)
       Unit Two: Identity & Freedom: The Individual & Society
       Unit Three: Justice & Equality: Order & Freedom
       Unit Four: Purpose & Meaning: Visions of the “Good” American Life
Unit One: The American Dream & Definitions of Success (personal & public)

Major Texts: The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
             Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller
             Poetry of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson

Additional Readings: Essays, stories, and poems relating to the American Dream

Unit Two: Identity & Freedom: The Individual & Society

Major Texts: Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau
             A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass
             Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

Unit Three: Justice & Equality: Order & Freedom

Major Texts: Short stories by nineteenth- and twentieth-century American writers, including
             Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Ernest Hemingway,
             Kate Chopin, and Flannery O‟Connor
             Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison
             Choice of one longer work (such as The Grapes of Wrath or The Tortilla Curtain)

Additional Activities: ACT prep, grammar & usage

Unit Four: Purpose & Meaning: Visions of the “Good” American Life

Major Texts: A collection of shorter readings featuring writers, essayists, statesmen, and
             poets such as Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, Langston Hughes, Sylvia Plath,
             Jonathan Edwards, and Chief Seattle

Additional Readings: The Future of America (The Atlantic magazine and other sources)
                     One longer independent reading assignment to be determined

Additional Activities: ACT prep, grammar & usage
                       “Big Fish,” directed by Tim Burton


As you may gather, this is a reading-intensive course. It is essential that you meet nightly reading
requirements. Reading and discussion of material are vital practices for success in American
Literature. Soooo…
        Read  Understand, puzzle, question, discover  Write in response  Discuss 
        Assess what you‟ve learned through quizzes, tests, and compositions


You will write, conference, and revise ten compositions this year. All compositions will have
some connection to the literature we read and/or the topics and questions for this course; some
will be literary analysis, while others will be expressive (creative) or informative.

No Excuses: You will be held accountable to the Clayton High School Writers‟ Contract on final
drafts of compositions. (Attached)

Academic Honesty: I have zero tolerance for plagiarism, cheating, and other dishonest acts. I
expect that the work you turn in, be it homework or a composition, is your own work. Any
plagiarized work will result in an automatic zero grade with no makeup, plus notification of
counselor, administrator, and parent. We will discuss the importance of academic integrity in


Students often puzzle over low grades and let me know about it. Excused or not, absences add
up. Tardiness contributes to lower-than-average performance, too. A tardy student has not only
missed a few minutes of class, he/she has missed important information for the day, a quiz, etc.
Also, this student‟s mind is elsewhere (probably the Commons). How long does it take, then, to
get settled in and focus?

The gist? Come to class! A student unexcused the day of a quiz or test cannot make up that work.

Also, I enforce the tardy policy: your third tardy per quarter equals an after-school detention, as
does every tardy thereafter.


•Bring enough black- or blue-ink pens and/or pencils so you don‟t have to borrow.
•Buy a notebook for this class alone. Expect to need your notebook almost daily.
•Have a folder or section of your binder for this class alone.
•Also, when we are reading and discussing a book, should you bring it to class? Yes. Should you
have it ready at the beginning of class? Yes. Should you open it during class? Guess.

If you attend class, have your materials ready, and prepare by completing homework
assignments (including and especially reading), you will be successful on a daily basis. If you
complete major assignments on time (mainly compositions), review and study for tests, and
contribute to the life of the class by entering discussion thoughtfully and listening to others, you
will be successful in the whole course. In addition, if your grade is on the borderline, I will bump
it up.


Compositions, first and final drafts, are each worth 50 points. I will generally grade each draft
according to the CHS Writing Guide in your planner. Occasionally, I will elect not to grade first
drafts; in those cases, I will let you know.

You do not get additional points for attending your conference, but you will lose 10 points from
the final draft grade if you miss a conference unexcused. Overdue drafts, first and final, are
penalized 5 points per day late.

You may request one one-day extension of a paper due date per semester, but the request must
occur at least a day before the due date. I would prefer that you ask in class or in my office, but if
necessary you may call or email me.

Tests are typically worth between 50 and 100 points. Expect occasional tests.

Quizzes are worth between 5 and 25 points and spring up occasionally throughout a unit.
“Surprise assessments” have been known to occur….

Homework, which I will randomly check and collect if a written assignment, is worth 5 points
unless otherwise noted.

Grammar, which is not a dirty word, is one subject of our study this year. We will also prepare
for the English and Reading sections of the ACT second semester.

I use the total-point method of grading for the quarters and semesters and try to balance
assignments accordingly. The final exam in American Lit. will be worth between 15% and 20%
of your semester grade.

Grading Scale

98-100 = A+             88-89 = B+              78-79 = C+              68-69 = D+         0-59 = F
94-97 = A               84-87 = B               74-77 = C               64-67 = D
90-93 = A-              80-83 = B-              70-73 = C-              60-63 = D-

I am looking forward to teaching you—and learning from you as well. Lively, focused
participants fuel a literature class. Dull, tired holdouts take the air out of the tires and make for a
cheerless class. Let’s cultivate an enjoyable learning atmosphere together this year!

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