English 116– AMERICAN FICTION –Spring 2008

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The novels and short stories we will be reading in this course are unique and memorable works of art. We will concern ourselves with how they work, how they create pattern and motive and meaning, what is distinctive about the styles in which they are written, what truths are to be found in the worlds they allow us to imagine. We will also consider how the geographical, historical, social, and psychological landscapes depicted in these works shape our understanding of America today. Besides attaining greater insights in this course into the art of fiction and into modern American history and culture, you will be honing your critical and analytical skills and further developing your writing and speaking abilities.

Selected stories – Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos
William Faulkner, Light in August
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon
Louise Erdrich, Tracks
Don DeLillo, Mao II

Background materials, as needed (historical and biographical accounts and critical commentaries)

Regular attendance and ongoing contributions to class discussions are basic requirements for the course. You will be expected to bring to each session, on an alternating basis, either a 1-page typed commentary in response to the readings for that session or a 1-page typed list of questions about the readings that you have created for the class to consider. You need to keep these in a portfolio to be submitted at the end of the term. A midterm audit of your portfolio is required, instead of a midterm exam. A final retrospective entry in your portfolio is required, instead of a final exam. Details about these assignments can be found under the More on Requirements link. Short quizzes on the readings may occasionally be given to ensure that you are keeping up with the reading and are reading carefully.

You are expected to contribute regularly to class discussions. Active participation includes introducing ideas, raising questions, and building upon or helping to clarify the responses of others. You will be expected to read your commentaries and questions aloud and to read aloud from the works assigned for the day. If you find it difficult to speak up in class, please come and talk with me as soon as possible. (Don't put it off!)

I will rely on email to communicate with the class, using the class lists on my.sbc.edu. These addresses end with "@sbc.edu"; therefore, it is imperative that you check your Sweet Briar account on a regular basis. If you use some other email supplier, it is your responsibility to make arrangements for your Sweet Briar mail to be forwarded to that address.

Approximate breakdown of final grade: portfolios = 40%; class participation (including quizzes and any other in-class writing activities) = 25%; midterm portfolio audit = 15%; final retrospective audit = 20%. To be eligible for a passing grade in the course, you must submit the midterm and final audits and the portfolio and participate adequately in regular class discussions.

In keeping with College policy, you are expected to attend all of our class session. Deadlines will be extended and absences will be excused only in the case of involvement in official College business, an urgent personal problem, a family emergency, or a serious illness or contagious disease, verifiable, if necessary, by the Dean. Absences will limit what you can gain from the course and what you can contribute. More than two absences (excused or unexcused) may lower your final grade.

If you are an athlete, within the first two weeks of class (earlier, if you have to miss class for a game before then), email me a schedule delineating the specific days you will be absent. If you do have to miss class for a game or for other official College business, you need to submit in advance any work that comes due on the dates you miss. In other words, an excused absence is not an automatic extension.

Late work for which no extension has been granted will receive an "F." The individual commentaries and question lists are not graded. Instead, they will be marked "+" (excellent), "√" (good), or "-" (fair). The portfolio you submit at the end of term with your commentaries and questions will receive a letter grade. Note that , unless you have an excused absence, weekly commentaries or questions that are not submitted in class will receive an automatic double minus, since their primary purpose is to help you to contribute to our discussions. (A double minus is better than nothing, though, so do get them in, regardless.)

Plagiarism, even when unintentional, is a serious offense. If under the Sweet Briar Honor System, you are convicted of plagiarism in work you do for this class, you will most likely fail the course. If you are not sure what plagiarism is, please ask me.


JANUARY 17   Introduction

22 Hemingway, "Indian Camp," "Now I Lay Me"
Picturing Hemingway
    The web site for the new traveling exhibit from the National Portrait
    Gallery, honoring Hemingway's life and works on his Centennial. Excellent
    "quick" bio with well-chosen selection of photographs.
New York Times Featured Author: Ernest Hemingway
    Includes new essays and extensive Hemingway links.
PAL: Ernest Hemingway
CNN In-Depth Special: A Hemingway Retrospective

24 Hemingway, "In Another Country"; Dos Passos, "The Body of an American"

29 Fitzgerald, "May Day," "Babylon Revisited"
PAL: F. Scott Fitzgerald
F.Scott Fitzgerald Centenary Homepage (USC)
31 Fitzgerald (cont.)

5 Faulkner, Light in August
7 FaulknerWilliam Faulkner on the Web

12 Faulkner – Selected Resources on Faulkner

19 Faulkner

26 Plath, The Bell Jar

4 Plath
Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
––>> Midterm Audit due by 5 p.m., Friday, March 7

18 Vonnegut
20 Vonnegut / Morrison, Song of Solomon

25 Morrison
27 Morrison

1 Morrison
3 Morrison /
Erdrich, Tracks

8 Erdrich

15 Erdrich / DeLillo, Mao II
17 DeLillo

22 DeLillo

29 DeLillo. Conclusions. Course evaluations. Portfolio and Final Retro Entry due in Class!


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Site created and maintained by Cheryl Mares, English Department, Sweet Briar College.
Last updated 5 February 2008.