Ursinus College: American Literature: Texts and Contexts
ENGL 203: American Literature for the 21st century
In this course we will look at representative writers from four different periods of American literary history: eighteenth century founders, the Transcendentalists and their discontents, the 1920s, and the contemporary multicultural era. In each period we will read key texts by important writers, many of whom were writing in conversation with each other. We will also read background documents from and about the era so that we can see how literature both shapes and is shaped by the culture in which it is produced.
In order to unify the discussions of these four disparate eras, each of you will be part of a group tracing a specific keyword throughout the semester.
This wiki-based site allows students to approach American literature in terms of a series of related problems organized around what the critic Raymond Williams calls “keywords.” Students use the site to work collaboratively to describe, contextualize, and understand these problems, rather than trying to solve them definitively. The definitions of keywords that students generate not only direct the course but also serve as the basis for a major assignment.
There are two major parts to this keyword assignment, both of which are collaborative:
- Tracking a keyword through the readings, lectures and discussions every week
- Writing a keyword essay
- Please note: Anyone is welcome to look at these pages as they develop, and to comment using the "discussion" link. However, only members of a working group should actually edit their essay page. The whole collaboratory structure depends on this rule being respected, and violations will be taken very seriously.
- By posting on this site, students are consenting to have their work published on the Web, where it may be read by a range of people (some of whom may not be students in ENGL 203 or even at Ursinus).
How to use this site:
- Create an account. Click on the tab in the top right-hand corner of this page. (Please remember your logon info.)
- Send me your user name by e-mail, so I can activate your account. You will only be able to modify pages once I have activated your account.
- Click on the "class roster" link below. Note your group number and the keyword your group will be responsible for updating.
- Clicking on the "live" links below will take you directly to your assigned keyword page.
- To contribute to you group's keyword page, follow the link, then click on the “discussion” tab at the top of the page.
- You’ll be using “discussion” for tracking your keyword through the term.
- You’ll use “article” for your collectively written keyword essay, which will serve as the final exam for this course.
Getting started on the projects:
- By Wednesday 1/23, each student should send me an e-mail indicating which of the keywords (listed below) you are interested in following throughout the semester. So that we can keep the groups at a reasonably uniform size, please give me three choices, in order of preference. I will then assign you to "keyword working groups.”
- By Monday 1/28, read the entry on that keyword in Keywords for American Cultural Studies.
Collaboratory Leader: Patti Schroeder, Ursinus College.
Many of the ideas and much of the language on this web page were borrowed with permission from Glenn Hendler, Steve Tobias, and Deborah Kimmey. I gratefully acknowledge their assistance.
ENGL 203 Live Keywords: