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Survey of American Literature: ENGL 204

Course purpose and objectives

Survey of American Literature, ENGL 204, is designed to familiarize students with the rich variety of literature produced in America–from the Colonial through the Modern periods. Students will be exposed to a range of writers and traditions that constitute the diverse and multicultural American experience, through discussion and through critical thinking and writing about significant literary works. In addition to tests and quizzes, students will be required to write and revise at least two formal, critical essays or equivalent writing (1,000-word computer drafted minimum); however, instructors are encouraged to assign significant amounts of writing beyond the required minimum in order to facilitate students’ continued acquisition of critical thinking, reading, and writing skills.

Essential skills and outcomes to be acquired through the course include:

  1. an ability to render close textual analysis;
  2. an ability to synthesize information from multiple texts;
  3. an ability to render clear, cogent ideas;
  4. an ability to structure well-developed essays, with thesis, textual support, and analysis;
  5. an ability to correctly employ standard written English usage;
  6. an understanding of and respect for ethnic/cultural diversity;
  7. an aesthetic and critical judgment for literature;
  8. a concept of chronology associated with literary periods;
  9. an understanding of the inter-relationship of the arts, history, and philosophy through the study of literature.

Required texts and materials

A Writer’s Reference, Diana Hacker, St Martins Press; Norton Anthology of American Literature or department approved text.

The University Writing Center

To receive individual instruction and feedback on writing in progress, students should be encouraged to visit The Academic Support Services Center in the basement of Scarborough Library. Visits are by appointment (via the online schedule found at or through ShepOwl at

Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence Project

Instructors of ENGL 101 are encouraged to utilize works by the Writer-in-Residence in their course and incorporate at least one of the residency events each fall into their course curriculum, as this important program presents an extraordinary opportunity for General Studies English students at Shepherd to come into contact with a regional writer of note. For information and lesson plans, see residency webpage at

Course content

Below is a list of authors and works which should be covered in the course. Where no specific works are listed, it is assumed that students will read representative works from the author’s canon. The course is not limited to the authors and works listed; where appropriate, works by women and minority/ethnic writers should be included in the list of supplemental or alternative works. Whenever possible, the instructor will teach whole works rather than excerpts; the instructor will teach one nineteenth-century or one twentieth-century American novel in its entirety.

Native American Selections

Bradstreet: selected poems
Edwards or Taylor: selections
Franklin: selections
Poe: “Philosophy or Composition” or “Poetic Principle,” selected poems, and selected tales
Hawthorne or Melville: selected fiction
Emerson: “Self-Reliance” or “Nature”
Thoreau: Walden
Slave Narrative: Douglass, Jacobs, H. Taylor, or other
Whitman: “Song of Myself”
Dickinson: selected poems
James or Twain
Representative Writer from the Local Color Movement: Chopin, Jewett, or Freeman
Representative Writer from the Naturalistic School: Crane, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Wright, or other
American Drama: Williams, O’Neill, Miller, Wasserstein, Hansberry, or any contemporary playwright
Faulkner or O’Connor: selections
T. S. Eliot: selected poetry
Modernist Writer: Frost, Stevens, Williams, H. D., Pound, Moore, Langston Hughes, or other
Post-1945 Writer: Plath, Rich, Brooks, Bishop, Lowell, Ashberry, Barth, Pynchon, Ellison, Baldwin, Walker, Erdrich, Morrison, Oates, or other

Revision Approved 4-02-08