Syllabus for LIT-301



This upper-level course is an in-depth study of American literature beginning with Native American trickster tales and the literature of the early explorers and settlers and ending with works that explore issues of race and freedom during and after the time of the American Civil War. Well-known writers are included as well as significant writers who are less often studied. The course involves analysis of texts and synthesis of readings as well as a significant amount of writing. Students write a documented research paper as a capstone project.

Through the site, students have searchable access to an online archive of nearly 3,000 primary-source documents including visual art, newspaper articles, musical recordings, photos, and sound files. The syllabus directs students to use this site.

Note: This is an upper-level literature course. Incoming students are expected to be familiar with the vocabulary and conventions of literary analysis as well as the correct use of MLA style documentation. Before enrolling in an upper-level literature course, students are strongly encouraged to complete English Composition II and one other introductory literature course.


After completing this course, you should be able to: 

  1. Interpret primary texts from American literature that have shaped or reflected American culture from early Native American oral literature to works written during and just after the American Civil War.
  2. Analyze characters, literary styles, and themes in the works covered.
  3. Synthesize your knowledge of and response to literature with understanding of historical events as well as personal insight.
  4. Compare and contrast significant texts and ideas.
  5. Explore the questions, issues, and controversies present in American literature through 1865, analyzing how they have evolved over time.
  6. Connect these significant works of literature of the past to the lives and identities of people today.
  7. Compose extended analyses of the works read.


You will need the following materials to do the work of the course. The required textbooks are available from the University's textbook supplier, MBS Direct.

Required Textbooks

ISBN-13: 978-0393934762

Video Programs

The video programs are being offered via streaming video technology through the course Web site. See the Video Playlist in the top section of the course space.

Online Archive

In this course, you have access to approximately 3,000 primary-source documents through the American Passages Online Archive. The site includes historical and cultural artifacts such as visual art, newspaper articles, musical recordings, diaries, and maps. In each module, this course site will suggest consulting the archive for specific items. However, the Study Guide is filled with additional references to the archive. Although viewing of material from the archive and its inclusion in assignments is not required, students are encouraged to use the archive to enrich their learning experience.

Each module contains a set of references to the archive. You can click on the link in the table provided in order to access the archive document. As noted in the second point below, you may be taken to the legal policy page. Read the material on this screen, and if you agree click "Yes." Then you will be taken to the document.

To search the archive on your own, do the following:

  1. Go to Online Archive.
  2. The first few times that you access this site in any one sitting, you will be directed first to the legal policy page. Read the material on this screen, and if you agree click "Yes." You may be directed straight to the search page later on.
  3. On the next screen, if you are searching by number, click "Serial Number," type in the number of the item you want, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and click "Search." The item will come up; if it is an image, you will have the opportunity to enlarge it by clicking beneath the image.
  4. You may also search using a phrase. Step 2 on the search page helps you narrow your search.


Advanced American Literature I is a three-credit online course, consisting of seven modules. The course requires you to complete four written assignments and to submit a final paper. You are also required to participate in graded online discussions and an ungraded Introductions Forum. In addition, after each set of readings, you will write about what you read in a reflective journal and submit your efforts to your mentor. Each week in the semester begins on Monday and ends on Sunday. Module titles are listed below.


For your formal work in the course, you are required to participate in online discussion forums, complete written assignments, complete a reflective journal, and complete a final paper. See below for more details.

Consult the Course Calendar for assignment due dates.

Promoting Originality

One or more of your course activities may utilize a tool designed to promote original work and evaluate your submissions for plagiarism. More information about this tool is available in this document.

Discussion Forums

In addition to an ungraded Introductions Forum, Advanced American Literature I requires you to participate in nine graded class discussions.

Communication with the mentor and among fellow students is a critical component of online learning. Participation in online discussions involves two distinct assignments: an initial response to a posted question (discussion thread) and subsequent comments on classmates' responses.

You will be evaluated both on the quality of your responses (i.e., your understanding of readings, and concepts as demonstrated by well-articulated, critical thinking) and quantity of your participation (i.e., the number of times you participate meaningfully in the assigned forums). Responses and comments should be properly proofread and edited, professional, and respectful.

Meaningful participation in online discussions is relevant to the content, adds value, and advances the discussion. Comments such as "I agree" and "ditto" are not considered value-adding participation. Therefore, when you agree or disagree with a classmate, the reading, or your mentor, state and support your agreement or disagreement. (See “Tone, Diction, and Style” under Written Assignments for more information.)

Reflective Journal

You are required to submit seven reflective journal entries to your mentor that record your reactions to the literature you have read. The journal, though shared with your mentor, will not be graded on content or for grammatical expression. You are submitting it to your mentor mainly so he or she knows that you are reading and responding to the literature as the course progresses. If you submit the journal regularly and it shows that you have been doing the reading, you will receive the full number of points toward your final grade.

Be sure to keep your own copy of your journal as well as sending regular installments to your mentor using the assignment tool. You will be asked to include relevant and appropriate journal entries in your final paper, so you will need to be able to refer to these entries.

There is no prescribed length for your journal entries. They are not intended to be detailed analyses, just your honest reaction.  The important thing to remember is that there are no right or wrong responses. You will not be penalized for not liking a piece of literature—only for not reading it!

Written Assignments

You are required to complete four written assignments. The written assignments are on a variety of topics associated with the course modules.

The written assignments are the primary means for you to express yourself verbally during the semester, controlling content and meaning. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the assignments by reading through the written assignment questions before you begin the reading for that assignment.

Your answers to the assignment questions should be well developed and convey your understanding of the readings and concepts. They should also adequately answer the questions posed. If you need help in writing, take a look at The Writing Center: University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Also, formulate responses in your own words. Do not merely copy answers from your reading materials. When quoting or paraphrasing from the text or other sources, be sure to cite the source of information properly according to MLA or APA guidelines (see also Writing Style Guides). However, your mentor will guide you in accordance with the correct style of documentation.

Tone, Diction, and Style

Your written assignments should be approached in a quite different way from your responses to the online discussion topics. Written assignments should be formal academic papers. This means, among other things, that you should write in third person, avoid informal diction or spelling, avoid contractions, proofread carefully, and use MLA-style parenthetical documentation to identify your sources.

The online discussions, on the other hand, much like live classroom discussions, are meant to be a more informal give-and-take. You may use first person (stating, for example, "I liked," "What struck me," etc.). Your discussion forum responses will be similar to a conversation and may include contractions and less formal diction. Remember, however, that while you may be somewhat informal, you should still write in Standard English and proofread your post before submitting it.

Final Paper

There is no midterm or final proctored examination in this course. An 18 to 20-page paper, described below, acts as your final assessment and is worth 50 percent of your grade. You will begin work on this paper early in the course, choosing a topic, submitting an outline, and submitting an abstract and list of major works cited. You must complete the writing of the paper and submit it to your mentor by the last day of the semester.

As stated, the paper is worth 50 percent of your grade. You will receive credit for submitting each of the intermediate steps (topic, outline, abstract and works cited); each is worth 2.5 percent of your total grade. Your grade on the paper, therefore, counts toward 42.5 percent of your final grade.

Your final paper should be 18 to 20 pages in length. You will find instructions in Final Paper Details in the Final Paper section of the course site. You may want to look over the details now so that you can begin the course with a good idea of what your final assessment will require. You will choose any one author or work and show how the individual or the work relates to the totality of American literature.

Your Final Paper should be well developed and should convey your understanding of readings and concepts, as well as answer the question adequately. It should be organized, coherent, and unified; it should also be free of spelling and grammatical errors. If you need help in writing such a paper, take a look at The Writing Center: University of Wisconsin-Madison.

When quoting or paraphrasing from the text or other sources, be sure to cite the source of information properly according to MLA guidelines (see also see also Writing Style Guides). Your mentor will be able to guide you in accordance with this style of documentation.


Your grade in the course will be determined as follows:

All activities will receive a numerical grade of 0–100. You will receive a score of 0 for any work not submitted. Your final grade in the course will be a letter grade. Letter grade equivalents for numerical grades are as follows:






























Below 60

To receive credit for the course, you must earn a letter grade of C or better (for an area of study course) or D or better (for a course not in your area of study), based on the weighted average of all assigned course work (e.g., exams, assignments, discussion postings, etc.).


First Steps to Success

To succeed in this course, take the following first steps:

Study Tips

Consider the following study tips for success:


Thomas Edison State University is committed to maintaining academic quality, excellence, and honesty. The University expects all members of its community to share the commitment to academic integrity, an essential component of a quality academic experience.

Students at Thomas Edison State University are expected to exhibit the highest level of academic citizenship. In particular, students are expected to read and follow all policies, procedures, and program information guidelines contained in publications; pursue their learning goals with honesty and integrity; demonstrate that they are progressing satisfactorily and in a timely fashion by meeting course deadlines and following outlined procedures; observe a code of mutual respect in dealing with mentors, staff, and other students; behave in a manner consistent with the standards and codes of the profession in which they are practicing; keep official records updated regarding changes in name, address, telephone number, or e-mail address; and meet financial obligations in a timely manner. Students not practicing good academic citizenship may be subject to disciplinary action including suspension, dismissal, or financial holds on records.

All members of the University community are responsible for reviewing the Academic Code of Conduct Policy in the University Catalog and online at

Academic Dishonesty

Thomas Edison State University expects all of its students to approach their education with academic integrity—the pursuit of scholarly activity free from fraud and deception. All mentors and administrative staff members at the University insist on strict standards of academic honesty in all courses. Academic dishonesty undermines this objective. Academic dishonesty can take the following forms:


Thomas Edison State University is committed to helping students understand the seriousness of plagiarism, which is defined as using the work and ideas of others without proper citation. The University takes a strong stance against plagiarism, and students found to be plagiarizing are subject to discipline under the academic code of conduct policy.

If you copy phrases, sentences, paragraphs, or whole documents word-for-word—or if you paraphrase by changing a word here and there—without identifying the author, or without identifying it as a direct quote, then you are plagiarizing. Please keep in mind that this type of identification applies to Internet sources as well as to print-based sources. Copying and pasting from the Internet, without using quotation marks and without acknowledging sources, constitutes plagiarism. (For information about how to cite Internet sources, see Online Student Handbook > Academic Standards > “Citing Sources.”)

Accidentally copying the words and ideas of another writer does not excuse the charge of plagiarism. It is easy to jot down notes and ideas from many sources and then write your own paper without knowing which words are your own and which are someone else’s. It is more difficult to keep track of each and every source. However, the conscientious writer who wishes to avoid plagiarizing never fails to keep careful track of sources.

Always be aware that if you write without acknowledging the sources of your ideas, you run the risk of being charged with plagiarism.

Clearly, plagiarism, no matter the degree of intent to deceive, defeats the purpose of education. If you plagiarize deliberately, you are not educating yourself, and you are wasting your time on courses meant to improve your skills. If you plagiarize through carelessness, you are deceiving yourself.

For examples of unintentional plagiarism, advice on when to quote and when to paraphrase, and information about writing assistance, click the links provided below.

Examples of Unintentional Plagiarism

When to Quote and When to Paraphrase

Writing Assistance at Smarthinking

Disciplinary Process for Plagiarism

Acts of both intentional and unintentional plagiarism violate the Academic Code of Conduct.

If an incident of plagiarism is an isolated minor oversight or an obvious result of ignorance of proper citation requirements, the mentor may handle the matter as a learning exercise. Appropriate consequences may include the completion of tutorials, assignment rewrites, or any other reasonable learning tool in addition to a lower grade for the assignment or course. The mentor will notify the student and appropriate dean of the consequence by e-mail.

If the plagiarism appears intentional and/or is more than an isolated incident, the mentor will refer the matter to the appropriate dean, who will gather information about the violation(s) from the mentor and student, as necessary. The dean will review the matter and notify the student in writing of the specifics of the charge and the sanction to be imposed.

Possible sanctions include:

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