Instructor: Mr. Clayton

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American Literature/Composition Course Syllabus

Instructor: Mr. Clayton

Syllabus 2014-2015
Lesson Date In-Class Lecture/Discussion Topic Assignments Due


Introduction: “Why is a good liberal arts education important?” – Mr. Clayton


“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” – Jonathan Edwards


Poor Richard’s Almanack and Autobiography – Ben Franklin


Common Sense and The American Crisis – Thomas Paine


“The Declaration of Independence” and “Letters to John Adams” – Thomas Jefferson

Paper Due on one of the following topics:

  • Liberal Arts

  • Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

  • Common Sense

  • Ben Franklin’s Autobiography

  • Poor Richards Almanack

  • The American Crisis


Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow – Washington Irving


The Last of the Mohicans – James Fenimore Cooper


“Thanatopsis” – William Cullen Bryant


The Scarlet LetterNathaniel Hawthorne

Paper Due on one of the following topics:

  • The Declaration of Independence

  • Rip Van Winkle

  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

  • The Last of the Mohicans


“The Raven”, “The Bells”, “Annabel Lee” “Tell Tale Heart”, - Edgar Allan Poe


Moby Dick – Herman Melville


Moby Dick – Herman Melville

Paper Due on one of the following topics:

  • The Scarlet Letter

  • The Bells

  • Annabel Lee

  • Alone

  • A Dream within a Dream

  • Tell Tale Heart


Moby Dick – Herman Melville


Moby Dick – Herman Melville


Review for Test

Paper Due

Moby Dick must be your topic. Choose an aspect of the book or movie, create a thesis, and back up your thesis with evidence. Argue your point.

Possible Topics or you may choose your own topic:

  • Compare and Contrast Father Mapple’s Sermon on Jonah and the Whale with Jonathan Edward’s Sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”

  • Compare and Contrast Captain Ahab’s obsession with the white whale with obsessive characters in Edgar Allan Poe’s Works.

  • “Explain some of the biblical references in Moby-Dick. How does Melville use the Bible as a literary model and as a source for thematic material?” (Spark Notes)

  • “Describe Ishmael’s method of narration. Is he reliable or unreliable as a narrator? Why is he the one to tell this story? What would the narrative have been like if Ahab were the narrator?” (Spark Notes)

  • “Why does Ishmael include so many digressions in his narrative? Why does he draw on so many other disciplines (geology, art, biology)? Choose one of these digressions (the chapter on “Cetology,” for example) and discuss the ways in which it comments on the main narrative.” (Spark Notes)

  • “Is Ishmael a central or peripheral narrator? Is this novel about him, or is it about Captain Ahab? How can you tell?” (Shmoop)

  • Identify a theme of the book and back it up with evidence from the text or movie.




“Self Reliance” and “Concord Hymn” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


“Walden” – Henry David Thoreau


“Paul Revere’s Ride” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Paper Due on one of the following topics:

  • Emerson’s “Self Reliance”

  • Thoreau’s “Walden”


“The Chambered Nautilus” – Oliver Wendell Holmes


“Gettysburg Address”, Letter to Mrs. Bixby, and 2nd Inaugural – Abraham Lincoln


“Leaves of Grass” – Walt Whitman


“Not in Vain” – Emily Dickinson

Paper Due on one the following topics:

  • Paul Revere’s Ride

  • The Chambered Nautilus

  • Gettysburg Address

  • Letter to Mrs. Bixby

  • Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugural

  • Leaves of Grass

3/ 4

Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry FinnMark Twain


The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald


Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

Paper Due on one of the following topics:

  • An Emily Dickinson Poem

  • Tom Sawyer

  • Huckleberry Finn

  • The Great Gatsby


“Mending Wall” and “The Road not Taken” – Robert Frost


“The Bear” – William Faulkner


The Sun Also RisesErnest Hemingway


“The Hollow Men” – T.S. Eliot


Review for Test

Paper Due on one of the following topics:

  • Grapes of Wrath

  • Frost’s “Mending Wall”

  • “The Road Not Taken”

  • Faulkner’s “The Bear”

  • Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises”

  • T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men”



Thesis Statement Requirement for your paper:

You should attempt to structure your papers in such a way that they have an introductory paragraph that states your thesis or main point in one sentence within that first paragraph. Your thesis may be your first sentence or your last sentence of your first paragraph, but it should be in that first paragraph.

The “body” of your paper should contain multiple paragraphs that support your thesis statement. The “body” of your paper should contain evidence and quotations and your analysis that backs up your thesis. You put forth information that helps you to prove your point.
Your paper should end with a concluding paragraph that re-states your thesis. One of the sentences in your last paragraph should re-state the thesis you used in your first paragraph. For example, “The evidence provided in this paper shows that if one is consumed by an unhealthy obsession, like Captain Ahab was in the novel Moby Dick, it can lead to death, destruction, and despair.”

Requirements for your papers

In Mr. Clayton’s American Literature/Composition class the students are required to write a 2-3 page paper every month except for the months of August and May. (or the summer months of June or July )

The paper must be 2-3 pages, typed, double spaced, size 12 font, Times New Roman style type face, with one inch margins all around. Each paper must also contain an additional cover page with the title of the paper, the name of the student who wrote it, the date, and the name of the course “American Literature and Composition” and the name of the “Course Instructor; Mr. Clayton”. Each page must contain an additional page at the end called a “Bibliography’ or “Works Cited Page”. The bibliography or works cited page must contain three sources. One of the three sources must be the piece of literature in question which is mentioned on the syllabus. The other two sources may be books or magazines or articles from the internet that comment on or make a reference to the literary work in question.
Each paper should contain at least two quotes from the literary work in question and at least one quote from a supporting source. (i.e. from one of the other two sources cited in your bibliography.)
Suggestions for improving your writing style:

Consider using some parallel sentence structure in your paper. It can be used as a poetic refrain such as Martin Luther King Jr., “I Have a Dream…” sentence beginning which he used repeatedly throughout his speech or it can be used much more sparingly such as in only the last paragraph as illustrated by Abraham Lincoln when he said, “A government of the people, by the people, and for the people…” Another example would be General Douglas MacArthur, ‘Duty, Honor, Country – Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you want to be, what you can be, what you will be.”

Consider using some alliteration in your paper. Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds for poetic effect. For example, Edgar Allan Poe wrote at the end of his short story entitled, “The Mask of the Red Death”, “And in the end darkness, decay, and death, held illimitable dominion over all.” He used the repetition of the “d” consonant sound when he wrote the words “darkness, decay, and death.” Using these two techniques, parallel sentence structure and alliteration you can elevate the quality of your prose to the point that it almost sounds like poetry. Remember, as in cooking, use these spices sparingly, so they add to the recipe but don’t distract from it. As Dickens did in Tale of Two Cities, his first and last paragraphs were poetic, the rest in between was prose. “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times…”
What is expected of students:

Students are expected to come to class with a spiral notebook and a pen. They are required to take notes during each class. They are expected to study those notes for the test. There will be one test each semester. Students are also expected to participate in class discussions.

Students are also expected to write a 2-3 page paper each month. Students are expected to read and follow their syllabus even without a reminder. The students are expected to check their syllabus each week to see what is due and when it is due. Students are expected to come to class on time and to act in a respectful manner towards their teacher and their peers.
If students fulfill all the requirements of this course, they may receive 1 high school credit for American Literature and Composition for their high school transcript. The state of Ohio does require at least 1 credit hour in Literature and Composition for all 9th -12th grade high school students. This course would fulfill that requirement.

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