PROFESSOR: Doug Davis                                                                                         office: FA127

Faculty webpage:                                                   e-mail:



Baym, Nini, ed.  Norton Anthology of American Literature.  Package 1: Volumes A and B.  7th ed.  New York: W.W. Norton, 2007.



  • Computer access and a Gordon email account. Your professor will send you materials via your Gordon email account, so you must check it regularly.
  • A pocket folder or binder to keep class papers, notes, and handouts in.
  • A notebook that you can tear pages from or loose sheets of paper for in-class writing assignments.
  • A pen.
  • A computer disk or flash-memory drive to keep copies of your papers on. Remember to make regular back-ups of all your papers on a separate computer or device.


PREREQUISITE: A C or better in ENGL 1101. If you are presently enrolled in or still required to take English 98, Reading 98, or ENGL 1101 you are not eligible to take any college-level English course, including 2131.



When we talk of an American imaginary we are talking of our society’s sense of its own meaning, of its place in history and in the world, and of its individual people’s sense of their own possibilities and their own limits. It is through our imaginary processes and texts that we, as inhabitants of a state, are able to articulate the ‘states’ we are in, politically, intellectually, aesthetically, ethnically, emotionally and psychologically. Writers are particularly adroit at giving expression to the states we as a nation and a people occupy, finding profound, unexpected and often deeply personal meanings in the grand sweep of American history.


The creation of American literature is deeply tied to the course of American history. In this class we will explore how writers from before the founding of the country to the onset of the civil war have created an American imaginary in many voices. American writers bear witness to the transformations of the American nation, from an exploratory destination to a colony, from a land of indigenous peoples to a land of immigrants, from a revolutionary movement to a state, and from a unified state to a state at war with itself.


We will emphasize the diversity of American literature across this grand transformation, studying the different peoples and cultures and sensibilities from which it springs and the multitude of movements and forms to which it belongs. We will study the aesthetic and political meanings of American literature alike, emphasizing the creation of literature in history and the multifaceted role of literature as a source of inspiration, reflection, and critique. Through all of our readings we will learn how writers are continually coming to new terms with our always new nation and in the process give us the terms to know ourselves.


COURSE OBJECTIVES: Upon completion of ENGL 2131, American Literature I, the student will have:

  1. gained awareness of major writers and literary periods in the canon of American Literature.
  2. demonstrated competence in literary analysis.
  3. demonstrated an understanding of fundamental literary and critical terminology.
  4. developed an awareness of aesthetic experiences as a dimension of life by demonstrating competence in literary studies.



1.                              Readings and brief in-class writing assignments and exercises

2.                              Two exams during the semester

3.                              Final Paper

4.                              Final exam



  1. Class participation, brief in-class writing assignments                                          10%
  2. Exam 1                                                                                                             15%
  3. Exam 2                                                                                                             25%
  4. Final Paper                                                                                                       20%
  5. Final Exam                                                                                                       30%


Grading scale: A=91-100, B=81-90, C=71-80, D=61-70, F=60 and below.

Final Grade Calculator

You may calculate your final grade by adding your test and report scores to the following rubric and adjusting them to the noted percentages.


Exam 1


Exam 2


Final Exam


Final Paper


Class Partip












Grading scale: A=91-100, B=81-90, C=71-80, D=61-70, F=60 and below.


GRADING STANDARDS (All major assignments will be graded on a scale of 1-100):


Class participation

Your class participation grade is based upon several factors: attendance and in-class behavior; keeping up with reading assignments; participation in class discussion; thoroughness of library reports; and punctuality in turning in of assignments. All students begin class with an average class participation grade of 7 out of 10 possible points. Students who do not have absences and who participate in class discussions, hand in assignments on time, and demonstrate that they are keeping up with the class readings will receive class participation grades higher than a 7; students who hand in assignments late, exhibit disruptive behavior in class, are late to class, have excessive absences, and/or do not demonstrate that they are keeping up with class readings will receive class participation grades of a 6 or lower.

See “Academic Dishonesty” and “Class Attendance” below for related grading policies.


The A paper is rare (91-100 points). It is of outstanding quality in all, or almost all, respects. The paper is free of grammatical errors. It presents a clear, organized, and well-supported thesis. The essay is well focused, and all paragraphs clearly work toward furthering the main point. Examples and ideas are well elaborated and rooted in concrete detail without being redundant. The body of the piece is well organized with smooth transitions. The paragraphs build on each other such that thoughts are developed from the beginning of the essay to the end. The prose is clear, mature and engaging; sentences evince by precise word choice, syntax, and grammar. With few exceptions, there is substantial revision from beginning to end.

The B paper (81-90 points) is a successful representation of the writer’s thoughts. This essay shows readers that the writer knows how to construct an argument (including an introduction, topic sentences that reflect the main idea of the paragraph, and a conclusion). Furthermore, the essay is clearly organized with a well-developed thesis. However, this essay could be improved by further emphasis on revision and editing. Some grammar flaws sneak through, but don’t seriously undermine reader comprehension. Language and word choice throughout may be bland and uninspired. The essay may be "choppy," needing smoother transitions or better organization. There may be a flaw in an otherwise coherent, persuasive argument.

The C paper (71-80 points) needs substantial revision. It usually exhibits problems in organization, development, and style, but offers sufficient content to make a single, fairly basic point. Serious grammar flaws may stall the flow of reading. Oftentimes, the paper is underworked, having not been put through the series of vigorous revisions that are necessary components of A and B papers. Revision may be needed on one of these major areas: purpose/point, focus, organization, topic choice, analysis. The purpose or thesis may be obvious, unoriginal, or inadequate to the assignment. The focus may be so broad that the essay merely skims the surface of the assignment without going into anything in any depth.

The D paper (61-70) is almost always profoundly lacking in content and/or evidence of standard American English writing skills. Any paper that contains five or more serious spelling, grammatical, mechanical, or stylistic errors will automatically receive a D or lower. Further, ideas and organization may be suggested but are seriously underdeveloped. Sometimes the flaws in this paper are so numerous and compacted that single sources of error are difficult to isolate and analyze. Often, this paper is significantly short of required length or word count. This essay has serious and consistent problems. Such problems may include: little or no sense of writing purpose; lack of logical organization (points lack unity or connection to one main point); inconsistent use/failure to use appropriate evidence; and/or failure to maintain a respectable prose style.

The F paper (60 and below) is oftentimes a work characterized by a lack of care or effort. It is under-done in every sense of the term. Other times, however, this paper may exhibit characteristics of the higher grade paper, even A-level, but is undermined by grammar and mechanical flaws so numerous and serious that no skilled assessor of college-level writing can give it a pass. This essay is unacceptable because: it contains plagiarized material; it shows a complete misunderstanding of the material with which it deals; its prose style fails to meet the basic communication requirements of standard written English.



Cheating in any form, including plagiarism, is a serious academic offense. Plagiarism is the passing off of someone else’s ideas and/or words as your own. If you have questions about what constitutes plagiarism, ask now. Any instance of plagiarism, including single phrases and single sentences, will earn a zero for an assignment, will lower your class participation grade by a minimum of five full points (out of 10), and could lead to an F for the course; furthermore, the highest grade that any student who is caught plagiarizing in any form can expect to receive for a final grade is a C.  All plagiarized papers will automatically be submitted to the Office of the Dean for disciplinary review, which could lead to the offending student’s suspension or expulsion from Gordon College.

To prevent plagiarism all students will be required to submit the full text of their final paper to Final papers that are not submitted to will not be graded.




Regular class attendance is your obligation.

After the third absence for any reason (illness, sports, family emergency, funeral, off-campus events, etc.), your professor reserves the right to lower a student’s final grade by one full letter grade for each subsequent absence (e.g. if a student has four absences and a final grade of a B, that student’s grade will be lowered to a C). A student who misses five or more classes will receive, at best, a C for a final grade. A student who has six or more unexcused absences will be given an F or WF for the course. Missing the class roll counts as an absence.

Late papers and missed exams

Exams can not be made up. If a student misses an exam for any reason, that student will receive a “0” for the missed exam.

Your professor reserves the right to deduct a full letter grade for each class that an assignment is late.

It is your responsibility to keep track of your reading assignment and exam dates and to hand material in on time. All due dates are stated on the class schedule of assignments.

Lastly, computer malfunctions of any sort are not a valid excuse to hand in a paper late. You are responsible for backing-up your work regularly and keeping your computer and media in proper working order.

Email and discussion policy:

All personal questions or announcements for your professor should be directed to him either in person before or after class, during his office hours, or by email. Your professor generally responds to emails within two business days.



Gordon College runs a writing assistance center in Academic 102. At the Writing Center you can get one-on-one assistance with your papers as many times during the semester as you want.


Good attendance, punctuality turning in assignments, participation in class discussion, a good attitude, and evidence that you are keeping up with reading assignments will all raise your class participation grade. However, your class participation grade will be lowered for the following kinds of behavior:

  1. Inopportune unexcused absences (such as on days assignments are due).
  2. Forgetting to bring the Norton Anthology with you to class.
  3. Coming into class late.
  4. Sleeping during class.
  5. Doing work for other courses during our class period.
  6. Interrupting people. In discussions, allow the person speaking to finish.
  7. Whispering or talking to someone else while the professor or another student is speaking.
  8. Using your cell phone.