This course introduces students to the basics of writing a research paper, including how to conduct research, how to constitute a thesis, and how to develop and sustain an argument in the long form. The class content—what you will read and write about—is a theme involving how narrative enabled nineteenth-century Americans to embrace a national liberal consensus based on shared sentiments of the kind embodied by mass print culture. Beginning with Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography (part 1) and Hannah Foster’s short novel, The Coquette, we will identify how reading helped Americans imagine and organize themselves as a democratic society. Brief readings by Benedict Anderson, Jürgen Habermas, and others provide a basis for discussion. Primary texts will include a variety of nineteenth-century stories, novels, and memoirs.
Course Requirements: participation, including one presentation (10%); four brief responses aimed at identifying topics and questions (your choice of texts; 200-300 words) (20%); midterm research assignment (20%); final paper (12 pages; 4000 words) (50%).
Readings can be downloaded from my website at
Follow the links to Teaching/Library. Account: english / Password: reading
For those who prefer to purchase the larger readings in book form, I suggest the following editions, each of which includes research material:
Hannah Foster: The Coquette (Penguin Classic)
Benjamin Franklin: The Autobiography (Norton)
F. Douglass, H. Jacobs: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass & Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Ed. Kwame Anthony Appiah (Modern Library)
Weekly responses. The class will be run as a seminar, which means much of the discussion will be carried by students. Part of your preparation will be to write at least Six responses to the reading for six different weeks (your choice), which you will send to class members (and me) by email. These will be 200-300 words in length and deal with reading for the upcoming class. They are due Wednesday, the day before class, by 12 noon, beginning in March. Class members should print the responses, read them, and bring them to class along with the primary reading for the week. You should selected at least one passage from each response and be prepared to read it and explain why you think it needs further consideration. Responses are evaluated based on their engagement with the reading, thoughtfulness, and effectiveness in provoking discussion. Late responses will not be accepted. At the end of semester you will join them together and include them in your portfolio.
Portfolio (80% of your final grade). Due in my English Department mailbox Thursday at 12 noon of exam week (the week after the last official week of classes). This is a final deadline and will not be extended. Your portfolio will include three things.
Your collected responses, revised (if you wish), with the best two flagged (see above). (20% of your final grade)
Midterm research assignment for final paper topic. Students will prepare (a) bibliography, with 4 entries annotated, on a topic of your choosing based on work for the semester (b) 3-4 page written overview of existing research on your topic, and (c) 10 minute presentation on (1) your topic itself and (2) your method of researching it (sources, search strategy, etc). Students will provide hard copies of your bibliography and overviews to members of the class on the day of presentation. Assignments are due initially on May 2 at 12 noon in my mailbox. I will comment and you can revise for inclusion in the final portfolio. (20% of your final grade)
Final paper (4000 words / 12 pages; 40% of your final grade). If you wish to hand in a first draft, it is due July 7 (Tuesday) at 12 noon in my dept. mailbox. Here the topic is open, although it is advised that you work from an idea you first explore in a response, or that comes out of class discussion. I also suggest speaking to me before you begin writing. Again, I will comment on draft essays and give tentative grades, which I will then change based on your revised version.
Participation and attendance. Please be on time for class. (20%).
Drafts are voluntary. Not passing one in will not directly affect your final grade, except that you will lose the benefit of my comments. You also do not have to revise your essay if you are happy with the initial grade you receive. Plan ahead. Sloppy, last minute, incomplete drafts are a waste of my time and yours. Late drafts will not be accepted. Except for weekly responses, email submissions will not be accepted. A late portfolio will lose 20% per day of its value.